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LOL! Wilbon leaning our way again from his perch on the fence


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You just gotta laugh at this clown:

Don't Believe The Hype?

By Michael Wilbon

Monday, September 9, 2002; Page D01

Steve Spurrier thinks that before long the hype surrounding him and the Fun 'n' Gun offense will die down, that the TV crews visiting from Florida will go home, that people around here will soon enough become matter-of-fact about him, his offense, his play-calling and his flair for producing the dramatic. But it won't subside at all if the Redskins keep playing like they did yesterday. "It'll die out . . . these Florida boys won't be back the next game," Spurrier said.

Okay, I'll grant you the Arizona Cardinals have won exactly one playoff game in 35 years and rare is the season the Cards don't lose 10 games. But this wasn't an exhibition, and anyway, the first thing you have to do is beat the chumps, which is something Norv Turner and Coach Marty didn't do enough. The final score was a little too close for LaVar Arrington's liking. But when your quarterback throws for 327 yards and your running back carries 26 times for 104 yards and the offense commits only one turnover while putting up 31 points, it's an overwhelmingly successful debut.

Of course, the package was wrapped in Spurrier's special paper. How many guys run off tackle after a fake reverse? How many go no-huddle on fourth and one in the first half? How many cut their finger ripping off the headset after a holding call? How many put the backup quarterback in to make a kickoff? A guy who plays it that way Sunday, who keeps everybody in the stadium and at home on seat's edge and wins his share, will have to endure more hype, not less.

The three things I wanted to know coming into the opener were very basic: How would a journeyman quarterback such as Shane Matthews handle not just starting (because he's done that in this league) but throwing 40 times? How involved would Stephen Davis be in the offense? And how dominant would the defense -- fabulous on paper -- be?

For one game, particularly an opener, you couldn't ask any more of Matthews. He made one fluky mistake; he threw an interception that first bounced off the arm of one of his own linemen. He completed 28 of 40 passes, took only one sack, wisely threw away the ball a couple of times, made good audibles, and never appeared to be lost or confused or troubled by the defense. "I'm not real good on praise unless we move the ball all the time," Spurrier said. Well, the Redskins didn't move it all the time, but they moved it more than enough, largely because of Davis.

Davis might as well have been in mothballs during preseason for all his participation. In those five games, pitchin' and catchin' were at a premium. Yesterday with a real game on the line, Spurrier called on Davis to handle the ball 33 times, which included seven receptions for 46 yards. For my money, the classic drive of the game came just after halftime. Davis ran for eight yards on first down after a fake to Champ Bailey. Davis ran for eight yards on second down after another fake to Bailey. Davis ran for three yards. And just when the Cardinals' linebackers and safeties started to look for Davis, Spurrier had Matthews throw for 13 yards, then for 29 to Rod Gardner. Then Davis finished off the drive with runs of seven and three yards, and it was as if there had been a flashback to a Joe Gibbs play-calling clinic. Spurrier would probably frown at the very notion, but the drive was so, well, fundamentally basic.

After a while, the Cardinals couldn't have known what was coming, with Davis up their backs and Matthews looking for one of eight receivers. "People talk about Coach wanting to throw all the time, but I think it's now evident we're going to do whatever it takes to win, which may change week to week," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "We weren't surprised Stephen ran the ball so much. Actually, I don't think he cares one way or the other as long as he gets the touches to get in a rhythm. In fact, when it's thrown to him, he catches the ball away from traffic and is able to do some things in the open field."

Davis watched in fascination as the Cardinals tried to cover all their options by putting eight men up near the line to stop him, then scramble in a cover-two defense because they were so certain Spurrier was going to throw. This is the paranoia defensive coaches suffer when facing his East Coast offense.

But you know what I'd consider the most revealing news about the victory over Arizona? Arrington's postgame assessment of the defense, which allowed 16 points when you subtract seven essentially given up by the offense when Matthews threw the interception. Any team with real aspirations needs a young, in-his-prime star player who is virtually never satisfied. That's Arrington. "I'm glad we won, but I'm not happy with this," he said, speaking specifically of the defense. "Look, maybe I'm just having a bad day or maybe I'm being overly critical when I shouldn't. But to me, we allowed entirely too many points. This isn't the way it's supposed to be. Everybody around [town] is talking about the playoffs and the Super Bowl . . . We have all got to have a sense of urgency here. There's all this hype over our head coach, our defensive coordinator, our linebackers . . . People are going to be ready to play us every single week. The offense put up 31 points, but we allowed them to stay close enough to tie the game at the end? I was looking for a more impressive victory. We're not going to beat Philly playing like that. We'd better do something. The offense scored 31 points. This has to be a two-way street, right? The agreement is, they put points on the board and we keep points off the board."

Arrington wasn't upset, just concerned. He lived through the great disappointment of Turner's abbreviated final season and Schottenheimer's wacky ride to 8-8. The afternoon that had just unfolded had confirmed what Arrington and others had already suspected: the Redskins have enough talent, enough sideline wherewithal and enough reputation to have a satisfying season. But everybody's going to come after them every week, and the hullabaloo -- if they're lucky -- will never subside.

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This one's a piece of work, even for Wilbon.

A guy who plays it that way Sunday, who keeps everybody in the stadium and at home on seat's edge and wins his share, will have to endure more hype, not less.

It was less than a week ago that Wilbon was laughing at Redskin fans for thinking Steve Spurrier was a big story around the league! :shootinth

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