- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2006

Thirty minutes after the latest home disappointment, Phillip Daniels remained in full uniform with his back facing the Washington Redskins’ locker room. The look on his face was a mixture of anger and disbelief.

“I never expected this,” Daniels said. “We shouldn’t be at this point with the people we’ve added and the way we played last year.”

Last season is only a memory as this season continues to develop into a train wreck. The Redskins fell to 2-4 yesterday with a 25-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans, who entered winless and without a road victory in nearly a year.

The way the Redskins are playing, only an improbable turnaround next month will salvage the season.

“At 2-4, you can’t let yourself think this thing is a lost cause because the second you do that, you’re in trouble,” quarterback Mark Brunell said. “We find ourselves in a tough situation, but I think we can dig ourselves out.”

Up 11 points early in the second quarter, the Redskins allowed Tennessee to score the next 19 points. The Redskins tied it at 22-22 early in the fourth quarter on Clinton Portis’ 4-yard touchdown run and Santana Moss’ two-point conversion reception.

But after Tennessee’s Rob Bironas’ 30-yard field goal with 5:11 remaining, the Redskins’ hopes ended when Brunell’s throw fluttered into the hands of the Titans’ Lamont Thompson with 56 seconds remaining.

“I can’t figure this out,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “This is a humbling experience, and we can’t go anywhere but up from here. We’ve got problems to fix, period.”

The Titans came to FedEx Field with basically nothing going for them but left 1-5 thanks to Travis Henry’s career-high 178 yards rushing, three field goals by Bironas and a blocked punt by Casey Cramer that resulted in a safety.

Did the Redskins take the Titans lightly?

“I think our guys understood what they were up against,” Gibbs said.

Added Portis: “We knew they were going to be a dangerous team, and I guess we let our guard down.”

Tennessee linebacker Keith Bulluck was critical of the Redskins’ approach.

“They weren’t out there playing football,” he said. “They were more trying to trick us with all those reverses. When they had to sit down and run plays and play football, we had a great game plan for that. For all those people in that locker room who talked crazy — tell them to have fun this week at practice.”

This week will be anything but fun for the Redskins. Coach Joe Gibbs said “the good thing is, it’s all of us.” But how can team-wide problems be a positive?

“We’re grasping at the same straws, and we’ve got to figure out — and in a hurry — what’s the matter and find a way to fix it,” right tackle Jon Jansen said. “We have so many good players and so many good guys, but for whatever reason we haven’t put it together. When we have, like in the first quarter, we’ve looked great. But we didn’t follow through and finish the game.”

In the first quarter, it appeared the Redskins had regained the offensive form shown against Houston and Jacksonville. The first two drives ended in touchdowns — a 10-yard Portis run that capped a 10-play, 78-yard march, and a 24-yard pass from Brunell to Chris Cooley on the first play of the second quarter that ended a seven-play, 70-yard drive — that gave the Redskins a 14-3 advantage.

The Redskins’ final 11 possessions were wretched: Six punts, two turnovers, a safety and a touchdown. They had 215 yards on 30 first-half snaps but only 90 yards on 26 second-half plays.

“It sounds like a broken record — you get close on a play but you miss a block or a hole or a pass, and all of a sudden it’s a totally different ballgame,” associate head coach-offense Al Saunders said.

Although Brunell had decent enough numbers (16-for-30 for 180 yards), he again relied mostly on Moss and dump-off passes. Dating to last season, he has only one 300-yard passing performance in his last 19 games.

Asked about Brunell’s status, Gibbs said: “What I’m focused on is fixing this, and we’ll look at everything. I’m certainly not going to focus on any one person or any one position.”

In his team-wide examination, Gibbs probably would be wise to spend ample time with the defense.

Ranked fifth against the run two weeks ago, the Redskins have given up 155 yards to the Giants and 194 yards to the Titans in the last two games. Henry had five runs of at least 10 yards.

“We knew Henry was a hard runner, and he was hitting those small seams,” Wynn said. “We pride ourselves on teams not running the ball, but that’s what they did today.”

Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: “Anytime you have over 40 runs against your defense, there’s going to be some yards, and they did a good job staying with the run.”

The Titans rushed 41 times (more than any Redskins opponent this season), and the plan worked because of Henry’s escape moves. When it fell behind, Tennessee didn’t panic. The Titans cut the lead to 14-6 with a 10-play drive that featured five runs and made it 14-13 with a touchdown drive highlighted by a 23-yard Henry scamper.

On their first second-half possession, the Titans regained the lead on Henry’s 2-yard run and extended the lead to 22-14 when Cramer busted through the middle of the Redskins’ line to block Derrick Frost’s punt, which rolled out of the end zone for a safety.

The Redskins were able to forge a 22-22 tie early in the fourth quarter. Portis’ touchdown was set up by Brandon Lloyd’s 52-yard reception.

Following Bironas’ field goal, the Redskins were unable to rally a second time, suffering their second three-point home defeat of the season.

“It’s tough to lose a game that we should have no doubt won,” Daniels said. “The season’s not over, but we’re making it hard on ourselves.”


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