- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Maybe it ain’t gonna be so easy after all. A week after laying the groundwork for a playoff run in coach Joe Gibbs’ return, the Washington Redskins laid an egg at Giants Stadium. Seven times the Redskins turned over the ball just 11 fewer than they did in the entire 1983 season under Gibbs. You needed a calculator to keep up with yesterday’s miscues.

This loss was a disaster, and not just because Washington was coughing up balls like a tabby in summer. The Giants entered the game even closer to the swamps than their Meadowlands residence would indicate. Players were bickering with coach Tom Coughlin. NFL scouts were shrieking in horror at the lack of talent. The Big Apple was ripe for the picking.

Instead, it plunked right down on the Redskins’ heads. New York is revived, and so, apparently, are Washington’s problems in the NFC East. Getting a grumpy start to another beautiful fall day, the Monday Morning Quarterback grabs a mop and tries to clean up the Redskins’ mess.

Q: Was that us cheerleading last week? Heh, heh. Guess we got a little ahead of ourselves.

A: You weren’t the only one swayed by the Redskins’ powerful opening performance. Last week the team showed it can be very solid; this week it demonstrated that Gibbs isn’t a panacea. Our big problem is how, two weeks in a row, Washington opened with a ton of emotion and then fell flat. College teams run on adrenaline; pros are supposed to maintain a consistent level.

Q: We heard the Redskins practiced with soapy balls last week. Were they still using them at the stadium yesterday?

A: It turns out the botched snaps weren’t Washington’s biggest worry. From Mark Brunell to Clinton Portis to Patrick Ramsey, there were more butterfingers at Giants Stadium yesterday than at 7-Eleven. Ramsey’s picks have to rank as the most head-scratching. Several of his passes were nowhere near a receiver. He needs to get his head straight.

Q: Ramsey’s down and Brunell’s out. Who the heck starts at quarterback against the Cowboys?

A: It was too early to say about Brunell’s hamstring last night, but Gibbs can’t like the idea of starting Ramsey in a pressure-packed Monday night game. We don’t think the coach would turn to Tim Hasselbeck, who had some nice moments in camp, but we’ll bet he takes a turn in the training room massaging Brunell’s hammy. There remains something fundamentally flawed about the way Ramsey functions in this offense.

Q: The taunts of Giants fans are upon us. Why can’t Washington win in the NFC East?

A: As with most curses, there are fundamental, coincidental and psychological elements. For years now, the Redskins haven’t maintained the necessary intensity to compete in division games. Of course, they haven’t maintained the intensity to compete in a lot of other games, too. And over time, a sense of destiny sets in. Yesterday’s loss means the team probably gives Gibbs his first below-.500 season in the NFC East since 1982.

Q: We at least liked the way the defense came on strong in the second half. But what happened to Matt Bowen on that touchdown to Tim Carter?

A: It looked like Carter guzzled a Red Bull at the 5-yard line. Bowen’s one-on-one coverage situations should be limited, especially when it comes to speedsters like Carter. The Redskins are lucky Bowen no longer plays free safety. His talents are in the box, in run support and on blitzes. Teams will pick on him if he’s left out in deep coverage like that.

Q: So much for Kurt Warner being washed up. How many years had it been since he last won an NFL game?

A: Warner definitely made some progress yesterday in winning for the first time since the 2001 NFC Championship game. Back then, he was the MVP of the whole league. Now he’s a cast-off looking for one last shot at glory. His effort was too quiet yesterday, despite a 97.0 rating, to remove doubts about his future. But he withstood several big hits and moved the chains a few times in the fourth quarter.

Q: What was Gibbs thinking at the end of the first half? We thought there was time for a shot at the end zone.

A: You said it. The Redskins let the clock run from 13 seconds to just five before using their final timeout. Especially considering the way the team was limping toward the locker room, it deserved a chance at a touchdown. Heck, Brunell even could have dumped it to the outside and shortened a 41-yard attempt for Washington’s gimpy kicker. As it was, John Hall nailed the right post and the Redskins hit intermission still 13 points down.

Q: Sean Taylor played in only a few packages again. Aren’t the Redskins paying him a kajillion dollars to start?

A: The plan remains to ease Taylor into regular-season action. We’d like to see a bit more of him after the way he played in the preseason, galloping from sideline to sideline. But it’s tough to argue with the results Gregg Williams has gotten. The defense easily could have buckled yesterday given the offense’s mishandling of the ball, but the unit yielded only one touchdown. Williams gets the benefit of the doubt for now.

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