- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Seems like just yesterday the Redskins were a team with prospects. And now they’re heading into bye week — and 14 days of unpleasant self-examination — with their season all but spinning out of control.

Things can go from good to bad to worse so quickly in pro football. They can go from 3-1 to one-that-got-away in Philadelphia to a second-half no-show against Tampa Bay to yesterday’s 24-7 stinker at Buffalo.

As an added bonus, Patrick Ramsey exited with 9:02 left with a bruised passing hand — after getting hit for the umpteenth time by a Bills pass rusher. Thus, Rob Johnson had to finish up at QB for the second straight week. If that doesn’t send a chill down your spine, nothing will.

At some point in the course of the long NFL season, every club comes out flat. For the Redskins, that point was yesterday — which is disturbing, given the importance of the game. Coming off consecutive losses, Dan Snyder’s warriors desperately needed to get back in the win column before they took their annual break, lest Serious Doubt begin to creep in.

And make no mistake, the Bills were eminently beatable. They were without their top offensive weapon, wideout Eric Moulds, and had been struggling themselves of late. But while the Bills clearly grasped the importance of the occasion — and responded with their best effort in a month — the Redskins plunged further into the depths. They let Drew Bledsoe and Co. drive for scores on two of their first three possessions and showed only the faintest glimmer of life in the second half.

Steve Spurrier called it “one of the lowest points of his coaching career” — not that there were that many in his college days. “Seems like we lost our fight, lost our drive,” he said. “We’ve gotta make some changes if we want to be competitive, because we can’t keep going like this. … It was embarrassing.”

Of course, we’ve heard such words from the Ball Coach before. After the Monday night debacle against the Eagles last season, you may recall, he made similarly vague threats. And then someone in the organization tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Uh, Steve, this is the NFL, not the SEC. You don’t have 85 scholarship players; you’re pretty much stuck with these 53.” And by the next day, Spurrier was telling everybody he’d overreacted, that the Redskins’ situation wasn’t that dire.

Well, now it is that dire. Spurrier isn’t a first-year pro coach any more. He’s almost halfway though his second year — and the clock is ticking. You want a stat? Here’s a stat for you: The Redskins are 1-4 against teams that have had their starting quarterbacks (and they pulled out the one victory, against the Patriots and Tom Brady, in the last minute). That’s where they stand seven games into the schedule.

They can’t protect their own QB. They can’t pressure the other club’s QB (even pocket passers like Brad Johnson and Bledsoe). They can’t stay onside. And judging from yesterday, they can’t summon the requisite emotion for games that truly matter.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Jon Jansen said. “We’ve got talent all over the place, and we can’t put it together. We’ve gotta find a way to do it.”

Maybe it’s time the Redskins took a longer look at themselves in the mirror. A team with “talent all over the place” doesn’t get outscored 28-3 in the second half one week and then get outgained 432-169 the next. A team with an inflated sense of itself might do that, but one with bountiful talent doesn’t.

Besides, talent is kind of like potential. Who cares about talent, really? Sports are all about performance. And none of the Redskins’ supposed pillars — LaVar Arrington, Jeremiah Trotter, Champ Bailey, Chris Samuels, Jansen — did much to distinguish himself yesterday. If those guys aren’t going to carry this club, get it through the bad times, who is?

As for Ramsey, the kid seems to have hit a wall. He was off target in Philly, misfired against the Bucs and scraped bottom (hopefully) with a 9-for-26 day against the Bills. The weekly poundings appear to have finally caught up to him — and there’s no relief in sight, not if this game is any indication. Opponents, he acknowledged afterward, are coming after him with increasing fury, basically because they know he can be gotten to.

“They’re bringing blitzes until we figure out a way to stop them,” he said.

This is as good a time as any for the Redskins to take a week off. They’ve got some people hurt (Fred Smoot, Dave Fiore, Trung Canidate) and others dinged (Ramsey, Bailey). They’ve dropped three in a row and are dangerously close to losing all playoff hope. Another “L” in Dallas would leave them 3-5 — and 0-3 in the division. Too much ground to make up.

“We have to win the next game and regain some momentum,” Jansen said.

But then, that should have been the thinking heading into yesterday’s game. Can the Redskins really change their spots in the space of two weeks?

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