Veteran defensive back Omar Stoutmire is a smart NFL player who knows how to offer perspective on Sunday's 52-17 rout over the San Francisco 49ers at FedExField.
Stoutmire, who has played with Dallas, the Jets and Giants and now the Redskins over the course of his nine years in the NFL, has been able to resurrect his career in 2005 as a key member of Washington's special teams units.
He served as captain of special teams during Sunday's demolition of the 49ers. Stoutmire knows that the 35-point win was an aberration and quickly points out that there are a couple of key challenges just ahead.
"It's back to the dogfights," Stoutmire said Sunday, after the Redskins broke their two-game losing skid. "Back to New York, then Philly. The NFC East.
"This game against San Francisco, it's a rarity. Our first five were all down-to-the-wire, last-play type of scenarios. More often than not, that's what we can expect, the close ones."
At 4-2, the Redskins have their share of the top spot in the NFC East, the only division in the league with all teams above .500.
But as Stoutmire goes to great lengths to emphasize, the heavy lifting is just ahead for Joe Gibbs and company. That means this week at the Meadowlands, followed by a Sunday Nighter at FedExField against the four-time defending NFC East champs.
The last time the Redskins had anything closely resembling Sunday's blowout win over the struggling 49ers took place at Giants Stadium. On Week 2 of 1999, Brad Johnson led a 50-21 win over New York.
Games of that sort are not possible (well, at least not to be expected) in the NFC East this year. The pack is tight, with the Redskins, Giants and Eagles all at 4-2 and the Cowboys over .500 as well at 4-3. What is likely to make matters tougher for Bill Parcells is that Dallas already has played its three home NFC East games.
Against the 49ers, Stoutmire and his teammates on special teams gave another solid effort. But this was a game the Redskins led 52-7 early in the fourth quarter.
On Week 7 at Kansas City, the Redskins' special teams may have been at their best so far in terms of covering punts and kickoffs. Take into consideration that the dangerous Dante Hall never really was a factor. In six tries, Hall's best effort was a 20-yard kickoff return.
Said Sunday's special teams captain: "We have a lot of good athletes on our special teams units. We take our jobs seriously. How many special teams groups around the league have their own players' own meetings?
"Anybody who follows the Redskins knows about Danny Smith's passion for the game. We have that passion, too. We feed off Danny. I think we're really getting better, more cohesive, in our coverage schemes."
As Stoutmire was making his comments, late Sunday afternoon in the Redskins' locker room following the victory over the 49ers, a television set blared in a nearby room. Philadelphia was making its own clutch special teams play, the one the Eagles used to shock San Diego 20-17. It was just another bit of evidence that points to the fact that special teams play is so important.
Stoutmire spent five seasons with the Giants, between 2000 and 2004. In last year's season opener at Philadelphia, he suffered a torn ACL and went on injured reserve. The former Fresno State standout, who entered the league with the Cowboys in 1997 as a seventh-round draft pick, joined the Redskins this summer (July 29th) as an unrestricted free agent.
He's seen the field in all six Redskins games this year, as a leader on special teams and as a reserve defensive back. This week, the Redskins face the team for which Stoutmire produced a career-high 109 tackles just two seasons ago.
"Sure, we're going up there trying to find a way to win," he says. "I have a lot of friends up there, life-long friends like Will Allen, William Peterson, [Michael] Strahan, [Jeremy] Shockey. But you put that all aside, and look for a way to contribute to a win for your team."
The Redskins needed an explosive win, just like that of Sunday versus San Francisco.
But now they need to focus on the much tougher challenges just ahead, against the Giants and Philadelphia. Who better to remind them to keep their focus on the NFC East than Omar Stoutmire, a veteran player who has been in the division for eight of his nine NFL seasons? He has played for three of the four NFC East teams and knows the division inside and out.