- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

The Redskins' final drive against the Bears yesterday was a microcosm of their whole season. In fact, it should probably be the opening scene of their 2001 horror/highlight film (featuring Boris Karloff as Marty Schottenheimer and Bela Lugosi as Tony Banks). If you want to know why Your Heroes are home for the holidays again this year, just rewind the tape to the 3:15 mark of the fourth quarter and watch their last offensive series, the one that began at the Washington 36, bogged down at the Bears 3 and produced zero points when a touchdown would have sent the game into overtime and kept their wheezing playoff hopes alive.
It's all there, folks. The marvelous ability to move the ball between the 20s (especially against a prevent defense). The near-total futility of the running game in the red zone. And, of course, the passes to people like Zeron Flemister and Walter Rasby, who have never been confused with John Mackey and Ozzie Newsome.
Yup, that's the Redskins we've come to know and (barely) tolerate.
If there was anything good that came out of the 20-15 loss to Chicago, it was that the Redskins didn't mail it in like they did in the last few games last season. They held their ground, fought back from an early deficit and still had a chance to win in the final seconds. Unfortunately for them, they ran into a team that plays Marty Ball even better than they do. The Bears are masters of the off-tackle run, the short pass and Letting the Defense Win the Game for You. They've used that formula to rack up 11 victories this season and might yet wind up with the home-field advantage in the NFC.
There isn't much difference between a 6-8 team and an 11-3 team, as yesterday's game clearly showed. It's just that, well, this is the Bears' year and it's most decidedly not the Redskins' year. Yesterday's final score had more to do with karma than with talent levels of the two clubs. Does anyone seriously think Dick Jauron's roster, top to bottom, is five games better than Schottenheimer's, or even two?
But the Bears found a way to get the ball in the end zone twice and the Redskins only pulled it off once. And as Schottenheimer said afterward, "You can't kick field goals against good teams and win in the National Football League. … We've been working on [trying to score touchdowns] for a considerable length of time and haven't gotten it achieved."
The results of the last two weeks should be eye-opening to the Washington braintrust, from Dan Snyder on down. In back-to-back games against two of the better teams in the league, games played at a playoff pitch, the Redskins came up short both times. Their defense played well enough to win, but their offense couldn't get the job done near the goal line.
"I don't know what [the explanation is]," Jon Jansen said. "Sometimes a better defense is called than the play we're running, sometimes we don't execute and sometimes we don't get in. We haven't been very successful running the ball down there. …"
I liked Banks' diagnosis better. I don't always like his quarterbacking, but I appreciate his post-game analysis. "We just didn't finish," he said. "We played a couple of good teams the last couple of weeks, and we couldn't finish off a drive and couldn't finish off games. And finishing is what it's all about in this league."
There are a lot of things the NFL is "all about" intelligent drafting, adroit salary cap management, coaching, turnovers, injuries (to name five) but, yeah, finishing ranks right up there. And the Redskins haven't been very good finishers. They let the Bears off the hook yesterday, they couldn't punch it in against the Eagles when they needed to and they let possible victories against the Giants and Cowboys slip away earlier in the season. Their lack of finishing has essentially finished them.
They also fell prey the past couple of weeks to trick plays both resulting in touchdowns that changed the course of the game. Is this another example of the Redskins' failure of imagination, or did Schottenheimer use up all the sandlot stuff (e.g. the TD pass by Kevin Lockett) back in October, when the club was trying to dig itself out an 0-5 hole? Whatever the case, the offense didn't exactly pull out all the stops against the Eagles and Bears. And with so much at stake, well, why the heck didn't it?
We'll have plenty of opportunity to bat that and other Pressing Questions around in the months ahead. For the eighth time in nine years, the Redskins aren't going anywhere anywhere, that is, except back to the drawing board.


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