After watching several episodes of Deadwood on DVD with She Who Must Be Obeyed, playing catch with my four legged furry friend, and doing some late night work... I think I'm a bit over the debacle of yesterday.
The first thing we have to admit is that the line is not up to speed. Two important parts (RT, RG) are gone. One important part missed all of pre-season (LT) and is playing his third game with another important part (LG) that joined the team days before the season started. The replacement for RT is playing with a torn labrum. The replacement at RG saw his skills erode to the point that he could not impact a Cowboys' line previously in disarray. Offensive lines take time to gel and be able to operate on an instinctive level.
The game plan for this offense was built for this season with a much different line, one that could bulldoze opposing defensive lines and open lanes for Portis and Betts which in turn would take pressure off the passing attack. That is obvious in the way the passing attack has been implemented. Campbell has been asked to look down field often, much of the time on play action. That means time in the pocket provided by an running game that has the defenses hesitant, if not on their heels.
This line can't do that, at least not yet. Something will have to be devised by the coaching staff. Perhaps the short passing attack will have to be emphasized more. Perhaps zone blocking will have to be a staple in the run game. Whatever it is, the line obviously can not be relied on at this time. When a team has first and goal at the one with 51 seconds on the clock and can't get the TD because it is obvious the back has to run to the left to have any chance...
On defense, the Skins fell back to the failed policy of Tampa 2 Will Do on third downs. I counted seven straight third down conversions covering the third and fourth quarters. On almost every third down conversion the Skins were in two deep coverage. Eli Manning will pick apart a defense if not pressured and given different looks. His ability to manage a game at the line of scrimmage approaches that of Peyton Manning. Manning is very adept at adjusted his audibles at the line after a defense shows what it is bringing, and the Skins were predictable on third down far too often.
The Skins' ability to force turnovers finally showed up in this game. That ability was overshadowed by the ineffective third down strategy on both offense and defense. This one is on the coaches. Uninspiring play calling on both sides of the ball in the second half is a trend set from years' past, for example, the Colts game last year. This defense is one that has speed as the ace in the hole. That means this
defense must attack the line and force plays with athleticism. It can not sit back in coverage on important downs. It must mix coverages instead of laying back on third downs.
The offense will have to become very diverse, putting the ball in the hands of play makers in the passing game with high percentage passes much of the time until the line is solidified. Running philosophy must change from a mauling, grinding attack to a slashing, zone blocking attack that uses intelligence and athleticism instead of
The Skins have play makers in the persons of Moss, Cooley, Randle El and Portis. Betts also has a lot to offer as a receiving back. The long ball does not have to be abandoned, but the Skins have to find something to replace the power game over the bye period.
The season is still young. This game can be just a bump in the road. However, the coaching staff in place has not been one to come up with the necessary answers two of the previous three years. They can be heroes, or this can get very ugly...
And Moss, please, catch the ball on a consistent basis as befits a number one receiver, ok?