- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2000

PONTIAC, Mich. The Best Team That Money Can Buy is 1-1 this morning. The Best Team That Money Can Buy has scored 30 points in two weeks against a couple of teams that were a combined 16-17 last season. That spells trouble if you're Brad Johnson, who threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in the Redskins' 15-10 loss to the Detroit Lions yesterday.

As Norv Turner put it, "Most of the time when you hold a team to field goals" in this case five "you find a way to win the game." But Johnson and Co. didn't find a way to win the game.

Here's another aphorism: Most of the time when you hold the fierce-rushing Lions to zero sacks, you find a way to win the game. But again, the offense didn't find a way to win the game.

And so the Redskins are searching for answers today. Soon enough, given their owner's predilections, they might be searching for a new quarterback. Yup, folks, we're knocking on the door of a quarterback controversy. Brad Johnson or Jeff George? Place your bets.

When you stop and think about it, the Redskins haven't lit it up offensively for a long time since the 48-point explosion against the Bears last season. In the first seven games of '99, the offense averaged 34.6 points and was the talk of the league. In the 13 games since, the offense has averaged a middling 20.8 points. That doesn't allow the defense much margin for error.

And the defense certainly deserved more for its efforts against Detroit than an "L." It held the Lions to 244 yards, came up with a great goal-line stand in the second quarter and would have allowed only 12 points if not for a dubious roughing-the-passer penalty against Bruce Smith. But the offense, even with Tre Johnson back from his suspension, had trouble running the ball in the second half and simply made too many mistakes.

(And unlike last year, the Redskins couldn't blame the crowd noise in the Silverdome for their problems. "It didn't affect us too much," Brad Johnson said. "We didn't have offside penalties like last year.)

No, this was just an uninspired performance by the offense unless, of course, we're overestimating its capabilities. And perhaps we are, considering its production over the last 13 games. Most of the Redskins' offseason dollars, remember, were spent on the defense millions for Deion Sanders, millions for Bruce Smith, millions for Mark Carrier, millions for LaVar Arrington. Other then the left tackle spot, where rookie Chris Samuels has replaced veteran Andy Heck, the "O" is basically unchanged. Still, improvement was expected by the coaching staff the kind of improvement that comes with continuity, with playing together for another season.

We haven't seen that improvement so far. Carolina kept the Washington offense under control by playing off the receivers and forcing the Redskins to settle for smaller gains. And Detroit did a fine job on Davis 20 of his 59 yards came on two meaningless carries just before halftime and, like the Panthers, didn't give up much downfield. (Johnson's longest completion was 21 yards.)

"We didn't get any rhythm going, we didn't get any momentum going, we put the defense in a lot of bad spots," Tre Johnson said. "We're a better offense than that."

Hypothetically, anyway. But when Larry Centers bats a catchable pass up in the air resulting in an interception and Albert Connell doesn't fake anybody out on a crossing pattern in the final seconds resulting in another interception well, it's hard to win football games that way. And it's even harder to win football games when Irving Fryar has his hands on a pass at the Detroit 47 in the last four minutes and the ball gets taken away by defender Bryant Westbrook. Yes, the throw was "behind Irving a little bit," as Turner pointed out, but he easily could have come down with it.

The only interception that was 100 percent the quarterback's fault was Brad Johnson's ghastly overthrow of Fryar at the start of the fourth quarter. He had bounced out of the pocket, looking for something big on first down at the Lions 49, but he got too greedy and fired the ball far over Irving's head and into the waiting arms of free safety Kurt Schulz. Another scoring opportunity down the drain.

"I thought Irving was going to cut it up," Johnson said. "That's the only [interception] I feel bad about. You don't throw the ball up the middle of the field like that. That was a poor decision."

Look, losing at the Silverdome is no disgrace. The Lions are awfully tough at home always have been. I totally agree with Norv, who said, "Anyone who looked at this game and thought it was going to be easy doesn't understand what it's like to come in here."

But the Redskins aren't just any old team. They're the Best Team That Money Can Buy. And the Best Team That Money Can Buy should be able to come into the Silverdome and beat a club that still hasn't scored an offensive touchdown this season.

"We haven't had the kind of continuity we want," guard-philosopher Keith Sims said. "We've been kind of laying back. We've gotta figure out a way to get our offense going.

Indeed they do. After all, Darrell Green, Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders aren't getting any younger.

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