- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

Election Day isn’t until tomorrow, but Redskins fans began casting their votes yesterday. I mean, you would have thought you were at a political rally, not a football game, when the faithful began chanting “Ram-sey! Ram-sey!” midway through the second quarter, after the first of Mark Brunell’s two interceptions.

(Unless, of course, they were chanting “Ras-by! Ras-by!” — in homage to the team’s terminated tight end. With so many people yelling at the same time, it can be hard to tell.)

At this point the score was Green Bay 17, Washington 0; the final would be a tad closer — Packers, 28-14. But it was still another disappointing loss heaped atop the pile. It was also another disappointing performance by the Redskins’ quarterback — in the minds of the paying customers, anyway, if not that of Joe Gibbs.

“I felt like in the second half he had a courageous performance,” Coach Joe said, “and I think he made a bunch of plays.”

Problem was, the game was pretty much decided in the first half, when Brunell did little of consequence and the home team dug itself another hole it couldn’t quite climb out of.

Over on the other side of the field, Brett Favre was making the kind of throws the Redskins QB never makes, the kind that punish defenses like Gregg Williams’ for blitzing so cavalierly. In each of the Packers’ first three series, Favre had completions of 40 or more yards — and he would have had another long-gainer later in the game if his receiver hadn’t botched it. The big plays led to two touchdowns and a field goal, all the points Green Bay would need to win.

Brunell, meanwhile, was misfiring on third down — for the second time this season, the Redskins converted just one — and forcing the club to play catch-up again. This effectively took the ball out of Clinton Portis’ hands (you can’t keep running it when you’re down 17) and put it into No.8’s (who, at last glance, was one of the lowest-rated passers in the league). It’s hard to come back under those circumstances, and the Redskins, though they tried mightily, couldn’t.

“The game plan was to knock him down,” Packers free safety Darren Sharper said of Brunell. “He doesn’t want to get hit. We had to get in his face and not let him set his feet.”

That would explain Brunell’s willingness to get rid of the ball so quickly — and his tendency to miss throws when faced with the slightest pressure. His longest pass to a wideout yesterday was 17 yards, and he averaged an atrocious 4.95 yards per attempt. The Packers were hurting in the secondary, too. Sharper was out with a sprained knee, and cornerback Al Harris didn’t practice all week because of the same injury. Late in the game, Green Bay got so short-handed that third-string safety Curtis Fuller was pressed into service (and promptly committed a defensive holding penalty that set up the Redskins’ second score).

But Brunell was unable to take advantage of the situation. And if he couldn’t throw on the banged-up Packers, well, who can he throw on?

And the Redskins, I’ll just remind you, had two weeks to prepare for the Packers. They began the game with all kinds of razzle-dazzle — an end-around to Rod Gardner on the second play, a pass by Gardner a few snaps later (that nearly connected to Clinton Portis) — and they started the second half with an onside kick. It was your basic Kitchen Sink Approach: Throw everything you’ve got at ‘em, because the season is fast slipping away.

None of it matters, though, if your quarterback can’t hit a wide-open Taylor Jacobs at 20 paces. (And if he follows that up by nearly pegging the ball over Jacobs’ head on a flat pass on third-and-1, resulting in loss and a punt.)

Redskins Nation is clearly running out of patience with Brunell. They booed him at every opportunity yesterday — after incompletions, after sacks, after delay-of-game penalties and especially after he frittered away precious seconds at the end of the first half before calling a time out. If anyone had taken an exit poll at FedEx Field afterward, the voting probably would have run 10-to-1 in favor of a quarterback change.

“I understand frustration sometimes sets in,” Gibbs said, “and that’s just something we have to deal with. … We need to get everything else on offense working together … all of us, including myself. I think he can make plays that will win games for us.”

Strange thing to say about a quarterback the Redskins shelled out millions for, don’t you think? If everything is just right around him, he can be successful.

Favre doesn’t need everything to be just right, has never needed everything to be just right. He was handicapped yesterday by a swollen hand and a banged-up thumb — and still managed to pass for 289 yards. How many times during his Ripkenesque consecutive-games streak have we seen him come up with a performance like that?

In the Green Bay locker room, the Packers said they weren’t worried at all when Portis scored the apparent go-ahead touchdown with 2:35 left (a motion penalty wiped out the play). “There was never any doubt in our minds that we were going to win the game,” Harris said. The biggest reason being that they had Brett Favre — and the Redskins didn’t.

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