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Finding a way to lose
This wasn't supposed to be close. The Chargers laid waste to the Bills last week. The Redskins, meanwhile, blew a late lead yet again and lost -- to Norv Turner and the Raiders, for crying out loud. The Redskins were beat up mentally and physically.
But on a balmy Sunday when 10 percent of the crowd decided not to show up at the Big Ugly by the Beltway, the reeling Redskins summoned the will to take a 10-point edge over the defending AFC West champion Chargers into the fourth quarter.
The Redskins blew that lead but still had the game won: They had a first down at the San Diego 31 with 1:04 left and the score tied. A game-winning field goal seemed imminent. The Monday Morning Quarterback felt pretty sheepish for picking the Chargers big.
Then, like usual, the Redskins did what they do best: found a way to lose.
Now, the nation's capital is heading into another December to forget.
Q: Why does this keep happening? Legendary chokers like Maryland basketball, Syracuse basketball and the Red Sox have won titles in this millennium, and we can't even make the playoffs.
A: Well, the Redskins did make the playoffs in 1999. Still, it is incredible to watch so many different players and teams come up small. It's almost like it's destiny.
Q: What was Casey Rabach thinking when he threw down Jamal Williams with the Redskins in field goal range in the final minute of regulation? Even Dan Snyder would have to admit that was a blatant hold.
A: Rabach vamoosed from the locker room before it was opened to reporters, but I'll venture he would have said he was trying to make a block and got a little carried away. It was a killer penalty.
Q: How does the defense hold LaDainian Tomlinson in check all game, then let him go for a 32-yard touchdown to tie the game and a 41-yarder to win it in overtime?
A: The Redskins have a good rush defense, one that was bolstered yesterday by the unanticipated return of top run-stuffer Cornelius Griffin. But when a player as talented as Tomlinson gets the ball 32 times, he's bound to make big plays. At some point, LT is gonna getcha.
Q: Have we ever lost three in a row like this? I feel like my heart was ripped out.
A: It wasn't that long ago, actually. The Redskins lost 20-17 at Carolina, 24-23 at Miami and 24-20 at home against New Orleans just two years ago under Steve Spurrier.
Q: But that team wasn't as good as this one, was it?
A: You're right about that. The Redskins started 3-1 that year but had a 4-5 record before losing those three heartbreakers. This team was 5-3 with victories over Chicago, Seattle, Dallas and Philadelphia before it reverted to form in the clutch.
Q: Speaking of Spurrier: Now that we've lost to Norv and Marty the last two weeks, is the Ball Coach coming to Landover next to torment us?
A: No worries there. Spurrier's too busy preparing South Carolina for its first bowl game since Fort Sumter was fired upon.
Q: Did Marty get all teary-eyed about beating Danny the way Norv did last week?
A: No, Marty was matter of fact about beating the Redskins. It helped that he was here just one season to Norv's seven.
Q: Coach Joe is always talking about winning the turnover battle, but we forced three, gave up none and still lost.
A: Yup, and Washington lost the turnover battle in each of the first three weeks and came away the winner. That fewer turnovers formula is working as well this year as milk for a lactose-intolerant crying infant.
Q: I don't remember Robert Royal throwing many great blocks, and he obviously can't catch. Why don't the Redskins bench him and play that Robert Johnson guy more? He looks like a load to bring down.
A: Maybe Royal should take up boxing and go by Roberto "Hands of Stone" Royal. Johnson is a 6-foot-6, 278-pound project who played on the practice squad most of the year. The Falcons and Bears gave up on him because he couldn't grasp their offenses.
Q: That's six losses in eight weeks -- three straight defeats -- and a 5-6 record. Is there any point in paying attention the rest of the way?
A: The Cowboys and Bucs lost this week, leaving the Redskins just two games out of a postseason spot berth with five conference and three NFC East games to go. Still, the Redskins' playoff hopes are about as dim as the chances of NBC renewing "Joey."
By John R. Bolton
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