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Monday Morning Quarterback: Maybe Redskins showed true colors

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

DETROIT

The good news for the Washington Redskins following their 19-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday: There are still 13 games remaining - plenty of time to get things turned around.

The bad news for the Redskins after falling to 1-2: There are still 13 games remaining - plenty of time for things to get worse.

The Redskins always talk about playing up or down to the level of their opponent. But that nonsense wasn't part of the conversation after the Redskins became Detroit's first victim in 20 games.

Maybe the Redskins had an epiphany: Detroit might be better. St. Louis was just as good. The Redskins really are mediocre.

Q: The Lions hadn't won since the 2007 season - how embarrassing is this loss for the Redskins?

A: It's not as bad as if the Redskins had collapsed against the Lions last year, because that dreadful club still had the Matt Millen stamp on it and couldn't get out of its own way.

This Detroit team has 31 new faces and actually looked functional for most of the afternoon. And Matthew Stafford certainly is the real deal. Sure it's a bad loss, but it's not nearly the debacle that losing to 0-3 Tampa Bay next week would be.

Q: What was the biggest thing that went wrong in that awful first half?

A: Offensively, the first drive was efficient until the Redskins reached the goal-to-go area and a fourth-down run by Clinton Portis didn't sniff the end zone.

The defense was mostly to blame for the 13-0 halftime hole. It is one thing to be unable to stop the Giants on third down, but Detroit had first-half drives of 12, 11 and 18 plays. Stafford was allowed to be too comfortable in the pocket while helping the Lions convert eight of their first 11 third downs.

Q: Back to Jim Zorn's decision to go for it on fourth down. Was there some first-guessing going on?

A: A little bit, but there was a ton of second-guessing. Before the play, the second-down call - draw to Ladell Betts for 2 yards was too obvious - was questioned because the Lions had to know that was coming.

Two plays later came the decision to go for seven points - maybe Zorn thought chances to score would be that limited. The call itself, Portis around the left side, didn't work last week and it didn't work this week. Strike that one from the playbook for at least a week.

Q: And what about Zorn's decision to accept a Lions penalty instead of declining and forcing a 51-yard field goal?

A: That's a tough call either way. Zorn had to figure Jason Hanson was golden from 51 yards, so he accepted the penalty, which made it third-and-13 from the 42. That's not in Hanson's range. Zorn had to expect a third-down stop, but instead Stafford scrambled for 21 yards and Detroit eventually scored a touchdown.

Q: A questionable officiating call was Chris Horton's 47-yard pass interference penalty that set up Detroit's final score. Bad call or good call?

A: It was the obvious call even if the flag needs to stay in the official's pocket at that point. It's going to be called nine times out of 10 because Horton gave the impression he was beat on the play and then recovered to crash into the receiver.

The worst no-call was when Santana Moss' face mask was yanked and the referees picked up the flag. Calvin Johnson's pass interference on LaRon Landry was legitimate because Johnson clearly extended an arm to create separation.

Q: Moss finally made an appearance with 10 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown. How big is that for the offense?

A: Gigantic. Moss was limited to five catches in the first two games, but it looked as if Zorn did some things to create one-on-one coverage for the Redskins' top receiver. His 57-yard touchdown catch and run was made possible by deep routes from Chris Cooley and Malcolm Kelly to open up the boundary.

When Moss is on, this offense takes on an entirely new dimension. It's unpredictable. It has the potential for big plays.

Q: How hot is Zorn's seat after a two-game stretch of a win without a touchdown and a loss to the Lions?

A: Oh, it's on fire, but it is for a lot of coaches in the NFL. It would be stunning for owner Dan Snyder to pound the panic button at any point other than two days after the regular-season finale. There isn't an obvious interim coach on the staff, and there isn't an obvious choice to take over the playcalling.

Zorn looked perplexed after the game, but it probably had more to do with the defense. This is a unit that was supposed to carry the team and win games. It hasn't come even close to doing that yet.