So there is a fair amount of conventional wisdom floating around saying that this game against the Rams is a trap game. This article here from the mothership is a prime example.
Anyone who has read my posts for the last year knows I’m not a big fan of conventional wisdom and at the expense of tradional hit making blog fare I like to take the nuanced view. The truth about this game is that it will be harder than people think but we will win and if we don’t win it won’t be because it is a trap game. Let me explain:
The traditional view of football is that it is a game of emotional intensity and that the team that comes out the most intense always wins. This is crap. First, defense requires intensity, but offense requires professionalism and execution. Jason Campbell doesn’t need to think “nobody is giving us respect” or “we’re gonna kill these guys” to make the right check downs and call the right blitz coverages. In fact, Jim Zorn has been really pushing this “medium” concept. The goal is sustained professionalism and no panic.
And anybody watching the Redskins game would know that these Redskins don’t need phony motivation to win. Any coach would be perfectly happy to go 1-1 with two division games in a row on the road. The Redskins knew they were playing with house money going into the Eagles game. No one would have blamed them once they saw those 14 pts go up quickly if they just folded the tents and said, “oh well, next week. This just isn’t our day.” Instead, they mounted a professional, sustained, intelligent come back on both sides of the ball. When the defense made a big play, it wasn’t because they were suddenly more intense. it was because they had made adjustments and maintained their gap assignments much better (and a dinged Brian Westbrook didn’t hurt).
To win against the Rams on Sunday the Skins don’t need to come in all hopped up like they just drank twenty Red Bulls. They need to play pro football.
So why will the game be harder? Because the Rams are coming off a bye week, have had two more weeks to digest Al Saunder’s offense, and have a new, relatively successful coach. The Skins defense is banged up. not only do we still not know if Jason Taylor, Shawn Springs, or Marcus Washington will be back, but Reed Doughty is having back issues and this whole team is dinged up from two very physical games. No one would blame Clinton Portis if he ran a little softer this week after absorbing the punishment from the last game. No one could forgive Carlos Rogers if he couldn’t do the same job on Tory Holt after he has spent the last two weeks doing a pretty good job against TO and DeSean Jackson.
And while this defense has practiced a lot against the Al Saunders offense, this is likely to have both a positive and negative effect. Yes, they will recognize the general scheme and goals, but if Al Saunders is worth his salt, he’ll tinker with his plays and play calling to surprise the defense.
Finally, Jim Haslett is a very good coach. A victim of the fall out from the lost season from the Katrina year, Haslett is a former coach of the year who turned a 3-13 Saints team into a 10-6 team in one year. His success will be quickly turning around the losing attitude in St. Louis, and the first moves he made, restoring Marc Bulger, establishing a traditional practice routine and allowing the media into the practice facility established an atmosphere of calm and trust. Gone instantly were the days of Linehan’s mistrust and quick trigger.
Are we going to lose to the Rams? Heck no, all the calm in the world channeling through Jim Haslett can’t make up for a simple fact– The Rams have a roster full of bad choices. The offensive line is a mess. The defensive line is full of youngsters who may or may not be the right picks. The secondary is a sieve. While these Rams are not the Rams that played Buffalo even two weeks ago, they are not good enough to win even if we have an off day.
But like I said, I don’t expect an off day unless the accumulation of injuries take their toll. Of course, any given Sunday and all that. But I just don’t see this as a trap game. I see this as a chance to get well. A chance to let Jason Taylor rest his leg and to let Shawn Springs come back slowly. I see this as a chance to win while dinged so that when we face Pittsburgh in four weeks, we have a full deck. This is a gift from the scheduling gods, and we should play our starters just enough to win, and if thay means we don’t win in a blow out, no problem. Just win. Hail Skins!