- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2008

Clinton Portis has many opinions, most of which carry little weight inside the Washington Redskins‘ locker room. Teammates usually roll their eyes or laugh out loud at “Portis being Portis” when one of the team’s most visible personalities makes an outlandish declaration.

But after Sunday’s 19-17 loss to the previously winless and seemingly hopeless St. Louis Rams on Josh Brown’s 49-yard field goal as time expired, Portis said what fans surely thought and his teammates should agree with.

The Redskins thought beating St. Louis was a lock.


“The headlines got good,” Portis said. “Guys started high-fiving and yelling, ‘We here!’ We hadn’t thought ahead all season long until this week. We overlooked a team that came in here ready to play.

“We’ve been the underdogs since I’ve been here, so for us to expect St. Louis not to fight - I don’t know why we let them shock us like that.”

Following consecutive road wins as underdogs, the Redskins crashed back to earth, losing for the fourth time since 1985 as a double-digit favorite (13 points).

Rather than take another step toward a 7-1 start entering a Monday night clash against Pittsburgh next month, the Redskins instead will spend the week exploring why a team so efficient the last two weeks could be so mistake-prone (three turnovers) and play without a sense of urgency until the fourth quarter.

The Redskins remained tied for second in the NFC East behind the New York Giants thanks to Dallas’ overtime loss at Arizona.

Coach Jim Zorn could see the signs late in the week. According to Portis, Zorn was critical of the Redskins’ practices.

“Coach really got on us a lot Thursday and Friday,” Portis said. “The previous weeks, he didn’t have to. We got [too] loose. All of a sudden, you start getting patted on the back and you feel like you’re a better team. We turned the ball over and said, ‘But don’t worry, we can come back.’ That didn’t work.”

Portis did his part, rushing 21 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns, including a 2-yard run that capped a nine-point comeback to push the Redskins ahead 17-16 with 3:47 remaining.

And the defense mostly did its part, though the Redskins dropped two sure interceptions and allowed a 43-yard pass to Donnie Avery to set up Brown’s winning field goal.

But the offense was off kilter for the first three quarters, allowing four sacks.

“Our offense, we can afford a couple of things to error, but we can’t afford every drive to error,” Zorn said. “More than any place on the field, offense takes all 11 doing the right thing. When that doesn’t happen, disaster will strike because [opposing] teams are good.”

And even poor teams can take advantage of good opportunities. The Rams did just that with two huge plays.

St. Louis scored 16 consecutive points after Marcus Washington’s forced fumble led to Portis’ first touchdown less than five minutes into the game.

Trailing the Redskins 7-3 late in the first half, the Rams capped a bizarre sequence with a 75-yard fumble return touchdown by Oshiomogho Atogwe. Jason Campbell’s pass was deflected into the air and caught by left guard Pete Kendall, who fumbled when he was hit by Pisa Tinoisamoa.

It was the Redskins’ third offensive turnover in a span of 23 snaps; they had gone their first 344 without a giveaway.

“It was strange things that happened today,” Campbell said. “I don’t know where they came from.”

Added Zorn: “When [Kendall] got the ball, he looked at it almost like, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I have the ball.’ ”

Trailing 16-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Redskins rallied with Shaun Suisham’s 38-yard field goal and Portis’ second touchdown (set up by his 29-yard run and Antwaan Randle El’s 29-yard reception).

That left St. Louis enough time for its second huge play.

On third-and-13 from the St. Louis 41 with 1:13 remaining, quarterback Marc Bulger threw deep to Avery, who fought his way back inside Redskins cornerback Leigh Torrence to make the catch at the 16. Zorn said a Redskins defender missed an assignment and didn’t blitz. Left in man coverage, Torrence turned around too late to adjust to the underthrown pass.

“You make a play or you don’t make a play,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “We were up 17-16, and they got two [third-down conversions]. That’s on us.”

Two plays after a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Rams offensive lineman Richie Incognito for jawing with the Redskins, Brown hit the winning field goal as the game clock hit zero.

“We knew we were in a battle all the way and we had to play better in the second half,” Zorn said. “We did, but when we needed it at the end we didn’t have it.”

Several players said they didn’t need a wake-up call. But from Portis’ standpoint, the loss was a missed opportunity for the Redskins to flex their muscles against an opponent in disarray.

“Every game shouldn’t be tough,” he said. “Some games we should really come in and dominate, and this was one of those games. We dominated as far as stats, but point-wise and turnover-wise, we lost. We’re not good enough to overcome turnovers and penalties and [screwing] up drives.”

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