DENVER — You knew that the Redskins’ run of good fortune couldn’t last. Tampa Bay’s loss earlier in the day left Washington as the NFC’s last unbeaten team despite having outscored its foes by a mere six points.
But after one last piece of luck — the failure of the ailing left hamstring of five-time Pro Bowl cornerback and ex-Redskin Champ Bailey to recover in time to play for Denver — the undefeated season began to unravel when the first series ended with a bad handoff from Mark Brunell to Clinton Portis.
The Redskins later had a 37-yard touchdown pass and a 54-yard field goal overruled by penalties and a safety canceled by instant replay.
In contrast, when Phillip Daniels just missed bringing down Tatum Bell on Denver’s subsequent fourth-and-1, the scatback scooted untouched to the end zone. Ashley Lelie not only caught Jake Plummer’s pass but somehow stayed in bounds in the end zone for a touchdown on a play where the previously injured Shawn Springs should have been covering the butterfingered wideout.
Q: So how upset should I be about the 21-19 loss?
A: You shouldn’t be upset about the offense. Mark Brunell had a second straight strong game. Clinton Portis ran well. The line blocked well. The receivers made some nice catches. On the other hand, the once-impregnable defense, after allowing touchdown drives of 85 and 91 yards in the late going against Seattle last week, was burned by Bell for scoring runs of 34 and 55 yards. That’s bad news for a unit that’s about to face Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Trent Green, Tony Gonzalez, et al.
Q: Nice how Broncos fans booed Clinton Portis every time he touched the ball. Have they already forgotten the 1,500-yard seasons he gave them in 2002 and 2003?
A: Well, considering how nasty the weather was, you can’t call them fair-weather fans, but they were pretty ungrateful. Portis hasn’t ripped the Broncos since becoming a Redskin. His apparent sin was asking to have his contract renegotiated in the winter of 2004.
Q: How could Champ Bailey sit out against the Redskins? You know he wanted to show Dan Snyder and Joe Gibbs they made a mistake in trading him to the Broncos for Portis and a draft pick that became Bell.
A: Apparently, Champ’s hamstring was just too painful to play on a wet field against a nonconference foe. The Redskins and Broncos won’t play again until 2009 in Landover, so Bailey, who’ll be just 31 then, has plenty of time to recover.
Q: Shawn Springs, the corner whom the Redskins signed to replace Bailey, left the game with an injury, forcing Washington to play Ade Jimoh, usually a human torch, because Springs’ fellow starter, Walt Harris, was already hurt. How come the Redskins didn’t have another corner?
A: Assistant head coach Gregg Williams was disappointed that last season’s young stopgap corners, Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown, hadn’t improved, so they were cut this summer. Jimoh has a job only because of his speed on special teams. The Redskins need to sign another corner.
Q: Nick Novak is obviously a clutch kicker and he showed a strong leg on that 54-yarder, but he has had two field goals blocked in two weeks. What do the Redskins do about that job?
A: Coach Joe Gibbs has to be in a quandary. Novak looked like he was about to take the ailing John Hall’s job for the rest of the year as the 54-yarder headed toward the goalposts. But after Mike Sellers jumped offside, Gibbs opted to punt rather than try a 59-yarder. Despite the blocked kicks, a problem which Hall doesn’t have, the Redskins might need to put the oft-injured Hall on injured reserve simply because they need his roster spot.
Q: I’m asking this every week: Where was LaVar Arrington?