There have been complaints about the behavior of certain Washington Redskins players during this past Sunday’s 23–17 win over the Seattle Seahawks. From celebrations over what some consider “mediocre” plays to flaring tempers, the impression I get is that folks are not happy with the way some of Washington’s players handled themselves. I disagree.
It was extremely enjoyable watching Washington beat Seattle. Not only was the victory long overdue, the players had an extraordinary amount of energy… energy that not only manifested in plays being made when necessary but with a lot of trash talking and some “in your face” attitude. This can be productive.
The friction between the two teams was noticeable early. Seahawks players got angry that the Washington players huddled up on their logo and the resulting skirmish involved a lot of both team’s players. Seattle running back Leon Washington and Redskins tackle Trent Williams exchanged words. Redskins’ return specialist Brandon Banks, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander; tackle Jammal Brown, guard Maurice Hurt and Seahawks’ running back Michael Robinson were all in on the scrum. Referees got involved. Redskins’ cornerback DeAngelo Hall helped calm Williams down. Brown almost stepped on Banks while being backed up by a referee. It was, ah, shall we say, lively.
Part of the problem was that the Seahawks had not done their homework. The Redskins do this huddle before every game whether home or away.
“Every game, as you know, as soon as pre-game warm ups are over we break the team down on the 50-yard line,” Redskins wide out Terrence Austin said Monday on the SportsJourney Broadcast Network. “We do it regardless of whether we’re home or away. It’s not a disrespect thing but we just do it. We’ve been doing it… I mean, I don’t even know… we’ve been doing it as long as I’ve been here.
“We ended up breaking early – we were done with pre-game before Seattle was – so we walked up like we always do and we broke it down on the 50 and went back to the locker room.
“A couple of the players [from Seattle] were upset that we did that,” Austin continued. “There was a few guys over there… they were just chippin’ off. ‘Oh, you all really gonna do that on our 50? You’re really gonna do that?’
“We said, ‘Well, it’s not that big a deal but we can make it one if you want to make it one.’
“So then, what we thought was watered down and finished,” he said in closing. “Well… when we went out for the coin toss, one of their captains brought it [back] up and that set D. Hall off. You know D. Hall… but then I knew it had to be something because it even set [London] Fletch[er] off. Once that happened, it was over with.”
Those players needed to get into the right attitude to play a very physical game which, in this case, was in somebody else’s house. But the Redskins were already fired up, with energy resulting from a competitive game against the Dallas Cowboys the previous week.
“It’s just a mindset that when you come into another place, you’re not tippy-toeing,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “You’re coming here trying to make it your place for three hours.”
“We came out there with an aggressive mindset,” Austin reiterated. “We got after them on offense. For the first time I think that [in] all three phases – we played together in the game.”
In the ruckus during the coin toss, referees had to restrain captains of both teams and in the end, Williams, Redskins’ wide out Santana Moss, Fletcher and Alexander all had to be removed from the ritual as were multiple Seahawks players. The result was that only DeAngelo Hall and Leon Washington were allowed to stay and flip the currency.
The elevated tension went on throughout the game.
During the first half, a Seattle player blocked D. Hall to the ground on a play and then stepped on him – hard. The cornerback had to be tended to by trainers.
After another play, Moss and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had words on the sidelines and had to be separated by a referee.
There were personal fouls called on Redskins’ tight end Fred Davis, Williams and Austin during the game. Actually, throughout the entire contest there was trash talk and penalties by both teams.
Seattle Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll is well-known for inciting passion in his players, having been doing so since he was head coach for USC. But in this game, he indicated that he hadn’t done anything to start the animosity. In fact, the head coach alleged the tension started with the Redskins.
“It came from them. I don’t know why they were doing that,” Carroll said according to the Seattle Times. “You have to talk to them about that. I don’t know. Ask them. They were very vocal.”
I was told otherwise by a player who knows Carroll well and in fact, during that first scrap between the players, game film shows the former Trojans’ coach smiling broadly as referees broke things up.
There was more trash talk by the Redskins in this game than usual and it’s clear why. Take 106 grown men, highly frustrated by losing and put them in a restricted space for a violent game. There’s likely to be some hostility exhibited.
“Football is a man’s game,” Terrence Austin said. “It’s macho. There’s a lot of testosterone on the field. You can’t be soft playing this game, period.”
I disagree that the Redskins’ behavior last Sunday was a bad thing. Early in the six-game losing streak, the level of intensity displayed against the Seahawks appeared to be missing. Fans and the media noticed it. Yet even so, since this victory, I have heard complaints about the “chippy” behavior of the players.
Fred Davis decided to play “Lil’ B” after his touchdown on the first drive of the game, mimicking shoveling food into his mouth (in his words, he was “hungry to get in the end zone”). Some disapprove of this, saying it is excessive for a player from a losing team.
The boastful behavior by safety LaRon Landry after he makes tackles that people say any good safety should make is supposedly unnecessary and over-the-top.
Tackle Trent Williams has been criticized – and penalized – several times this season for unsportsmanlike conduct, unable to control his temper.
I liked what I saw Sunday. A degree of high character is a necessary quality in a good football team but it’s important that players have a side of them that says “thug.” Even though the Redskins players are ‘character’ guys, any football player has to have a bit of “brute” in him to be effective on that field. Maybe some of that anger exhibited in the Seattle game has been missing a little bit in all of the losing.
Why not embrace the passion?
Despite the loss the previous week to the Dallas Cowboys, there was more optimism from the team, from fans and from the media going into the Seattle game than has been evident for a long while. The better offense displayed against the Cowboys showed that the Redskins can move the ball. This past Sunday they scored points and established the running game. The play-action did what it was designed to do. The defense got off the field when the game’s outcome depended on it. The biggest problem stemmed from technique breakdowns on the special teams’ kick coverage. According to the Washington Times, offensive lineman Erik Cook (who contributed to that particular problem), said the problem has been addressed.
There comes a time when a football team finally just gets angry at the losing. Exasperation and frustration that the hard work and long hours; and wear-and-tear on the body aren’t reaping the rewards one expects and it takes a toll. This can manifest in atypical behavior on the field. Sometimes this is bad but, in the case of the Redskins last Sunday, it appeared to work to their benefit.
So some of the Redskins found their inner hooligan? That ended up being a good thing.
I’m not condoning unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, and unwarranted celebrations after plays that should be made without fanfare… But passion is good in the right circumstance and to see it in Washington’s players this past Sunday – which resulted in the win – well, let’s just say it was good to see evidence that the losing had not turned into apathy.
The Redskins played a complete game for the first time in a long time and the resulting victory has helped them get the swagger back that we saw earlier in the season. As is often said: “Winning begets winning.”
If it takes a few skirmishes to prove that the Washington players can take on whoever throws a punch their way, so be it. More power to them. There are some players that might agree.
Defensive lineman Barry Cofield: “We used the emotion the right way.”
Trent Williams: “I feel like we haven’t so much turned a corner as we’re getting our ways back. I feel like kind of got away from who we were for a few weeks and we’re back and we’re moving the ball.”
Santana Moss: “That was us. That was more like who we were in the first part of the season, in the preseason and I think if we keep emphasizing that we can do that more.”
Terrence Austin: “Where I come from, we do that. We try to intimidate the other team.”
This Sunday the Redskins take on the New York Jets. Let’s hope the Burgundy & Gold again channel their inner beasts.