You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
It was only Houston. They were only dink and dunk passes. So what.
That was the reaction of Mark Brunell’s detractors to his NFL-record 22 consecutive pass completions on Sunday, a performance that wound up with the much-maligned quarterback going 24 of 27 for 261 yards and one touchdown, a quarterback rating for the game of 119.3.
And, to an extent, it’s a justified reaction. Houston has the worst defense in the league statistically. They’re almost 100 yards a game behind the team ranked 31st. While such stats can be misleading early in the season, they seem to be pretty darn accurate in this case. They have no impact players, they have no identity as a unit; they’re just not very good.
But there have been some pretty bad defenses in the history of the NFL and in all the thousands of games played before this one nobody has completed 22 consecutive forward passes in one game. Not Unitas against the pitiful Redskins teams of the early 60’s, not Jurgensen against the expansion Saints, not Montana playing the horrid Bucs teams of the late ‘80’s, not Marino while the Dolphins were regularly beating up on the Bills, not Manning in facing these Texans twice a year. Nobody.
This doesn’t qualify Brunell for the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean that his struggles are over. But to brush it off and say that anyone from your little sister to a horrible NFL quarterback could complete 22 straight passes against an NFL defense is going to the other extreme and not giving him enough credit.
Yes, they were short passes. The record would have be exponentially more impressive had even a couple more of the attempts been of the length of the one on which David Patten made that spectacular catch 25 yards downfield. On at least a couple of occasions it looked like Brunell had time to find a receiver downfield but he checked down to Ladell Betts or another receiver roaming a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Redskins will need to go deep in the passing game on occasion if they are going to beat the better teams on their schedule. Brunell needs to develop the confidence to throw the intermediate and deep routes and the patience to wait for those plays to develop when he’s getting time to throw.
But for six games, including the preseason, no facet of the offense was working well. It was a train wreck. Now it appears that a few of the cars have been put back onto the track. We will see if the rest of the mess can be straightened out.
Jaguars a team in possession
In taking an early look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, one number jumps out—23. That’s the average number of possession minutes that the Jags’ three opponents have managed so far this season. And this meager total has been compiled by some quality opponents in Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. There’s nary a stiff among them.
The flip side of that coin is that the Jaguars’ offense has had the ball for 37 minutes a game. There is no secret formula for putting up numbers like this. You run the ball and you stop the run. The Jags defense has allowed just 59 yards a game on the ground, the third-best total in the league. They’re eighth in the league in rushing offense, but they’re third in rushing attempts. Jacksonville is one of just four teams who have run the ball more than 100 times. That’s 33 times a game and even though their average is mediocre at 3.7 yards a crack, they keep at it and they wear their opponents down.
The closer the Redskins come to evening up that time of possession the better their chances will be of pulling the upset (yes, the Redskins are a three-point dog at home). That means showing the same patience with the running game that the Jags have shown. It also means not prolonging Jacksonville’s possessions and shortening their own by creating a bunch of yellow laundry all over the field. They won’t be able to bail out of very many first and 20 or second and 15 situations like they could against Houston.