- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On the eve of what many are calling the most important presidential election in recent times, the nation’s political center, the most powerful city in the world, was riveted … to the Pittsburgh Steelers-Washington Redskins game. Presidents come and go, but “Monday Night Football”? That’s big.

Sports always holds sway over politics. It’s certainly more fun and, except for big-time college football, remains unaffected by opinion and polls. Talk might be the currency of politics, but it’s worth nothing in sports. You actually have to do something. Sports is so much better that the political world has for a long time been infused with the incessant and annoying use of sports metaphors to explain what’s going on. You’ve heard them - such phrases as “game-changing,” “Hail Mary,” “grand slam” and “voter fraud” - a popular term used in reference to the BCS.

You never hear sports described in political jargon because it would sound like this: The Steelers and Redskins, each having fought a tough campaign through the primary part of the season and hoping to establish themselves as solid candidates down the stretch to make a run at the big prize, met on the battleground turf of FedEx Field. … It just doesn’t work.

And neither did the Redskins - especially their offense. As in their opening-game loss to the New York Giants, they laid another prime-time egg.

Q: What was the deal with the Redskins’ previously unseen all-burgundy uniforms?

A: A conspiracy theorist might offer that it was coach Jim Zorn, who has not advertised his political leanings, but you don’t have to guess too hard what they are, offering a “salute to the red states.” But that’s nuts. A more likely scenario is that it was something cooked up by Redskins running back Clinton Portis because it’s not unusual to find a bizarre fashion statement and Portis together in the same room.

Q: It is said that every Steelers game is a home game. What does that mean?

A: It means that a big part of the crowd at FedEx was wearing Steelers jerseys and waving towels - and the beer was in short supply.

Q: The Steelers tried an onside kick to start the game. Were the Redskins surprised?

A: The Redskins were probably more delighted than surprised given that they recovered the kick, ran three plays and failed to get a first down, yet still got a field goal out of it.

Q: Did the low-scoring game that many had expected materialize?

A: Let’s put it this way: In the first half, the Steelers were held to just 90 yards - and outgained the Redskins by 24. The Steelers’ 10-6 halftime lead was entirely built on a pass-interference call and a blocked punt.

Q: Sounds ugly. Can you put it another way?

A: Certainly. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Redskins QB Jason Campbell combined for 13 first-half completions while getting sacked seven times. Roethlisberger had a passer rating of 15.1 before halftime.

Q: Wow. Got one more?

A. Absolutely. In the first half, the teams combined for 11 punts and seven first downs.

Q: How did Portis, the league’s No. 1 rusher, perform against the NFL‘s top defense, which had not allowed a run of more than 15 yards all season?

A: Not well. Portis, who ran for at least 120 yards in each of his past five games, broke off a 22-yard run in the first quarter before briefly leaving with a bruised knee. In his other 12 carries, he gained 29 yards. With the Redskins needing a last-gasp touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1, they chose to throw to a defensive tackle. The pass was incomplete.

Q: Did Roethlisberger leaving with an injured right shoulder help the Redskins?

A: Not exactly. Byron Leftwich, the pride of H.D. Woodson High School, started the second half and immediately tossed a 50-yard pass to Nate Washington to set up a touchdown. Leftwich played the rest of the game and was outstanding.

Q: How did things turn out for Campbell?

A: He continued to take a fearsome beating - seven sacks in all - and threw his first two interceptions of the season.

Q: What kind of grade should Zorn get?

A: An F for “flummoxed.” The Redskins had no answer for the Steelers’ fast, talented 3-4 defense. Portis found little running room and, with Campbell under siege, the receivers were nonfactors.

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