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Formula For Victory

Bostonian B&G

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The Redskins defeated the Tampa bay Buccaneers on Saturday, in one of the best defensive performances Washington has ever produced. Turnovers resulting in an early lead predicated an ultra-conservative response from the offensive trust on the sideline, as Washington outlasted the Bucs 17-10.

Much has been made about Washington's laclkluster offensive showing versus Tampa; as a result, few give the 'Skins a chance to win next Saturday in Seattle. While I think many overlook the outstanding Washington defense, it goes without saying the Redskins will have to improve offensively if they hope to win. Here, on offense, is where the first of several key obstacles lie:

Clinton Portis' Health

I think Portis is more hurt than he or the coaching staff let on. Soreness on one shoulder, combined with a nerve injury on the other, is an awful combination for the bruising, inside runner on which the Redskins rely. Versus Tampa, it was clear from the start Portis' durability would not permit him to remain in the game. It appeared his shoulders were immediately aggravated in the first quarter, and he was removed accordingly. His replacement, Ladell Betts, did not have much better luck against the stout Tampa Bay defense. If Washington is to stand a chance versus Seattle, Portis, somehow, must return to form. This may be an impossibility, but it nonetheless remains a necessity. The best defense against Seattle's potent offense, is to simply keep them off the field. And Portis has the greatest potential to accomplish this.

Mark Brunell's Play

Only two weeks before the Christmas Eve, in a game versus Arizona, Brunell turned in his worst performance of the season's second half, throwing for 122 yards, 3 INTs, and 0 TDs. Many left the Redskins for dead following that victory, but Brunell miraculously returned to form against the hated Cowboys in the Redskins most resounding and satisfying win all year. Brunell can bounce back from a poor outing. But, following the Giants game, Brunell has looked hobbled and inconsistent. He has clearly displayed difficulty planting, and has overthrown receivers on multiple occasions. While he has made two key scrambles for first downs, and threw the deep ball well against Philadelphia, consistency is necessary for victory, and againt Seattle, the margin for error is slim. Brunell will have to step up, make timely throws, and utilize the deep and intermediate passing games that were absent versus Tampa. Seattle's pass defense is ranked 25th, so there will be room for improvement on Saturday. Brunell must come out sharp.

Chris Cooley's Presence

After a stellar second year, Cooley has not been a factor in the last two games. Furthermore, he has shown a proclivity for fumbling (4 this year), and this can become a deadly stastistic. Against Philadelphia, he was frustrated and lost composure; not surprisingly, he was benched for much of the game, also hampered by a minor injury. Against Tampa, he, like Moss and our other receiving threats, were neutralized. Seattle will double and triple-cover Santana Moss, as expected. Taylor Jacobs and James Thrash will have little-to-no impact, as expected. But Cooley must produce, as that too, is expected. Cooley accounts for about a third of our entire passing game; he is a playmaker who can run after the catch. He has displayed a knack for the end zone. If the Redskins are to succeed offensively against Seattle, Cooley must snap out of his drought.

* * * * *

Defensively, I do not expect a drop-off this game. I do not foresee a collapse. While anything is possible, the most consistent aspect of the Redskins during their winning streak has been the defense. There is no reason to not expect more of the same, especially after their dominating performance in the hostile environment that was Tampa.

Thus, with the defense expected to do it's part, it will all come down to the offense. We can be sure to see a more creative play-calling, even if we jump out to a big lead early. On Saturday, our play-calling, predictably, went ultra-conservative in the second half, and not surprisingly, the second half was too close for comfort. I doubt Gibbs will make the same mistake should a similar opportunity arise. He will try more inventive, yet calculated ways to move the ball.

In summation

Last week, the defense won us the game against Tampa. Now, it is time for the offense to win one of their own.

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