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    • By Destino in ES Coverage
      Good afternoon Redskins nation!  I’m in beautiful Landover, MD with Spaceman Spiff who has been pulled away from Instagram models and tailgating and sent down to the field to do what he does best (roll around in the mud).
      Let’s get down to business...  Can we block them?  There are other story lines entering into this game but worrying about them feels largely academic.  The Texans have two terrifying pass rushers and the Redskins intend to block them with optimism and underdog stories.  Alex Smith isn’t a statue but he does take time in making decisions and getting the ball out.  This combination looks disastrous.  The sort of thing that has us all after the game consoling each other with things like “well, it was just a bad matchup" and “we caught them at the worst possible time.” 
      Or... we could walk away wondering just how the heck this team managed to pull off another improbable win.  Last week the gave up something like twelve thousand yards of offense to the Bucs, I’ll have to check those numbers to be sure, but only three points.  That’s not supposed to happen.  Maybe we can enjoy an outrageously unlikely result again.  Not probably, not likely, but you know... maybe.  I’m saying there’s a chance.   
      I’m here for that chance.  (and you know... the free food and climate controlled free seats) 

      1st Quarter Update
      Redskins are running their bend and break defense, and I’m not sure a little over three quarters is enough time for the Redskins offense to close a 10-point gap.  I’m having flash backs of week nine, but having human emotions is considered “disruptive behavior.”  I'm fine.  Everything is fine. 
      That Quinn celebration, whatever that was, was the highlight of the 1st quarter. 
      2nd Quarter Update
      Is there a better way to start a quarter than by scoring a touchdown?  There is, if you follow that TD drive with a forced turnover on defense.  Things are looking good! 

      So much for that.  A great start was quickly ended up canceled out by the Redskins offense.  With a chance to take a lead Alex Smith throws a pick six in the red zone and takes the air out of the stadium.  He followed that up by throwing another interception on the very next drive.  Alex Smith almost made me forget about Vernon Davis dropping that pass.  Almost. 
      Texans missed a field goal attempt and the lead remains frozen at 10. 
      This quarter feels like a giant blown opportunity.  
      Halftime Update. 
      I should have stopped at one hotdog.  I deserve this.
      3rd Quarter Update
      You know the feeling where you say and think all these bad things about a player and then he breaks his leg and you immediately feel bad about it?  I live there now.
      Colt McCoy has freed me from that place of sadness! 
      As much as I love this defense, they have to start forcing teams to punt at some point.  Is there a stat for defense tha thas forced the fewest punts?  We have to be near the top of that list.  Texans have punted just once today.  Holding them to three was good, though.   
      The lead is down to six and Colt McCoy has arrived to save us.  (Please let that be true.) 
      Personal Note:  Someone just stomped, loudly, out of the press area like a while muttering at his phone.  Laughter and comparisons to toddlers followed him.  The media's laugh is an evil laugh!  Good times. 
      4th Quarter Update
      Colt has brought us back.  Welcome to the first lead change of the season, Redskins fans.  You like that?!  (Yeesh, was that always so lame?)  I guess you could say Adrian Peterson contributed by actually scoring the touchdown.  I bet Colt told him to score though, so you have to factor leadership into things.
      Once again, the defense cannot force a punt, hard to feel great about holding a team to a field goal when that field goal gives them the lead in the 4th quarter 
      Remember that whole "can we block them" thing?  The answer was absolutely not on the Redskins 2nd drive of the 4th quarter.  Watt and Clowney each sacked our man Colt, and ended that drive before it really had a chance to begin. 
      Horrible, no good, very bad holding called on Norman gifting Houston a first down at the worst possible time for it.
      Colt chooses to throw deep at an inopportune moment resulting in a 60+ yard attempt for an injured kicker.  Heartbreaking end to a game that cost this team entirely too much (via injury) yet still seemed to be within reach several times. 
      I'm off to the post game press conference and locker room, check back later for updates.
      Final Thoughts
      I’ve always found it preferable to watch my favorite team simply get destroyed, than to feel that they were the better team and still managed to lose.  The Redskins gave this game away with mistakes in the 2nd quarter.  Fred Davis makes a routine catch and Alex Smith doesn’t throw a pick six, and the scoreboard shows at least 7 fewer points for the Texans.  Even if the Redskins had settled for field goals, that’s a 13 point swing in 2 point game.   
      Losing the game wasn’t even the worst part.  Losing Alex Smith, for at least the remainder of the season, is likely enough to push the Redskins past the point where they can continue toughing their way through key injuries. 
      We'll all feel better after a win against the Cowboys next week. 


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Chalk Talk: Atmosphere Matters

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Stock piled with talent, the perfect team as far as skill and talent goes. Your quarterbacks are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Your runningbacks are Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Keep going down the line placing whoever you think are the best players at each position on your team for the offense, defense and special teams.

That's a pretty good looking team, right?

Until you mix oil with water.

There seems to be this thought process that all you have to do is upgrade your talent on a football roster and you're magically a contender. As Redskin fans, we should know this to be false. Deion Sanders, Jeff George, Bruce Smith... Those are some of the many names brought in because they were big name players who could immediately upgrade the team. And they were all (I say all, but what I mean is mostly) upgrades talent wise, so what went wrong?

Atmosphere. It matters more than most here seem to think it does.

If there are rifts and cliques in a locker room, it can completely destroy a team.

The game of football is about doing your One Eleventh. If you take anything from this post, take that from it. All the "upgrading" in the world will do you no good if you can't get the players to work together.

Sure, some will claim it's easy to get it to happen, just threaten them with their money... But it's simply not that easy. When you evlaluate a player, you need to take your current personnel into account, and I'm not talking for X's and O's.

For example, let's say our star runningback is named Bobby Bob. Mr. Bob is a very eccentric character who doesn't mind running his mouth. And now we're thinking about signing a new wide receiver who has a very similar mindset. It's my belief that it's necessary that if you sign this new receiver, you must part ways with Mr. Bob (unless you know they can coexist). This is just an example, not a rule.

The saying that it starts at the top is very true. With a new infrastructure at the top, we're surely going to turn it around, right?

Sure... If it trickles down to the bottom. On a team, whether it's players, coaches, support staff, or whatever you'e only as strong as your weakest link.

So what defines the weakest link? It could be anything from physical skill to attitude to behavior to not being trustworthy. There are a ton of different reasons someone can be a weak link... And likewise, theres a ton of reasons why a slightly less skilled player may be a better fit than some big free agent.

Atmosphere also carries over to facilities. The nicer the facilities, the better you feel. Great film rooms and technology, great locker rooms and a great well equipped weight room are among the things that help set a great tone. Sure, there's a line on how far you go with the ammenities, but the better you feel, the better you'll play.

But, I'm not necessarily even talking about physical facilities. What about the atmosphere IN the facility? I know I've been to places and buildings that just have a losing vibe to them. A blah vibe. And conversely I've been in buildings where all you feel is pride and tradition. In my experience, it's those places that help breed a winning attitude and team.

If you have bad atmosphere, you must make changes to make it a great environment that people want to be a part of. What changes you make are paramount, and as someone who hasn't been inside the building or the organization, I can't tell you what changes are necessary (if there are any more that ARE necessary).

Character matters... Sure you can get away with a few misfits... if you have the surrounding cast to offset them every chance they get. You'll get some flare ups with someone with a bit poorer character, but in the end when you have a team where everyone is together, those problems get nipped in the bud a bit quicker and it's much easier to recover from.

This isn't a utopia, you're never going to get 53 guys on a roster who are all about we and not at all about me, but you can strive to get as many of those pieces as you can and make your Team that much better.

Talent is great... But Atmosphere is a severely underrated aspect of a great ball club.

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