Washington 22, Indianapolis 36
When the Redskins stepped onto the manicured turf of the RCA Dome, they had already admitted that this was a game they must win. That was an understatement: the Redskins needed to win this game to not only improve their record and counteract an apparent slide, but to restore some confidence in themselves and, most importantly, gain some semblance of league-wide respect. Surely, beating the only undefeated AFC team in their home--heck, just putting up a good fight--could serve as a catalyst for a possible climb out of the depths of mediocrity. But Washington didn't just come up short.
They were terrible. Cover-your-eyes awful.
Oddly enough, my Pops wasn't fazed by the Redskins' play. "This isn't such a bad game to watch," he remarked midway through the third quarter as the Colts continued their offensive clinic, "because I had no expectations for Washington." He smiled and continued munching his popcorn.
Well, I had some expectations, but they were dashed so carelessly that I could only hold my head in my hands. From the foreboding beginning to the black comedy of the Redskins' touchdown in the final seconds, there was plenty to put Redskins fans in anguish:
* Before you could even say "blowout," Indianapolis drove 92 yards for a touchdown, needing to convert only one third down. Peyton Manning was 5 for 6, the Skins were down 7, and it looked like the only way Washington wouldn't lose by 40 points was if Manning's arm gets tired.
* While the FOX broadcast team applauded the Skins defense for holding the Colts to 13 first half points, the truth was that they gave up nearly 200 passing yards and the only reason Washington wasn't losing at halftime was because Marvin Harrison forgot to put his first foot down on his booth-reversed touchdown catch.
* You want bad? The Colts' opening drive of the 3rd quarter was 55 yards, four plays, two minutes, and zero resistance from the defense. Surgical.
* The numbers don't lie: Clinton Portis rushed ten times for a paltry 52 yards against the worst rushing defense in the NFL. Ugh. But that wasn't nearly as nauseating as...
* What in the name of Mike Martz was Washington doing, gameplanning short passes on third downs? Analyst and Cowchip Ring o' Famer Troy Aikman was right on when he was befuddled by short routes on long-distance downs. Remember when Santana Moss was Mr. Third Down and the Skins led the league in converted percentages? That seems like a long, long time ago.
* Maybe part of the reason for Brunell's dump-offs was because his offensive line played pitifully. Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen did their best Jonathan Ogden impressions, allowing the Colts' defensive ends to blow past them on a regular basis, either to pressure the pass or destroy the run. When one of your best running plays is made by a wide receiver, your offensive line has underperformed.
* So much for a healthy Shawn Springs' return to help the defense. His presence didn't seem to make much of a difference, as Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison each had stellar days. Springs was notably owned by Harrison on a third quarter, in which Marvin ran right past him for a 38 yard reception. Speaking of galloping ghosts, Wayne is now carrying the jock strap of Kenny Wright after torching him for a 51 yard touchdown in which he, um, ran right past him. But the worst display of defensive work was courtesy Mike Rumph, who faced Harrison on the one yard line. Harrison faked inside-outside-inside. Rumph stopped defending on "outside" and was left tripping over his broken ankles as Harrison caught an easy score. Where's Darrell Green when we need him? I doubt he'd consider returning, after seeing...
* Was there an uglier series of plays for Washington than when they pressed down to the Colts' 11 yard line, preparing to take the lead? In less than a minute, the Skins gave up a sack, then had a Moss headbutt penalty for 15 yards tacked on, and Nick Novak clangs the resulting 49 yard field goal attempt. Can the Redskins ever get a clutch kicker (and is it too much to pray we can have one who can nail a 62 yarder outdoors with the game on the line)? Where's Mark Moseley when we need him?
* Alas, there was an uglier series of events for the burgundy and gold. Without a single second of the play clock expiring, the Redskins reminded their opponent that yes, you can beat us. Right after we beat ourselves. Antwaan Randle-El gave the Skins their first (and only) lead via an exciting touchdown return but earned a questionable 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct celebration penalty to be imposed on the kickoff. Sean Taylor commits an offisdes penalty on the kickoff attempt, backing up the play 5 more yards. Inexplicably, kicker Derrick Frost goes postal (what do kickers have to get that mad about?) and removes his helmet so that the referees can better hear him yelling about nothing. Tack on 15 more unportsmanlike conduct penalty yards and voila! You have the makings of a situation rarely seen. In fact, I've *never* seen a kickoff from the 5 yard line. Have you?
* The final view of the Redskins offense was perhaps the most pitiful, yet fitting of the day's performance. Down 33-14 with 4:36 remaining, the Redskins went no-huddle yet STILL took 4:23 minutes to go 70 yards. Why? Because they decided to throw short on every one of the nine passes Brunell attempted. Even the official NFL GameCenter called them "short." Moss and Portis sat on the sideline, dejected and injured, while Washington relied on Ladell Betts to move the football down the field and score a meaningless, fruitless touchdown. There was no celebrating, hardly a high five. And rightly so. The Redskins stank up the dome, and couldn't even earn a measure of respect in the process.
With the team listlessly sitting at 2-5, the inevitable question is whether to start Jason "The Future" Campbell against the remaining opponents. Right now, it's too painful to consider where to put the medicine with this team. But I will proffer that, in two weeks, if the Redskins lose at home to the Cowchips, we can officially end every glimmer of hope for this season and Campbell should get every remaining snap. Sigh.