To open the season, the DC Skins lost to the Giants in the Meadowlands for the second year in a row. Comparing 2008's 7-16 loss to Sunday's 17-23 loss reveals disappointing similarities.
RB Portis ripped off one long gain in both but was otherwise unable to crack the defensive line: 84 yards vs. 85 yards. The offensive line was unable to provide full-time pass protection for QB Campbell. Campbell was indecisive, inconsistent and lacked awareness.
The defense lost the third-down battle 50% in 2008; last Sunday they lost 46%. They allowed 5.1 yards per play last year, this year it was 5.8. In both games, the secondary missed barrels of tackles and the DC Skins only had the ball for 24 minutes.
The playcalling in 2008 was cautious and predictable; clock management was an issue. Last Sunday, the clock was an issue; the playcalling was cautious and predictable except for the terrible decision to squander our momentum by calling a lame, tired trick play that fooled no one and forced us to punt. However, the fake FG at the end of the half was the right call at the right time and offered a glimmer of hope.
The Good Bits
There were, however, several discrete good bits. Look for these bits to emerge in next week's home opener versus the Rams. The Rams were shitty last year too, yet beat the DC Skins. That won't happen again because:
1. FA punter Hunter Smith, in addition to scoring the first TD of the season on the fake FG, did a very good job. It doesn't look like much of an improvement statistically, but he has excellent placement and control. Punting has been well-fucked for at least a decade; this is one problem solved.
2. TE Cooley and WR Randle El (back in the slot) excelled in catching first downs. Campbell repeatedly found them and they never came up a yard short like last year. Of the 12 passing first-downs collected, they accounted for 8, the majority of which came on 3rd down. The passing game shows a subtle but measurable improvement.
3. The run defense is good (3.3 yards) and the short-yardage defense is excellent. This was best part of the DC Skins day: led by DT Haynesworth, they stuffed the Giants on 2nd and 2, 3rd and 1, 2nd and 3, 3rd and 1, 4th and 1. In the goal line formation, this is defense is well-nigh invincible.