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2012 - Week 17 v Dallas Cowboys

Blognosticator - Fear the Spear

It Has Begun. Again.

It all began on the date of January 8th, 1983. The Redskins were playing at RFK Stadium, under soon-to-be legendary Coach Joe Gibbs. And they were on the verge of finishing off the Lions in the Wild Card round when, during the 2nd half, the chants started. Chants from RFK fans, that were calling out for a game, that would actually be 2 weeks away, if indeed it actually were to happen. You’ve either heard the chants, or heard about them : “We Want Dallas”; a unifying, thunderous mantra, that was even more chilling and emotional than the traditional chorus of “Hail To The Redskins” which blared away, each time the home team scored.

But this was Saturday, January 8th. The Cowboys still had to play the following day and beat the Buccaneers on Sunday the 9th. And then the following weekend, both the Redskins and Cowboys had to beat the Vikings and Packers, respectively, in order to set up the highly anticipated showdown for the NFC Championship.

That’s how hungry these fans were for vengeance against the Cowboys. They set their eyes (and mouths) on that re-match against Dallas, even while it was still contingent on 3 (and a half) more games ending properly, in order for that clash to take place. Only then, could the Redskins avenge their one and only regular season loss, which came at the hands of the much despised Cowboys team.

But there was something different about this chant. It wasn’t just a mere hunger for a re-match. It wasn’t simply wishful thinking, or homerism. There was an unquestionable confidence, that, like a great lion, feasting on a helpless deer, we knew that we could, and we would, take care of business, if given the opportunity. And we did. The rest, as they say, is history.

But as history would continue to unfold after the Gibbs era ended, there have been numerous times over the years where the fans would try to duplicate, or re-create, that scene and that environment ; The “We Want Dallas” chant became a tradition that was used anytime we had a highly anticipated game against our most bitter rivals. But somehow it just could never recreate that same magic of the original chant in 1983. It was as if many believed that “We Want Dallas” were magic words they could utter and sprinkle anytime we needed to muster up some “Dallas Karma”. The difference was, that our teams, and the scenarios surrounding those games, lacked the original “substance” of that very first “We Want Dallas Week.” For one reason or another, the similarities, and/or the basic “feeling” surrounding the game wasn’t the same. As a result, the “We Want Dallas” mantra seemed to lose its “power and effect”. It’s comparable to a person making repeated threats to take action, but when he never follows through, his future threats lose any credibility.

But fast-forward, back to today. This week is new and different. This particular “We Want Dallas Week” bears incredible resemblance to that 1983 clash : more-so than any other meeting, since that time. The hunger most certainly is there. And so is the confidence. And the substance. We have the Cowboys right where we want them. We have them at OUR place. At a time, when our home games are once again an advantage for us. A time when we are dominating our division foes. During our hottest regular season winning streak in 16 years. With everything on the line. A game that is essentially a playoff game : Winner lays claim to the Division Crown and moves on to a playoff game. While the loser is likely done for the season. Win. Or go home. For an offseason of watching the playoffs from you sofa, along with some rounds of golf.

But there are more similarities to that 1983 scene. Like those ’83 Redskins under Coach Gibbs, these Redskins are most certainly beginning a new era. That Gibbs team would go on to become a dynasty and go 3-1 in Super Bowls under Joe. This team, while no-one is daring to call them a dynasty of course (yet), certainly has far exceeded anyone’s expectations, and is light years ahead of the growth schedule we expected under our shiny new QB. We look ahead with a confidence at a dominating future ; something not experienced since Gibbs 1.0.

And of course, all that confidence revolves around RG3. I won’t spend much time talking about his talent here, simply because, what more can be said about his skills, that hasn’t already been said ? What I’d like to focus on instead, is the effect on the rest of the team, that his confidence produces.

This is a team, that practically everyone said before the season, simply did not have enough “weapons” and supporting cast around RG3, for him to be successful in his rookie year. And let’s face it. How often have we seen terribly poor teams end up with a high draft pick, and then see him perform at a high level, yet the overall team’s performance doesn’t change much ? That’s because there’s only so much one man can do, to change the outcome of a poor team’s season, if his cast is insufficient. Take Barry Sanders, for example. One of the best to ever play the game. Yet in half of his 10 seasons, his Lions were a losing team. It’s a team game, of course. And most teams that are lucky enough to draft a franchise player with a high pick, usually don’t have much of a supporting cast to help him. In the eyes of many observers before this season, that’s exactly the team that the 2012 Redskins were expected to be : a poor supporting cast, surrounding a franchise QB.

But they underestimated the power of RG3. Not only his individual accomplishments - but the effect that he would have on the whole team. What’s just as amazing as RG3 exceeding expectations the way he has, is the way he makes everyone around him better than they were, and fueling them to a new level. And he makes everyone on the offense a true threat, regardless of their talent level, because of his amazing ability to get the ball to them – not only with his accuracy, but with his ability to prolong plays with his un-matched mobility, which constantly expands possibilities on every play. Having 4 players with over 500 Receiving Yards substantiates that ability to spread the ball around effectively. We don’t necessarily need many other “superstars” on the team. We just need regular guys to do their job, and RG3 will make them look like the superstars that RG3 is, himself.

This results in a team that is truly having fun, and believing in themselves. And we all know that teams play better when they’re having fun, and when they have confidence. In other words, he doesn’t just excite the fans and cause them to believe that anything is possible But more importantly, he does the same thing for his surrounding team-mates. Not to mention the exponential effect his “Option” plays have on the offense.

His entire supporting cast is performing at a higher level, because his “energy” and “confidence” is simply contagious. They rally around this guy. This team that was previously seen as lackluster, has fed upon his energy and rode his coat-tails through an amazing streak, supporting him nicely, as opposed to holding him back with their own short-comings, like an Achilles Heel. Players who were here last year are playing at an even higher level, namely the Offensive Line, for example. And a team that has been dealt some brutal blows with injuries to crucial players, still has seemingly not missed a beat. And players like London Fletcher and Santana Moss, thanks to their fondness of this newfound leader of the team, are now seeing their careers extended and revived with hope and enthusiasm and purpose, after long periods of losing,

There’s a cohesiveness ; a team that sticks together, a team that plays together, and believes in each other ; that has each other’s back. There’s no drama, no distractions, no egos, no Prima Donna’s, no dead weight - none of the things that held the team back in the past

This is a team that the fans and players truly believe can beat anyone. It’s not a cockiness or arrogance, or an over-confidence, or even a “swagger”. They simply take care of business, and have fun doing it. Winning is simply something they EXPECT to do – nothing more, and nothing less. After 15 games of a brutal schedule, starting a rookie QB every game, we were hardly dominated by ANY team !

They have a plan and stick to it. They have a leader on offense and defense, and leaders on the coaching staff, and a system they believe in. Sure, they have a couple glaring weaknesses, but this team has beaten some very good teams, in the midst of an impressive winning streak, despite those very weaknesses. And besides, all the other playoff teams have weaknesses, as well. So for that reason, you simply cannot count out these Redskins, no matter who they play.

So like a behemoth monster, feasting upon a helpless prey, we await our final victim of the 2012 regular season. Knowing without a doubt, that this opponent is inferior. Knowing there is every logical reason to believe that we should win, if we just simply perform our game plan. And also maintaining the confidence that this same Redskins’ team acquired from near-routing them, only weeks earlier at Thanksgiving.

Once again, this has all the trimmings of a new “chant” for our next victim. The hunger is there – hunger to erase 20 years of futility ; to start a-fresh and a clean slate. The substance is there – a true leader on offense, who is performing as well as any QB in the league, with an offensive cast that’s becoming increasingly cohesive, balanced, and versatile. A defense that’s pressuring the QB, and creating turnovers. And while they have allowed a lot of yards, they have become stout in the red zone, limiting opponent scores, and at least “keeping us in games”. And even that glaring weakness of the defensive backfield has shown noticeable improvement during this recent winning streak.

RG3 will lead. And veterans like Fletcher and Moss, who realize this may be their last individual chance at a Super Bowl run, are hyped, to ensure that this is no fluke. And that they are ready to provide veteran support on both sides of the ball.

What more could you ask for, in an ingredient list on a team with a rookie QB, who is playing for all the marbles against our division rival ?

Like 1983, this Redskins team is most definitely on the rise. And the Cowboys are on the decline. And this Sunday, the Redskins intend to bury the Cowboys in a grave, to make that decline official. Let’s not forget the time that Harvey Martin threw a funeral wreath into the Redskins locker room, after a devastating loss. So now, this Sunday will be seen as a funeral ceremony for the Cowboys’, AND the careers of Romo and Jason Garrett. And an initiation ceremony, to unveil the Redskins as the next leader of the NFC East. Almost exactly 30 years later. So, history is ready to repeat itself.

Don’t misunderstand. This may not be an easy game. Dallas right now, is a formidable foe that should be taken seriously - right down to the last minute, and even the last second of the game. Before we bury this foe, they will probably fight and claw to their death, like any cornered dog. But by the same token, this also is a Redskins team, that is proven highly capable of playing 60 minutes of solid football in all phases of the game, against ANY opponent, with a formula for winning that has proven time and time again, to confound and overwhelm opponents. A team, that no matter what the other team does, is highly capable of answering back, accordingly…and then some. And we all know how Tony Romo performs when everything is on the line. And Santana Moss, the “Cowboy-Killer” is still as hot as ever. Romo may attempt to rally his team, late in the game, but he still has to deal with several intangibles – the RG3 resilience, the FedEx 12th Man Chant, and that expected Romo December Curse.
So the stage is set. It is because of that proven Redskin formula, and a proven history of “December Romo Choking” (Romoking ?) that we can once again, for the first time since 1983, say with confidence AND substance AND hunger, AND expectation of triumph : WE WANT DALLAS.

This is Part II ; The Griffin Era It has begun. And this is only the beginning.
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