- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

TEMPE, Ariz. Well after the game yesterday, Jeff George sat at his locker, pondering the Redskins' unimaginable fate. He rubbed his face. He ran his fingers through his hair. He scratched his head.

Yup, the Redskins' 16-15 loss to the Cardinals the 2-6, interim-coached Cardinals certainly was a head-scratcher.

Except on the scoreboard, the Redskins dominated the Cards in virtually every area. They gained 431 yards, never once punted, and almost completely shut down the Arizona offense. Jake Plummer and Co. made two plays, basically completions of 34 and 42 yards and each was followed by a turnover.

And yet the Redskins lost. Lost a game they had no business losing. Lost a game good teams simply don't lose. Don't talk to me about division rivalries or the Redskins' perennially lousy luck at Sun Devil Stadium. This defeat was an abomination and will be felt by the Redskins for the rest of the season.

If ever a club needed a bye week, the Redskins do, because they've reached the point where they're as dangerous to themselves as they are to the opposition. In the Monday night game against Tennessee, they handed the Titans 17 points. Yesterday they presented the Cardinals with 16 on mistakes ranging from a goal-line fumble (returned 103 yards for a touchdown) to an interception (setting up a field goal) to a 71-yard kickoff runback (leading to the winning TD). Talk about a death wish.

"We're 6-4," said Keith Sims, trying to look on the bright side. "The season isn't over. But we've given ourselves a real uphill climb."

They certainly have. Forget about the home-field advantage in the playoffs; the Redskins are going to have to hustle just to win their division. They're now tied for second with the Eagles, a game and a half behind the 7-2 Giants. Every game from here on out at St. Louis, home against the Eagles and Giants, at Dallas and Pittsburgh, home against the Cardinals is a must game, and none will be easy.

So this is as good a place as any for the Redskins to pause and reflect. The first part of their schedule has been murderous, and half the players on the roster, it seems, are nicked. It also can't hurt to have two weeks to prepare for the Rams, whose offense has been making everybody's head spin.

Still, Jay Leeuwenburg said, "I hate going into a bye week with a loss [or, in this case, two]. You tend to think about it a little more."

That's how miserable the Redskins are right now. Even a bye week doesn't seem that appealing to them.

The signs of despair were everywhere in the Washington locker room. The first thing you noticed when you walked in the door was Dan Snyder leaning against the wall, looking like somebody had just stolen his Secret Decoder Ring. Then you had George, whose first start as a Redskin was a mixed bag, going off on the offense's lack of production.

"What more can you ask from our defense?" he said. "They're doing their part; we're just not holding up our end. If we score [on the first drive, when Stephen Davis fumbled at the 1] and let the defense do their thing … But it didn't happen.

"If you're going to be a Super Bowl team, you can't be kicking field goals every daggone time. We scored, what, 15 points? That's ridiculous… . What are we, 6-4 now? That stinks. Really, that stinks."

Heck, the Redskins might not have scored any touchdowns if the Cardinals hadn't committed three penalties in one drive including a highly dubious pass interference call in the end zone. And this was with George, the owner's choice, doing the quarterbacking. Maybe Redskins fans and Snyder will appreciate Brad Johnson a little more now. With Michael Westbrook and Tre Johnson out and assorted others hurting, the offense is no Rolls Royce. In fact, it's closer to being a Chevette.

George throws a nice ball, but he doesn't have X-ray vision. And he can't make chicken salad out of Albert Connell, James Thrash and Irving Fryar. Connell, two weeks removed from his "breakout" game against Jacksonville, pulled another disappearing act yesterday (thanks in large part to the coverage talents of Aeneas Williams). Total contribution: one catch, 11 yards.

The special teams, meanwhile, continue to be messed up. Joe Zelenka botched another snap this one on an extra point and the kickoff coverage was horrible. Arizona returner MarTay Jenkins routinely reached the 20 and even the 25 before anyone touched him. This, six days after the Redskins gave up a punt return for a touchdown.

Norv Turner said the coaches were "trying to patch up the breakdowns as we went," but with all the injuries "you get stretched thin." If you ask me, though, the Redskins' special teams don't need a patch job. They need a new set of tires.

It figures to be a long two weeks around Redskin Park. The team is in a downward spiral and Snyder may be approaching the boiling point. That's not a good combination. That's not a good combination at all.

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