Game #8: Standing at the Edge

Tommy McDonald and a young Sonny Jurgensen sit and watch the Eagles Defense.

If you were worried before last week’s game then once it started it you understood why. Twice in three games a team with a poor record had recorded a good showing the week before playing the WFT. Both times the underdog team came out and established a lead they would not relinquish. There’s blame to go around aplenty. But, the lion’s share ends up in the lap of the new Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy. The Giants had shown little interest in blitzing the previous weeks, especially against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. With young Quarterback Sam Howell on the pitch the tactics changed drastically. Giants’ Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale dialed up extra rushers an astounding 66% of the time. That included a “Cover Zero” blitz on first down, a true rarity. Washington’s Offensive Line simply could not block them on a straight drop back pass. Young Howell was sacked five times in the first half.

Conventional wisdom is to roll the QB out on boots and chili rolls to the weak side to negate the pressures. Washington did that in the second half. It helped the offense establish some success. It also stopped the sacks, although there were still plenty of pressures. If that adjustment had been made after one quarter instead of one half the outcome may well have been different. That slow response is on Bieniemy. Remember, this is his rookie year calling plays. Rookie Quarterback, Rookie Play Caller, and a bad O-Line is not a recipe for playoff football. This team now stands on the edge of the abyss titled, “Irrelevance.”

Sunday’s game against the Eagles is not one pegged as a “Winnable Game.” Philadelphia has gone 6-1 while not playing one complete game. The roster is deep. General Manager Howie Roseman is steadily adding more players. This week he traded for All Pro Safety Kevin Byard. Make no mistake, the Eagles are for real. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for them to lose. New York’s Jets were able to get the job done. What it takes is turnovers in abundance. Their QB Jalen Hurts has thrown nine touchdowns, but eight picks. It’s no coincidence that the Jets grabbed three of those interceptions in their one loss. If Washington is to pull off the surprising upset it needs three or more turnovers.

1948 NFL Championship Game at Shibe Park known as the “Blizzard Bowl.” PHI 7 Chicago Cardinals 0.

Philadelphia’s not-so-secret weapon is the “Tush Push” or “Brotherly Shove.” Hurts may be the strongest QB in the League. He basically gets pushed by other large men into a scrum pile. It’s not football. It’s a rugby play. And, it is seriously dangerous. The most feared injury is cervical spine trauma. And, there have been plenty of them. Numerous medical studies have been conducted including one by the American Journal of Sports Medicine. The Giants lost two Offensive Linemen in one attempt at this. It says here someone will get seriously hurt on this hideous gambit. Then the League will stop it. But, it needs a player to get sickeningly mangled first. It’s just a question of “When.”

A loss would put the “Official” stamp on this being a development year. That would put three losses in the divisional record with two games against Dallas looming. Head Coach Ron Rivera said that the overarching priority for the year was to develop the “…young quarterback.” With 40 sacks on the books already there’s a good chance that development may get derailed. IF Howell can stay on his feet for the season he will have received the equivalent of the old Nuclear Navy education; a million dollars shoved down your throat a nickel at a time. (Yes, there is an alternative version.)

Adding fuel to the fire is the looming trade deadline appropriately set for Halloween. Washington has too many top-end players on the Defensive Line. Montez Sweat and Chase Young are both going to get paid after this season. Who is cutting the checks for each is the looming question. Look for one to be in Burgundy and Gold for the last time this week. Chase is the sizzle. Sweat is the steak. Chase Young is dynamic while flashing sack totals. But, he runs himself out of contain on a steady basis, takes silly penalties, and overruns targets by not being in control. Sweat has much less flash. He gets the job done, though. It may be that the front office tries to get an extension done with both. Whoever grabs the extension stays. Whoever doesn’t goes. It will be a tight window. Tuesday will get here quickly.

There are other trade targets on the WFT. Cleveland set some sort of unofficial record for jettisoning QBs this year. They let Jacoby Brissett leave. Then they traded away Joshua Dobbs just before the season started. Then their star QB Deshaun Watson injured his shoulder, has re-aggravated it, and may be done for the year. That leaves them with two less-than-adequate replacements. There’s plenty of chatter that the Browns want Brissett back. Small wonder. Brissett is the type of QB2 that teams want: An experienced guy that can jump off of the bench with no practice and play effectively. If Washington trades him then all pretenses are off.

If the WFT wishes to make a season out of it they have to pull the stunning upset on Sunday. Otherwise the supply of pitchforks and torches will be sparse as the “Fire Ron” movement continues to pick up steam.

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