Redskins: Defense wins (NFC East) championships

With this past weekend’s victory over Dallas, the Redskins are division champions for the first time since 1999.

Redskins fans’ biggest fear going into a game where everything was on the line was that RGIII wouldn’t be at his best and that, even with a great performance by rookie running back Alfred Morris, the game would come down to how well the defense performed against the recently red-hot Dallas offense.

We had that fear, in no small part, thanks to the experts analyzing the matchup on national TV. Like Tony Dungy, who apparently prepared in advance to pick the Redskins during the NBC pre-game show, but changed his choice on air to the Cowboys, for just that reason.

But from the first Dallas possession of the night, it was clear that the defense came to play. Certainly the Redskins wouldn’t have won without Morris’s team-record breaking performance, but the defense held the Cowboys in check all night long, giving the offense time to find its footing and put up the points needed for victory (and holding Dallas scoreless in the first and third quarters).

A few years ago when now-banned defensive genius Gregg Williams was coordinator in Washington (I believe his title was something like Assistant Head Coach-Defense, which is just ridiculous), he said they were attempting to be a “bend, but don’t break” defense. Haslett’s defense is pretty much the opposite of Williams’s, so I’ve taken to calling it the “break, but don’t bend” defense. It seems they either flummox teams completely or get stomped on.

Last year’s impotent offense meant we weren’t able to keep up with teams on the scoreboard, and the defense was often on its heels trying to pull out a miracle. From the start of the season, it seemed like our best chance to win was to put up a bunch of offense and to keep the defense off the field. But as the season wore on, even after losing at least seven starters to injury or suspension, the defense got better and better.

The other thing the pundits told us was that Griffin wouldn’t be able to run the way we’re used to, and that meant the “college style” option would be ineffective. Well, you can ask DeMarcus Ware about that. It seemed to run just fine. And so did Griffin, despite what Cris Collinsworth might have you believe. If Griffin at 70 percent (or whatever the experts would tell you) has six rushes for 63 yards, that seems like enough. I don’t know if it’s related to his knee, but RGIII did have an off night passing, completing a season-low nine passes for a season-low 66.9 passer rating.

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  • The Redskins are NFC East Champions for the first time since 1999!
  • Alfred Morris had his first 200-yard game and surpassed Clinton Portis as the Redskins’ all-time single-season rushing leader with 1,613 yards this season. He made a strong case for Rookie of the Year last night, though we all know it will go to a quarterback in the end.
  • The defense picked off Tony Romo a total of three times (with a couple other near misses thrown in there) including interceptions on the Cowboys’ first and last drives.
  • FedEx Field was LOUD! And NBC had to keep cutting away from certain camera angles because the stadium was rocking so hard the cameras were shaky (at least, that’s how I’m taking it!).


  • The aforementioned down performance from Griffin. Obviously I’d like to see him return to mid-season form for the new season that starts this Sunday.
  • A few guys were in and out of the game with injuries, including defensive backs and offensive linemen. With any hope, they’ll be mended before the next game, but we’re going to need all the guys we’ve got to go anywhere in the playoffs.
  • The bandwagon is starting to get really crowded, and that irks long-suffering fans. But, do me a favor, if you know a Johnny-Come-Lately fan, don’t put them down or run them off, but rather use your knowledge of Redskins lore to turn them into a diehard fan going forward.

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NBC12‘s Rachel DePompa reported that the Richmond market had the second-highest ratings for this game in the country, and I can’t imagine local interest is going to die down much this week: two key Seahawks players are from the area, including Rookie-of-the-Year-contender Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks are a tough matchup. They run a similarly shifty offense to the Redskins, have the original Beast Mode, Marshawn Lynch, and their defense is stout, ranking in the top ten against the pass and the run.

I’m, of course, predicting a Redskins victory on Sunday (the game’s at 4:30 PM on FOX), but no matter what happens, this has been a thrilling start to the RGIII era in Washington.

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Tony Scida

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