Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. No traffic on 66. Your spouse knowing where they want to eat dinner the first time you ask them. Trickle-down economics. An "edit" button on Twitter. A civilized conversation about the name of Washington's football team. A black host who is not a former athlete on D.C. sports radio. A sold-out FedEx Field, with minimal attendance of the opposing team's fans. An actual General Manager in Ashburn. An "ugly" win in the NFL.
Above is a list of things that simply do not exist. My hope is that it can help us gain perspective of a truer reality: Washington is in first place in the NFC East in October.
Any goals that extend to January and beyond are built on the foundation of the entire season. Countless local writers, hosts, columnists, social media samaruis and the like took to the airwaves and internet to downplay Sunday's 23-17 win over the perennial playoff-bound Panthers, at a moribund and sparsely-filled FedEx Field. BUT, THEY WON. Any critiques, nitpicks, concerns and gripes may in fact be valid, but so is the 3-2 record.
So who contributed to the win? I'm glad you asked! Welcome to the fifth of sixteen #SundaySlices recaps, where we cut up the game to assign fame and blame, based on the outcome, into delicious pie chart form. Try not to make a mess.
(These are the players/coaches/etc. who are not in the pie, because they did not contribute to the win)
-Mason Foster. Foster's may be Australian for beer, but on Sunday it was American for "constantly confused in coverage, a liability in the middle and inside linebacker should be a top draft target for the team in the spring." Interesting translation.
-Alex Smith. QB1 wasn't terrible on Sunday, but he wasn't particularly good, either. Even as a 13-year veteran, we have to remember this is only his fifth game in Jay Gruden's offense, so some of the reads and nuance of the schemes just isn't there yet. He was decisive from clean pockets in the first half, but dreadful later, which was due in part to...
-Pass protection (2nd half). Similar to the Colts and Saints games, the pass protection became spotty in the second half and it completely halted the vertical--my bad--the horizontal, throwing game.
Trent Williams: 5%
Trent was his usual solid self, protecting Alex Smith's blind side, but his biggest contribution may have been his scoop-and-advance rugby skills, during the fourth quarter. Williams's fumble recovery provided further cliche fodder: football is truly a game of inches:
The Tight Ends: 10%
Washington had the ground game working, even when employing three TE sets, so props are given for execution without the element of deception. The men in the 80s jersey numbers did their jobs. Jordan Reed has yet to have one of his of his patented "ohhh, that's right, this guy is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league" games yet, but it's coming. I'm fairly certain Vernon Davis has no steering and can only run routes in a straight line, but as long as he keeps catching touchdowns, no complaints here.
D.J. Swearinger: 10%
The defensive captain and backbone talks loud and plays louder. Sometimes he gets burned and sometimes he flies all over the field, sacks Cam Newton, forces a fumble and posts taunts on Instagram. The Swearinger Experience is must-see TV.
Greg Manusky: 10%
Prevent defense prevents you from winning. Bend, but don't break. Enter your favorite meaningless defensive statement here.
The defensive coordinator got a lot guff from last Monday's performance (deserved) and got a lot of hate for this Sunday's win (somewhat deserved), but when Carolina got close to taking the lead on the final drive, he FINALLY sent blitzes to disrupt Cam and ultimately win. Of course, his job would be easier if he got any semblance of a pass rush from Preston Smith and others, but I digress.
Manusky will likely find himself out of the winning pie ingredients more often if he doesn't address how to stop crossing routes in the red zone, though.
Just punt it. Don’t attempt a 56 yarder— Fifty Gut Blog (@FiftyGutBlog) October 14, 2018
Dustin Hopkins: 10%
Even the fearless editor-in-chief of this very site can't win 'em all. Hopkins hammered home a career-long 56-yard field goal that may have won the game. Special teams as a whole played their most complete contest of the season.
Jay Gruden: 15%
The head coach did not have his team mentally prepared for the game. Oh wait, that's next week's slices write-up. Or was it last week"s? Anyways, the carousel of critique about Gruden goes round and round, as Washington vacillates between exciting and dreadful on almost a per drive basis. Heavy weighs the crown for Jay, as he will be in the crosshairs for what is essentially a make-or-break season.
Once again the offense could not drive a stick shift in the second half, stalling on nearly every drive, failing to score in the third quarter and developing an acute endzone allergy. Still, coming off a humiliating bayou beatdown, on a short week, Gruden was able to get the only result that mattered.
Side note: not only do I want to win next week because eff Dallas, but also to cause Symmetry Steinberg to end this bit...
The Redskins are 1-1 in their last 2 games, 2-2 in their last 4 and 3-3 in their last 6. They're 5-5 in their last 10, 6-6 in their last 12, 7-7 in their last 14. They're 10-10 in their last 20. They're 16-16-1 in their last 33. They're 18-18-1 in their last 37.— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) October 15, 2018
Adrian Peterson: 16%
We've said this in all three victories this season: AP is an alien. 33-year old running backs should not still be able to execute perfect jump cuts, hit the edge with speed and finish flattening runs over defenders. And they're damn sure not supposed to be able to do it shoeless.
Josh Norman: 24%
Give that man his headphones! Norman finally chipped in, with his first interception since Christmas time...two years ago. He also Peanut Punched another fumble loose and deflected a pass. While his vengeance game vs his old team was needed and appreciated, his postgame swag is what will live on.
#SundaySlices will return following Sunday’s bloodbath versus the Dallas Cowboys. If you have any slice suggestions, critiques, complaints or questions send them to @slimceeVA on Twitter. Should you feel the need to add snarky commentary about pop culture, sports or politics into your life, you can also follow @slimceeVA—and you should.