- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. — It was there for the taking. The NFC East-leading New York Giants already had handed victory to Minnesota. Dallas and Philadelphia play each other tonight. A win over faltering Tampa Bay would give the Redskins’ playoff hopes a huge boost.

The Redskins instead killed themselves with turnovers and foolish plays again. The 36-35 loss to the Buccaneers dropped Washington behind Tampa Bay, Atlanta and — if the Cowboys win — Dallas in the NFC wild-card race, with the Redskins’ next two games out of the conference.

A consistently solid season for the Redskins — the Massacre in the Meadowlands two weeks ago aside — has turned into a roller coaster on which the playoff-bound express again is heading downhill.

The 4:15 start time allowed the Monday Morning Quarterback to clear his head after a wild night at Banana Joe’s in time to watch the wild doings at Raymond James Stadium yesterday.

Q: What in the world happened at the end of the game? Two penalties by the defense on an extra point?

A: I had never see that before, either. And then to have the winning two-point conversion come down to a replay review on top of that? Give Bucs coach Jon Gruden props for having the guts to go for it rather than play for overtime.

Q: I saw Mike Alstott’s elbow hit the ground before he reached the goal line. That two-point conversion shouldn’t have counted, right?

A: It was a judgment call by referee Bill Vinovich. But if the replays are inconclusive — as they were on that play — the original call stands. And that’s what happened.

Q: How come we never win replay calls?

A: Whoa. Hold on. The Redskins benefited from replay decisions on Ladell Betts’ kickoff return that went for a touchdown and Cadillac Williams’ fumble at the Tampa Bay 6 that set up a touchdown and two-point conversion. These things even out.

Q: Was Gregg Williams’ secondary out partying with you Saturday night? They made Chris Simms look like his dad, who owned the Redskins when Richie Petitbon was running the defense for Joe Gibbs.

A: The Redskins obviously missed the injured Sean Taylor a bunch. Still, it was amazing to see the defense totally shut down Tampa Bay’s running game and give up 36 points to a quarterback with, basically, a rookie’s experience level.

Q: This defense just isn’t as good as it was last year, is it? I’m revoking Gregg Williams’ genius title.

A: It is strange how the defense is playing worse this year when virtually all of its players know the system and each other and when it hasn’t suffered any season-ending injuries. But the numbers don’t lie. The Redskins allowed the Bucs to drive 70, 64 and 54 yards on them in the final 20 minutes.

Q: Why can’t the Redskins win on the road?

A: Good question. Unlike baseball, in which outfield walls and grass can be designed to benefit the home team, football fields are uniform. Other than crowd noise when the offense is operating, being on the road shouldn’t be any different. But it is.

If not for those stunning Mark Brunell-to-Santana Moss bombs in the closing minutes in Dallas, the Redskins would be 0-5 on the road and 4-0 in the Big Ugly by the Beltway.

Q: Speaking of Brunell, why can’t Redskins quarterbacks hold on to the ball? How many fumbles is that for No. 8?

A: That’s six in nine games this year. It’s hard to understand why a 35-year-old veteran can’t do a better job of tucking it away.

Q: Coaches always talk about time of possession and the running game. Washington had the ball for nearly nine minutes more than Tampa Bay and rushed for three times as many yards. How did we lose?

A: Because the Redskins also had three times as many turnovers (3-1) and committed an incredibly ill-timed penalty that allowed the Bucs to win the game in the final minute instead of going to overtime.

Q: That obviously was a rip-your-heart-out loss. It was especially costly because the Bucs are competing with us for an NFC playoff spot. Can we bounce back?

A: The Redskins certainly rebounded from the disaster against the Giants to beat the Eagles last Sunday. Bouncing back against Norv Turner’s Oakland team won’t be as hard as that. But you’re right: This loss could really be a killer come tiebreak time.

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