That was the party line.
Shanahan would balance the run game with the pass game and thus improve the Donovan game.
That was the game plan. (Quick aside, why not the "Plan Game?" Why is every facet of a football game now referred to as a game unto itself? And don't get me started on "teamwise" and all the other wises!)
Anyway that's what we were told. That's why Shanahan stockpiled big-name running backs in the offseason, sprinkled some prospects onto his practice squads. That's why he traded for McNabb. He would show us the folly of
Reid's stubborn ways. He would help establish the greatness of 5, once and for all.
So here comes Donovan for the much anticipated homecoming this week, and what do you think is all the talk in Washington? Red-zone woes, Shanahan's abandonment or lack of patience with the run, struggles on third down.
And Donovan. The man. The myth.
McNabb passed for 236 yards Sunday, eclipsing John Hadl for 19th place on the NFL's all-time passing list. Despite two straight losses - both via second-half comebacks - he has passed for 833 yards this season, has completed more than 60 percent of his throws.
But his team is 1-2 and in both losses he had the ball in his hands late with a chance to reverse its fate. And as he said Sunday, "When you put yourself in a position where you can change the outcome, you have to do that."
After an opening-night shocker over the Cowboys, Washington has lost the second half two Sundays in a row, and the games, too. St. Louis only overcame a 16-14 deficit, but Houston scored the game's last 16 points to shock the 'Skins in overtime 2 weeks ago, in Washington.
Seems the Redskins couldn't run the ball effectively against the Texans, could not salt away time and the victory. McNabb threw for 426 yards. The Redskins rushed for 18 yards.
McNabb has thrown the ball 102 times already this season. He has two touchdown passes. The Redskins failed to score a touchdown in three trips to the red zone vs. St. Louis, although McNabb did connect with Santana Moss for a 21-yard score. It's a brief and incomplete comparison, but Michael Vick has been inside the 20 eight times this season, and the Eagles have seven touchdowns. He has six touchdown passes.
Of McNabb's passing yardage, another 56 came on a beautiful pass to Moss on the first play of the second half that set up the Redskins with a first down at the 8-yard line.
It resulted in - you guessed it - a field goal.
Three straight runs netted 5 yards.
The Redskins were 1-for-10 on third down, continuing a seasonlong pattern. Red zone, third down, "It's just being on the same page," McNabb said. "There were a lot of miscues. No excuse. If it was a holding here, whatever it might have been . . .
"We just have to understand what happened and come out next week ready to make a change."
McNabb completed five of six passes for 49 yards during a final meaningless drive that ended on the Rams' 30 as the clock expired. It followed a much more meaningful drive that ended with McNabb throwing a pick under pressure, breaking a streak of 145 attempts without one.
It was a bad throw at a bad time, a panic play really, and it led to a field goal that iced the game for the Rams. Fair or not, it conjured up all the negative karma of his last few years in Philly, the dispersal of blame afterwards, the debate over whether he was a great quarterback in a flawed system, or the opposite.
As he comes our way for the first time in a different uniform this Sunday, the debate lives, and so do all the defenses. More weapons are needed. More balance to those games within the game.
Burgundy, Midnight Green, it really doesn't matter. After a dozen years of it, we're married to the guy, and to the debate.
Til death do us part.
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