I’ve been on a really big Bruce Springsteen kick lately.
Actually, I’ll get to that in a second. First you should know that at 8:00 ET on NBC Sunday Night Football, the Washington Redskins (1-3) will take on their detested rivals, the Dallas Cowboys (2-3), at AT&T Stadium. If you’re not familiar with the best rivalry in football, get acquainted with it.
Now, back to The Boss. It’s pretty much a given that Born In The U.S.A. is his best album, even though the title track is not at all the patriotic anthem most people think it to be. Bruce’s best song though? That’s tough to choose. “Glory Days” seeps with nostalgia and memories of better times, while “Jungleland” hits an emotional high that not many songs have ever hit. My personal favorite, however, and the reason I’m writing this divergent paragraph, is “Born to Run.”
If any team in the NFL is indeed “born to run,” it’s the Redskins. Mike Shanahan is known for being a master of the zone-blocking scheme. He and Bruce Allen have drafted and signed athletic-if-undersized lineman in order to fit the scheme that he has used since he took over the Denver Broncos in 1995. The running game is Washington’s bread and butter; the engine that makes their offense work, and work exceptionally well at that, when firing on all cylinders. Alfred Morris is a bonafide horse, and Shanahan needs to feed his horse on Sunday if the Redskins have a shot at winning.
Yes, the Cowboys’ secondary is the worst in professional football (depending on what statistics you give value to). But Dallas knows that Robert Griffin III is, as of two weeks ago, not the player he was last season, when he defeated them twice. He doesn’t yet have the same deadeye accuracy or ability to create plays outside of the pocket. Giving Morris carries will draw attention away from the passing game, giving Griffin more time to go through his progressions and make a strong, on-target throw downfield. It will also work wonders for the Play Action game, a staple of Washington’s 2012 offense that has not had the same impact in 2013. If the running game is working early, look for TE Jordan Reed to get open up the seam and in the red zone. The rookie was a full-go at practice this week and will be a matchup nightmare for the Dallas LBs.
On defense, there are really only two main weapons the Redskins need to shut down. Unfortunately, those weapons happen to be WR Dez Bryant, arguably the best WR in football, and TE Jason Witten, a future Hall of Fame inductee who seemingly gouges the Redskins every single time these two teams square off. Cowboys QB Tony Romo is coming off of the (statistical) game of his life, throwing for 506 yards and 5 touchdowns against Denver. Unfortunately for Dallas fans, Romo reverted back to his old self in the waning minutes of the tied game, throwing a terrible interception with just under 2:00 left in the 4th quarter, allowing Denver to drive down the field and kick the game-winning field goal at the gun.
If Romo plays on Sunday like he did for the majority of last week, it will be a long night for the Redskins’ own awful secondary. However, if CB DeAngelo Hall plays like he did in Week 17 of last year, when he held Bryant to 4 catches and 71 yards, with no touchdown, then Washington will be able to hang around. They need to force Dallas RB DeMarco Murray to beat them, a task he was unable to accomplish in 2012.
As much as the Redskins’ defense has struggled this season, there are a few reasons for optimism as the season rolls closer and closer to the midway point. LB Rob Jackson and DL Jarvis Jenkins will return from their 4-game suspensions this week. Jackson will add to an already stout pass rush and give the linebackers some rest when they need it. Hopefully this will keep the corps fresh into the fourth quarter. Jenkins will provide some stability on the line, and bolster a run defense that has had some unexpected struggles early on this season.
Kicker Kai Forbath also returns to the Redskins this week after sitting out a few games with a groin injury. This may not seem like a big deal, but there were multiple occasions during Cobra Kai’s absence when the Redskins chose to go for it on fourth down instead of taking the points, simply because they did not trust interim kick John Potter’s accuracy. Would those points have made a difference in the outcome? No one knows. But having a kicker who went 18/19 last season healthy again is certainly a plus.
This one’s gonna be a shootout, folks, and it really could go either way. However, I think the bye week gave the Shana-clan enough time to put together an effective gameplan, and it also gave RGIII another week of rest before the season begins pushing his body to its limits. If Alfred Morris controls the game early, and allows the defense to play with a lead, the Redskins have a great shot at victory.
Prediction: Redskins 41, Cowboys 34
Don’t forget to join isportsweb for our live game chat Sunday night. It’ll be a great place to talk trash or let out some tears or what have you.
In the meantime, go listen to some Bruce. He’s really good.
And, as always: Hail to the Redskins.