Chain Reactions: It's Battle of the Beltways Weekend, as the Redskins meet the Ravens

Rob Carr

The power of RGIII, the rivalry question, Trent Wiliams' redemption season, and Garcon gets going.

The Redskins and Ravens will play in the "Battle of the Beltways" this Sunday at Fed Ex Field, but before we get to the many aspects of the neighbor vs. neighbor showdown, let’s take a look back at the charmed week of Washington's prized rookie, Robert Griffin III.

To start the week, RGIII helped lead the Redskins to a 17-16 win over the defending world champion New York Giants, ending a 9-game losing skid at Fed Ex Field on Monday Night Football. RGIII not only threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon in the 4th quarter, but he also invented the fumble-pitch play in a first quarter score by Josh Morgan. Then on Tuesday, RGIII sat next to the Wizards bench as they knocked off the defending world champion Miami Heat. He received a standing ovation at the Verizon Center, and also heard his name chanted like he had just played in the game. Even Cowboys fan Lebron James embraced RGIII (which really grossed me out).

I mean what can’t this guy do? He even got Bryce Harper over 100,000 Twitter followers. So what’s next? Well, hopefully four more regular season wins en route to a division title and Super Bowl Championship, but let’s not put too much pressure on the young star. However, once the season's done a trip to the Hill may be in order to motivate our elected officials to save us from the "Fiscal Cliff." In this week’s ‘Chain Reaction’ we take on the "rivalry" of the Redskins and Ravens, plus we look at the a difference a year makes for Trent Williams, as well as Pierre Garcon’s impact.

Is There A Redskins/Ravens Rivalry?

The short answer is "No". The players all seem to say ‘No,’ even guys like Josh Wilson, who used to play for the Ravens. The players will point out that each team has rivals already in their respective divisions. Baltimore is coming off a loss to their biggest rival, the Steelers, and for my money, those two have the best rivalry in football now. I mean, Pittsburgh won in Baltimore behind 50-year-old Charlie Batch. The Redskins, meanwhile, have won three straight over their rivals: Philadelphia, Dallas, and New York.

The bottom line is, there is no history. The teams have played just four times in the regular season. Yes, the Ravens have won three of those four. (or as their fans like to say, "We kicked your D.C. asses 3 of 4 times HON!") That’s not to say the fans can’t feel like this game means more than next week’s game at Cleveland or than any other out-of-division game. We are the ones that have to live next door to these idiots who swapped the 'Skins gear for Ravens gear just because times got tough. Although I will say this: I respect those that made the clean break much better than the fools who are straddling both sides of the fence cheering for both. Pick a damn side already! Also, please do not show up to Fed Ex Field in one of those stupid half uniforms.

From Suspension to Anchoring O-Line

A year ago left tackle Trent Williams began serving a four-game suspension for multiple failed drug tests. One more failed test would mean a yearlong suspension. Many fans wanted him and suspended teammate Fred Davis to be released. Fast forward to the present, and Williams is preparing to play through pain once again this week and anchor the surprisingly solid 'Skins offensive line. Williams suffered a "thigh bruise" in the Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys in the 1st quarter and played through it. The injury limited his ability to explode off the line and also gave him balance issues.

I watched him warm up with trainers in the pregame on the field Monday night and he was clearly in pain and had limited mobility. He played with thigh pads for the first time in his career (something he will do from now on) and played well as the Redskins racked up 207 yards rushing and RGIII was kept clean in the one point win over the Giants.

"I feel like [crap]," Williams said, "but I feel better now that we got that win."

The Redskins' offensive line has been one of the underrated success stories this season. The five starters are hardly household names, but their play has helped anchor one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses. The 'Skins have a 1,100 yard rusher already in Alfred Morris, and the NFL’s most talked about player in RGIII, both rookies. While those two get the headlines, the unit continues to perform at a high level. The guy anchoring the group is Williams, who just a year ago nobody seemed to trust. Now he is in charge of protecting the blind side of the franchise’s biggest asset. It might even earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Pierre No Longer Down and Out

The Redskins wasted no time in Free Agency signing Pierre Garcon for 5 years and $42.5 million from the Indianapolis Colts. Immediately, NFL pundits wondered if the Redskins had once again spent too much in free agency for a wide receiver that had never been a No. 1 guy and had never even had a 1,000 yard season. In the opening quarter of the season in New Orleans, the Redskins looked real smart as Garcon exploded with 4 catches for 109 yards, highlighted by an 88-yard touchdown, before leaving with a toe injury.

The injury had him on the brink of shutting it down for the season before he returned following the bye week to give it one more shot. The results in the Eagles game were hardly encouraging: just 3 receptions for 5 yards. A short week and the turf in Dallas seemed like a hopeless situation. Garcon, however, gutted it out, posting a 6-reception 86-yard performance that was highlighted by a 59-yard catch-and-run score. It was a play where Garcon once again showed a burst of speed and picked up big time Yards After Catch. Monday night, Garcon was able to raise his game once again, making 8 catches for 106 yards and the game winning touchdown. Mike Shanahan just a few weeks ago was questioning his star’s threshold of pain, and now he’s grateful to have him on the field. As the coach put it Wednesday:

"Pierre has been a big part of our system going in to the preseason. He gave us a lot of confidence and unfortunately we lost him after that first quarter but I think he has demonstrated the last couple of games exactly what type of wide receiver he is both in the running game and the passing game. We are glad to have him."

The Redskins insist they are not doing anything different from a scheme standpoint with Garcon back in the mix. However, it is clear he is RGIII’s go to guy, just as he was back in training camp. The Redskins now have the ability to stretch the field and that opens up things for everyone on offense and gives them another dynamic playmaker that can get big yards after the catch. The team is also 5-1 with him in the line up, as opposed to 1-5 without him. If he can continue to get better each week, so should the Redskins passing attack as they head down the home stretch.

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