LANDOVER — In the NFL, anything can happen on any given Sunday.
The saying typically refers to huge underdogs defeating massive favorites, pulling off upsets that no one sees coming. But the “you-never-know” factor isn’t tied to an all-or-nothing outcome.
Sometimes, a team can shock observers by displaying unforeseen levels of competence, cohesion and competitiveness. Being in a game — as opposed to being embarrassed — is the next best thing to winning.
The Washington Redskins lost Sunday’s contest, 37-27, against the Philadelphia Eagles. But for the second consecutive outing at FedEx Field, Washington resembled a professional football team more than a burgundy-and-gold clown show.
Washington came up short in the end, with Philadelphia scoring a sack-strip-scoop touchdown on the final play. However, an onlooker easily could point out several bright spots.
Especially from a prime perch in the owner’s luxury box.
Sunday wasn’t a microcosm of Washington’s 3-11 season. The average score entering the game was Opponents 24 and Washington not-as-close-as-it-sounds 14. But former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer picked a great week to be Dan Snyder’s guest.
“He was here?” rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins said after posting career-highs in completion percentage (.678), yards (261) and quarterback rating (121.3). “That’s cool. I didn’t know.”
Couldn’t tell if Haskins was serious. Fellow rookie/Ohio State product Terry McLaurin said Urban called him Saturday night. “He was here to support me and Dwayne,” McLaurin said.
Either way, Haskins picked a fine time to produce his best NFL game. Meyer surely enjoyed watching Haskins and McLaurin, connect on a 75-yard touchdown. It was McLaurin’s career-long reception and accounted for the bulk of his career-high 130 receiving yards.
Few NFL watchers are convinced that Haskins will be a franchise QB. But Meyer might be a believer based on his experience with the passer. The coach certainly must like McLaurin as much as everyone else. Though the duo hadn’t clicked much before Sunday — when McLaurin caught all five passes thrown his way — they’ll be scary if they recreate their Buckeye chemistry.
“Just watching him in college for three years and now having him on the same team motivates me because he knows what it takes,” Haskins said.
It would take a lot to beat Philadelphia, trying to keep its postseason hopes alive. Washington had enough of everything, except total points. It fell behind and rallied to take the lead or tie the game five times. It was balanced on offense and mostly resilient on defense. The youth movement was in full effect and paying dividends.
“Most teams that are in the situation we’re in, they quit,” Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan said. “They just flat quit. I saw no quit in our team. I saw a lot of fight and a lot of spirit.”
Meyer had to see it, too, particularly a receiving corps featuring two other rookies in Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon. Sims scored a 5-yard touchdown by barely planting his feet inside the end line after an exquisite pass from Haskins.
The defense also showcased emerging players such as linebacker Ryan Anderson (two sacks and three forced fumbles), safety Danny Johnson (team-high 10 tackles), and cornerback Jimmy Moreland (a would-be TD pass batted away in end zone).
Meyer reportedly is a leading candidate to fill an NFL vacancy, perhaps in Dallas or Washington. By spending the afternoon at FedEx Field, Meyer might’ve sparked a bidding war between Snyder and Cowboys owners Jerry Jones.
Dallas is more attractive on several fronts, but you have to wonder if AT&T Stadium is large enough to accommodate Jones’ and Meyer’s massive egos. A big, splashy hire seems like Snyder’s next move, and none would generate more buzz than Meyer.
I can imagine Meyer sitting there on Sunday and thinking, “This isn’t so bad.”
As a brand, Washington is in the toilet right now. But the young guys haven’t been here long enough to let Ashburn ruin them. They’re still trying to put plays on tape and prove themselves as NFL talent, regardless of the culture or the uniform.
For at least one week, they went out battled in a playoff-like atmosphere and held their own. It’s enough to make a prime coaching candidate go, “Hmm.”
Not that we should read anything into Snyder’s guest list, right?
“(Meyer) was my guest and it was good to see him again, good to talk to him, surpasses football,” McLaurin said. “It has nothing to do with his coaching status at all. It was just good having him support me again.”
With the choice of any given Sunday, Meyer picked a fine one.
⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
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