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It's The Line, Stupid

The QB stat line for the game read 22 of 35 for 198 with no Touchdowns, one INT, three Fumbles (two lost) and six Sacks.

If I showed you that line in a vacuum, where you didn’t already have a clue where I got it from, my guess is you, as a Redskin fan, would have no problem believing that it belonged to Jason Campbell. We have sure seen his stat line look like that often enough.

In this case it belongs to Tony Romo and this is the line he posted yesterday in the Great White North while trying for just the second playoff win by the Cowboys in the last 13 years.

“What happened to him?” you ask. With apologies to former President Clinton, I’ll tell you.

It’s the line, stupid.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those who think Tony is the next incarnation of Roger the Dodger, come to deliver the Silver and Blue to the land of Lombardi year after year. I think he is a solid QB who is really dangerous if he gets hot but otherwise can be very streaky.

In short, he can be good when he gets protection, something that just did not happen on Sunday. I don’t have official stats for anything other than Sacks available to me but I have read a couple places now that he was sacked, hurried, hit or knocked down on 19 of his 35 pass attempts.

From Peter King’s list of things he didn’t like about the weekend in this morning’s MMQB column on CNN/SI:

Peter King said:
“c. The Dallas protection. Don't let me hear a word this morning about "Tony Romo not coming up big.'' Nonsense. He could have made a couple more plays, but not enough to be competitive in a game in which he was pressured on more than half of his dropbacks.”
You don’t win games like that whether your name is Tony Romo or Jason Campbell.

If you need more evidence see Tom Brady’s five Sacks by the Giants in a little game for all the marbles a couple years ago.

Conversely, the Vikings defense shut down the hottest offense in the NFL over the last 7 weeks. Since scoring only a single TD against Washington in Week 11 this offense has averaged 23 and a half points a game. Granted, they have done it against some questionable defenses but they still did it.

On Sunday, the Vikes D held them to one FG on three attempts (I won’t get into the Suisham thing here even though it is oh so tempting!).

This is a Vikes defense that looked dismal in 3 late season losses to the Cardinals, Panthers and Bears, giving up an average of 30 and a half points a game to those three teams. While the Cards have a smoking offense, no one will remember the Panthers or Bears of the 2009 season as great examples of modern NFL offense.

We are talking about a Vikes D without it’s best LB (EJ Henderson, lost for the season) and using it’s best DB (Antoine Winfield) as a nickel back because he just isn’t healthy enough to play full time. In fact, this defense has looked seriously suspect without these two guys and before the game, most figured it would look that way again against Dallas. The pre-game summaries I read from just about anyone who could print one all said to brace for an offensive shootout.

Again you ask…”so what happened to them?”

Again I say, it’s the line, stupid.

All but one of the Sacks on Romo were from defensive linemen (the exception being one by LB Chad Greenway, who had Zero sacks during the regular season). Lead by Ray Edwards who had 3 Sacks, the Vikes line got to Romo 5 times, causing two of his three fumbles. They were also responsible for his INT as they were all over him on the play forcing him into a bad decision.

Add that to the 3.7 yards per carry average they gave the Dallas running game (7th in the league during the regular season averaging over 131 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry) and you have a pretty dominating performance.

This game, more obviously than any other I have seen in a while, proves the old axiom about winning by controlling the line of scrimmage.

So what does this have to do with the Redskins?


All the concern over whether Shanahan keeps Campbell and/or Portis, if Landry gets moved to SS or released, who the kicker will be, and whether the D runs a 34, 43, or 89.5 makes no difference if you can’t control the line of scrimmage.

We often sat through games this year where Campbell was abused as much or more than Romo was yesterday yet for some reasons Skins fans thought a QB change would make a difference. Yesterday we saw evidence to the contrary. Discounting the Oakland game, when was the last time we saw our defensive line take over a game the way Minnesota did yesterday, especially against a QB as mobile as Romo? I sure can’t remember.

So my message to Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan is simple and, while offered with respect, direct.

It’s the line, gentlemen.

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