|The stuff of nightmares.|
But make no mistake, I am feeling every bit as uncertain and fucked up about the fortunes of my team right now as Neil and Raven are when they disappear to engage in their periodic mystical wanderings/psychotic breaks. The Pittsburgh game was the first true reappearance so far this season of the unending psychological torture that I've often seen from the Redskins over the past decade. I felt like the whole team's spirit was being broken on a Catherine Wheel or something. I mean, we were never once in that game. The Steelers got the ball first, went right down the field, scored a touchdown, and then totally shut down our offense on the following drive. After that, it was over. I could look it up but I don't want to, so right now my best guess is that we were never within 10 points of the lead for the entire rest of the game.
Every time the offense would get the ball, the entire apparatus would sputter and churn, and if any concrete advances were earned, they'd soon be derailed or offset by a succession of pratfalls and bonehead plays. Alfred Morris was trying to do his thing, but the Steelers run defense were solid enough that his ability to break through the line and gain some yardage on the ground was never more than intermittent throughout the day. And when RG3 took to the air, things were even worse. Over and over, I had to deal with the sight of Santana Moss or Leonard Hankerson or Josh Morgan dropping the ball. RG3's completion percentage was under 50% for the first time in his career, but it wasn't his fault--he went 16 for 34 but 10 of the 18 incomplete passes he threw hit his receivers in the hands and they just couldn't pull them in. Josh Morgan had a huge first down taken away by a drop, Leonard Hankerson whiffed on a sure touchdown, Logan Paulsen couldn't bring in a crucial third down pass--and just to prove that things were truly out of whack, Niles Paul actually did manage to hang onto one pass for a first down. It was Redskins receiver opposite day, and we were all suffering. By the end of the game, I felt like I was having a nightmare. And with the Steelers out there in those ridiculous bumblebee-jailbird uniforms, it even had an REM-state quality. You know, like when you see someone you know in a dream, but they don't look like themselves at all? And yet, you know it was them. Then you wake up and you're telling someone about the dream, and you're like, "I mean, they didn't even look right, they were wearing these weird black-and-yellow striped uniforms that made them look like rugby players from the 1920s. But somehow I knew it was the Steelers, you know?" It was like that.
|Hold my breath as I wish for death...|
I'm sure there are excuses that could be made--rain causing receivers to drop balls, or whatever the fuck. But I don't want to hear them. What I really want is to be given reasons to believe that that lackluster, worthless performance in Pittsburgh last week was an aberration, a random glitch on the way to building a truly solid team. I've been hearing people say things this week about how the Redskins have to beat the Panthers tomorrow to save their current season. Frankly, to me, that's a ridiculous concept. I haven't felt like the playoffs were in reach since week 2 or so--as far as I'm concerned, what we're doing this year is being done to lay the groundwork for league dominance circa 2014 or so, and to look at it otherwise is to delude oneself. But other people's delusions actually do serve my purpose here, because victory over the Panthers tomorrow is yet another necessary step in fighting for the immortal soul of this Redskins team. After years and years of mediocrity and delusional garbage from the front office, after a ridiculous succession of short-term quick fixes have all failed and we've started out from square one with every new season for nearly a decade, something has to be done to make a decisive break with the miasmic doldrums of the post-Y2K Redskins. I will grant an exception to this blanket description of the last 12 Redskins seasons to the 2005 Redskins, who had double-digit wins in the regular season and won a playoff game. But Spurrier, Zorn, the Gibbs/Saunders tenure, the early Shanahan years--it all just added up to a lengthy, doomed trudge to late-season irrelevance, despair, and learned helplessness.
|"We're better than this. We beat ourselves."|
But in midseason, heading into our bye week, we can't do anything about that stuff. What we need to concentrate on, instead, is getting the players we've got to coalesce into the best unit they can be. We need them to beat teams who are hurting just as badly as we are, or worse. We need to win games in which we should obviously be favored. The Steelers game was a total toss-up. I honestly thought we had a better shot against them than we did against the Giants, and that turned out to be very wrong. Maybe that had to do with longstanding NFC East rivalries, or our respective strengths and weaknesses matching up badly with those of the Steelers--I don't know. And it's over now, so really, I don't care. What I do care about is that Carolina has been one of the worst teams in the league this year, on both sides of the ball. They aren't in the kind of widespread organizational freefall that seems to be plaguing Jacksonville (I'll be surprised if that team puts together 3 wins this year), but they aren't far off. Cam Newton's development has sputtered, the running game that helped them put together a solid offense last year seems to have collapsed, their receiving corps and offensive line are ailing, and their defense is every bit as bad as it was last year (and it was TERRIBLE). The Panthers, much like the Rams, have spent several years using the Redskins as one of their consolation prizes, one of the only teams they could still beat even in a series of floundering losing seasons. Last year the Panthers game began the truly ill-fated John Beck starting stint, but the streak goes back further than that--does anyone else remember the horrific situation in which Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn shoved Byron Westbrook into Antwaan Randle El, our punt returner, who was trying to call for a fair catch? That was in 2009. Since Munnerlyn hadn't touched Randle El himself, it wasn't considered fair catch interference, and the Panthers recovered the ball on our 12 yard line. Westbrook was injured on the play, and two plays later, the Panthers scored the touchdown that won them the game--after having been down by 8 points going into the fourth quarter.
|Seriously, who the hell names their son "Captain" anyway?|