- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2008

It was appropriate that Pete Kendall walked out of Washington’s showers on Sunday with shampoo still on his hair. The Redskins guard was still feeling all wet despite the lack of water pressure at FedEx Field after the game.

Kendall and the Redskins, winners of four in a row and feeling on top of the world, led 7-3 with 26 seconds left in the first half and had a first down at the St. Louis 16-yard line. A chip-shot field goal was the worst-case scenario. At least until Jason Campbell’s pass deflected off the helmet of Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and into the air.

Seeing the ball loose, Kendall grabbed it. Then, instead of playing it safe, he inexplicably tried to run with it. Tinoisamoa hit him, forcing a fumble that Oshiomogho Atogwe scooped up and raced 75 yards to the end zone to send St. Louis into halftime with the lead en route to the stunning 19-17 victory.

“We lost by two, and I gave them seven,” Kendall lamented. “It’s cliche to say we had all sorts of other opportunities. That’s true, but when you go back and look at one pivotal play in the game, that’s it. Even if we don’t make the field goal, it’s a seven-point swing.”

The shocking thing is that Kendall isn’t some rookie still awed by being on the big stage. He’s a 13-year veteran who played in his 185th game on Sunday. He said he couldn’t remember ever reacting the same way to a ball flying through his airspace.

“In my own mind, time was going so slow, and I panicked and kept the ball,” said Kendall, normally one of the most astute and reliable Redskins players. “I remember thinking, rightly or wrongly, before the play we needed a few more yards to get comfortably into field goal range. I should’ve done my job and let [kicker Shaun Suisham] do his job. If I do, all things being equal, we win the game. My first instinct was to knock it down. Why I didn’t go with that is going to bother me for a long time.

“I didn’t want to run with it, which is the most frustrating thing,” Kendall added. “For the life of me, I don’t know why I decided to catch it. Once I had the ball, my sense was if I fell down there, we might’ve gone out of field goal range, so I tried to advance it as far as I could. But that’s not my job. There are a lot of things that come instinctively out there, but you have to be able to do the right thing, and today I did not.”

Kendall said the Washington offense, whose only score to that point was a touchdown run by Clinton Portis that immediately followed LaRon Landry’s fumble recovery at the St. Louis 3, had been out of sync all day. So, Kendall said, perhaps he and quarterback Jason Campbell, who failed to fall on an aborted snap and saw that turn into a turnover as well, were pressing by trying to make plays for the drowsy offense.

And yet, as Kendall’s teammates said, his was only the most glaring error on a day when the offense, turnover-free for five weeks, had three in the first half. Punter Durant Brooks’ 26-yard shank and Suisham’s kickoff out of bounds were ugly, and fourth cornerback Leigh Torrence was burned on the 43-yard catch by Rams rookie Donnie Avery that set up Josh Brown’s game-winning field goal.

“This is a team game,” middle linebacker London Fletcher said. “One play didn’t lose us the game. [Kendall’s gaffe] gave them the lead at halftime, but we took the lead back. We were up 17-16, and it was up to us defensively to stop them [and we didn’t].”

No, and Kendall won’t stop beating himself up for a while. It doesn’t help that Kendall has come no closer to the Super Bowl than a divisional round loss with the 2004 New York Jets and that, at age 35, his chances of winning a title are dwindling.

“Seeing myself on [football] follies, I might have laughed if we had won the game,” Kendall said. “Now I don’t know if I’ll turn [the television] on tonight. Even if I were coming off back-to-back rings and had been to 11 Pro Bowls, the fact of the matter is, I cost my team a game. Everybody works too hard and too long and the margin for error is so [thin], I’m not sure this is the end of the repercussions.”

At least in Kendall’s mind.

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