- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

IRVING, Texas — Not since Indiana Jones was skulking around the Temple of Doom has a beating heart been ripped out of a living body like this. The Washington Redskins, on the verge of a cathartic (if not playoff-netting) win over the Dallas Cowboys, coughed up the losing touchdown like a Tabby with crazy glue on its tongue.

Just to review: There were 30 seconds left. It was third down. Vinny Testaverde had been sacked on something like eight consecutive plays. Mrs. Testaverde was the only one who wasn’t booing him. And still Washington found a way to lose.

The Monday Morning Quarterback certainly has seen this act before. Heck, it’s like watching “A Christmas Story” each December and rooting against the Bumpus’ dogs. They will take the turkey. And the Redskins, when they play Dallas, will be turkeys. Any questions?

Q: Here’s one: What do we have to do — sacrifice a chicken? A voodoo dance? Wear our underwear inside-out? What kind of curse is this?

A: Get over it. Supernatural powers don’t influence football games. Supernatural powers have better things to do. What the Redskins did was play like garbage for most of the game and leave themselves vulnerable to a big play at the end.

Q: Come on, Dallas has won 14 of the past 15 meetings. The Redskins have lost nine straight at Texas Stadium. What in the name of Joe Gibbs is going on?

A: Deion used to say the Cowboys simply knew they could beat Washington. It’s the kind of confidence the Yankees have had all these years against the Red Sox — remain patient, and eventually the breaks will fall your way. That mentality plays a role, but mostly it comes down to making plays. The Redskins stunk it up on offense.

Q: Were there any worse ones than this?

A: Just as bad was 2001, when Stephen Davis fumbled a win away and Washington fell from 0-4 to 0-5. Sad but true, the Redskins have had losses to Dallas as galling as yesterday’s.

Q: We don’t have a Ph.D., so we can’t figure out playoff scenarios. How close was Washington to a miracle berth?

A: As it turned out, not close at all. The Redskins were shooting for one spot — the second NFC wild card, the No. 6 seed. And there were three 6-8 teams and one 5-9 team ahead of them. Even if the Redskins had won, they would have been eliminated because one of their two trump scenarios occurred (New Orleans and Carolina both winning). In any case, they showed everyone just how laughable the playoff talk was.

Q: For the last month, all we’ve heard is how the Redskins are building something. Is that suddenly gone with one last-second touchdown?

A: It’s hard to get past the hard numbers. The Redskins have finished 1-5 in NFC East play the past three years, a sad state of affairs no matter who’s coaching the team. Whether they finish 5-11 or 6-10, it’ll be their worst two-year stretch since Norv’s first two seasons.

You don’t want to put too much stock in one play or one game, but the sad truth is that Washington back-slid badly the past two weeks. The team had a chance to pound San Francisco (as Buffalo did yesterday) and take one from fading Dallas. Instead, the offense reverted to its early-October form and Washington got embarrassed.

Q: Is Gibbs ever going to open things up on offense? Watching paint dry is a spectator sport compared to that travesty.

A: Perhaps in the offseason. It also might make some sense to inject some young blood into the staff. Yesterday Patrick Ramsey seemed to take a sack or get hit every time he took a seven-step drop. Is that his fault? The line’s? The receivers’? No matter how you cut it, this unit continues to have big issues.

Q: Was Sean Taylor trying to catch an early flight home on the winning touchdown?

A: Taylor’s first-alternate honor for the Pro Bowl was mostly the result of his “SportsCenter” hits and nasty reputation around the league. He remains by no means a polished player. Even yesterday he got burned on that exact coverage, Cover 2, at least one other time earlier in the game.

As LaVar has proved, big-time hits don’t necessarily equal wins. Taylor needs some time in the film room to go with his Hall of Fame athletic skills.

Q: Will the defense finish the year No. 1?

A: Probably not after Dallas’ 75-yard drive to win it. If the Redskins had gotten just one first down on their previous possession, the Cowboys wouldn’t have gotten the ball back and Washington would have closed a 36-yard gap on Pittsburgh.

Instead, it lost precious ground. And the Vikings aren’t exactly pushovers on offense — in fact, they’re the highest-ranked unit Washington has played all year.

Q: At least the Redskins made the right call on a challenge. Did Larry Hill earn a contract extension?

A: After five straight failed challenges, Hill finally got one right. Ah, like so many ideas that seemed good in the preseason — hiring Hill to sit in the booth, having refs at practice, signing Mark Brunell to a seven-year, $43 million contract — this one simply didn’t make a difference in a long season.

Gibbs still has a fighting chance to get his comeback right, but he’s got a lot of work to do this offseason.

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