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Chain Reactions: RGIII Rises After the Nats Fall

Days after the Nationals were unable to deliver, RGIII does and now the hopes for the 'Skins season are on the rise.

Patrick McDermott

It wasn't a great week of sports in the DMV, outside of RGIII and the 'Skins (more on that below). The Nats flamed out, the Caps still have yet to get started, and everyone on the Wizards at one point or another has been hurt.

The salt-in-the-wound moment for Wizards fans had to be Monday night, when a rejuvenated Andray Blatche dropped 16 points and 8 rebounds in preseason play for his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

Blatche, No. 0 in both your program and in Wizards fans' hearts, has been really good so far in the preseason after working out with former Bullet and Maryland Terrapin John Lucas this offseason. Meanwhile, the Wizards bigs, led by Nene and now Kevin Seraphin, have been sidelined.

Do not look for me to lead the charge of those arguing that the Wizards should have kept Andray. It is just the preseason, first of all. Second, as discussed before he was released, he may become reborn somewhere, but it was not going to happen here. There was simply too much bad history with the fans and the organization.

Sometimes, players need a change of scenery and a multimillion-dollar buyout. Speaking of scenery, I wonder if Andray has had a chance to get to "Scores" yet?

In this week's "Chain Reactions" we marvel at the rise of RGIII and mourn the fall of the Nationals.

RGIII Takes Off

I looked all over the DMV this week for the 'let's keep RGIII in bubble wrap crowd', but they have all entered the Witness Protection Program. Thankfully, Mike and Kyle Shanahan did not listen to the hysterical cries to keep RGIII sidelined for an extra week, even if independent doctors gave him the green light this past week.

RGIII saved the day with a 76-yard touchdown run in the Redskins' 38-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings. For many, it was not just a win for the 'Skins, but a win for D.C. sports after the Nationals' meltdown Friday night (more on that below).

Since the Redskins made the deal with the Rams for the second pick, RGIII has given the fan base hope. So far, he has not disappointed in the savior department. He has played at a high level, not just for a rookie, but for a pro bowl quarterback. Only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have a higher quarterback rating.

Here is what we know through 6 weeks of the NFL season: The Redskins' offense is best when RGIII runs and when the defense has to respect the threat of RGIII running.

It is not an accident that the Redskins' red zone offense is deadly thanks to the rookie quarterback's ability to take off. It also helps that fellow rookie Alfred Morris runs hard and refuses to be taken down on first contact.

Each week, the Redskins have shown a few different wrinkles to the offense (except for the Falcons game). Opposing linebackers have to freeze because of the play action and RGIII's ability to take off and run. That, in turn, opens up the passing game, and RGIII has been extremely accurate. He is No. 1 in the league in completion percentage at 70%.

The one facet of the offense that has yet to open up is the deep passing attack. That was RGIII's calling card coming out of Baylor. Part of the issue there might have something to do with the lack of Pierre Garcon for much of the season. He was paid the big bucks to stretch the field for the 'Skins' offense. So far he's only played one healthy quarter.

So for now, the Skins do what they do and, as RGIII put it the other day they try to keep defenses in state of confusion.

"Guys are definitely getting free in situations and we're hitting them in spots that normally teams don't hit receivers in. The whole objective is to create confusion. That's what every offense wants to do and we're doing a good job of that right now. Once we do create that confusion, then we can do whatever we want to do."

If the Redskins and RGIII are able to do that and beat the Giants this weekend, the hype will be off the charts. The game is for first place. The Giants owe the Redskins after going 0-2 against them in the Super Bowl season last year. The Giants are coming off a huge win at San Francisco and have been known to be flat after big wins.

The Redskins opened as a 6.5 point underdog, so Vegas is not ready to jump on the bandwagon quite yet. However, you can't blame fans for feeling that with RGIII under center, anything is possible.

A National Collapse

The wound is still fresh for many Nationals fans, but it is time to do the autopsy on the 2012 postseason before we completely focus on 2013.

There's plenty of blame to go around the Nationals organization for their inability to get past the Cardinals. There was the starting pitching that did not deliver (except for Detwiler), the bullpen that did likewise, the big-time hitters were not big enough, the veteran manager mismanaged, and the GM shut down their hopes with his Strasburg decision.

All those are criticisms baseball pundits will point to in this very long offseason. The bottom line is that the Nationals did not get it done and the Cardinals did. It is painful because the Nationals were so, so close. One strike away twice from celebration, only to suffer a gut punch that took the air out of Nationals Park.

There are, of course, plenty of things to second guess: why Edwin Jackson in the seventh, why stick with struggling Danny Espinosa, why not walk Pete Kozma with first base open in the 9th, should they have pulled Storen? Those are questions the media and fans will continue to ask.

However, manager Davey Johnson will not spend the off-season second guessing himself for the Game 5 meltdown.

"Any manager in baseball, they will tell you, if you can get to your closer with a lead, you've done good. I don't give a rat's [butt] what anybody else thinks. If it's a one-run lead, a two-run lead, you did it.

"One thing, in all the years I've been managing, if I think about all the options I have in every minute of that game, I never second-guess myself. Anytime you get to your set-up guy and your closer, you get a lead with your closer in there, you're good to go."

Well, maybe not always 'good to go,' as the results proved. Whether you think Johnson pulled the right strings or not in Game 5, he needs to be back next season. The Nationals were a 98-win team, for goodness sake.

The loss was something out of a horror movie, but Johnson helped lead them to that point, and now he deserves the chance to rebuild this group's confidence in 2013. Players love him, and the safe money is on Johnson being back to give it another shot.

Nationals fans will try to forget the tragic loss and probably ignore the rest of the postseason.

Hopefully, the young Nationals players never forget the gut-wrenching experience of Game 5. Hopefully, the experience is fuel for them to someday bring a championship to D.C.