September 22, 2011
For the first time since 2007, the Skins are boasting a 2-0 start going into Week 3. For the past two weeks, Skins fans have been enjoying the same feelings Patriot and Packers fans have shared: undefeated bliss. Kind of crazy, isn’t it? I’d say so, considering last season the Skins finished dead last in their division – and that’s after the Cowboys lost five straight during mid-season.
Still, despite having an undefeated pre-season record, the skepticism that the Skins would (or could) actually do well when the season started, just wouldn’t die down. The odds were against them in Game 1 against the Giants, despite New York putting an injury depleted defense on the field. The Skins were able to prove the critics wrong – both by a surprisingly dynamic Rex Grossman, and an equally inept Eli Manning, who threw two interceptions including the now infamous tip off Ryan Kerrigan’s fingertips. Though it was only the first game, the Skins were already ahead of two of their three NFC rivals – the Giants (obviously), and the viscerally hated Dallas Cowboys (who lost in a last minute embarrassment to the Jets on Monday Night Football).
Sunday’s matchup against the Cardinals didn’t hold nearly as much history or anticipation as last week’s game. Still, fans gathered as early as 9 a.m. to start grilling hotdogs and opening beers on the surrounding grounds of FedEx Fields to prepare for the 1 p.m. kick-off. Sitting high in the 400s (the cheapest seats, which at $55 weren’t cheap at all), the passion for the team was contagious – fans nodding, cheering, and high-fiving other fans one, two, and sometimes even several, rows away. While Grossman was satisfactory (he didn’t excite me, and halfway through the first quarter, the group in front of me started chanting “We Want Beck!”), running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu were the real stars of the game, electrifying the crowd and rushing for a combined 170 yds.
Leading 10-7 at the half, the Skins fell behind 21-13 after Cards QB Kevin Kolb connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 73-yd touchdown pass. The old Redskins would have conceded the game and patted themselves on the back for a job well done. But not these guys. They rallied from an eight-point deficit to win 22-21, thanks to a late fourth-quarter TD pass to Santana Moss and a 34-yd field goal from Graham Gano with under two minutes left. Gone are the doormat Redskins of the NFC East – for now, at least.
Whether or not the Redskins are actually good this year – or if the team’s they’ve played have made them look good in comparison – will be put to the test next Monday night when they play their first away game in Dallas against the Cowboys. If the chants of “We Want Dallas” that filled the stadium after Sunday’s game are any indication, it’s clear that the fans, if not the team, are ready for it.
With the 2011 season near a close, the Nationals (72-79), are hopeful that next season, armed with a healthy Stephen Strasburg and mature Bryce Harper, they will re-emerge as a division contender and even make national headlines as they did when Strasburg came on the scene in July 2010. Since returning to the major league mound earlier this month, he has been nothing short of spectacular, posting a 1.29 ERA striking out 11 batters in 14 innings, and giving up zero walks or homers in his first three starts. Strasburg will likely make his final start of the season this Friday at home against the Braves.