Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hunting With the Predator: Live Edition by Matt Wallace

I am an American through and through, but I was ready to see some Patriots go down in Week three. Knowing that the third preseason game usually most resembles regular season action, at least for the first half, I was ready for a taste of what’s to come; the patience was finally about to pay off. First-string lineups on both sides, the objective going into the game was clear: a win means more than it has in the first two games, so beat the other guys by any means necessary!
As usual, I was gearing up to take in the game at home with some other Burgundy and Gold fans. That is until a family friend came through with a few tickets to the show. Getting to see this contest live, with several thousand of my closest friends, was like Christmas in August. The first trek out to Landover during the 2009 season came sooner than I expected.
Driving out to FedEx field is like marching into battle with legions of fellow soldiers, united under a single cause. Nervous excitement builds as the lines of cars creep into the parking lots. Fans put on the jerseys and foam fingers and helmets like battle armor. Cries of “Hail to the Redskins!” are echoed across the lot by total strangers. Questions turn over in your head: how will the offense and defense match up? Which players will show up today? How many hot dogs can I eat in the parking lot before I have to pay for them inside? HOW MANY PATRIOTS WILL HORTON PUT ON THE DL DURING THE GAME?!
Battling through waves of fans and entering the stadium, we finally found our seats, which proved to be an optimal perch to watch the hunting begin.
Graciously letting New England have the ball on the first possession, (and after a botched kickoff), the Skins almost instantly took over after several incomplete passes by Sir Thomas Brady. I would just like to say to all the flip-floppers on Jason Campbell: remember this drive. On Washington’s first possession of the game, Campbell led an eight play progression; throwing for 53 yards and setting up a one-yard punch in by Marcus Mason. Campbell played as calmly and professionally as anyone could ask out of a quarterback. He looked like a guy who had settled and was taking control. He was looking defenders off like a seasoned veteran, something I hadn’t seen him do yet in the preseason. He is, and has been, the man for the job.
With the offense digging in early, it was time for the Real Show: Defensive Predation! Of course this was the part of the game I was most excited about. The second play of the game, Horton delivered for P48 fans, stopping Maroney for no gain. Big time! I’m still not sure how he battled through to make the stop. It’s like he’s figured out teleportation, but just hasn’t told anyone else about it. I am sure David Blaine is jealous of his abilities.
A couple of plays later, Horton made a huge stop, taking down Redneck Randy (The Lesser) Moss. He had gotten away from his coverage, and Horton came in, literally out of nowhere, to take him down.
One of Horton’s noted weaknesses out of the NFL Combine last year was his open field speed. My question is: what were those scouts thinking? If anything, Horton’s legacy will be created out of his ability to hunt guys down from ridiculous angles all over the field. Sometimes I think he really has powers on invisibility because you just never see him coming. Watching the Skins at home in HD, with the advantage of instant replay, is great. But seeing the game live, in person, along with a roaring crowd, is unbeatable. Being able to see just how much field Horton is able to cover, and the actual size of the guys he can get around to make stops on the run is incredible. Chris ended up with two tackles on the night, but having those coming in a live game situation against a solid first team offense was a something special to watch live.
We all know the final score, and I guess we can say that “preseason games don’t matter”. And this is usually said even more so for the Week four game as starters rest for the regular season. But as the real deal inches forward each day, the hours of preparation left are dwindling. There are a lot of guys who will be unemployed come Saturday, and even though these games don’t go down on the official stat sheet, they are extremely important nonetheless. These are the times for the cream to rise to the top. Guys are fighting not just for a spot on the team, but for their livelihood. And fans should hope that the battling on the field will produce the winningest team possible.
I know it’s said every year, but this year really is the year for the Skins.

1 comment:

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