- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

Everybody’s favorite horror movie, the Redskins’ 2009 highlight film, took its most macabre turn Sunday. What happened to Janet Leigh in the shower is nothing compared to what happened to the Redskins at FedEx Field in a 33-30 overtime loss to the Saints. Who’s coaching New Orleans, anyway, Sean Payton or Alfred Hitchcock?

Make no mistake. The Redskins had the unbeaten Saints deader than Norman Bates’ mother. All they needed was for Shaun Suisham to kick a field goal barely longer than an extra point - 23 yards in all - with 1:56 left in regulation. That would have given them a 33-23 cushion, enough to survive one last Drew Brees-led onslaught. (Granted, it can be risky to assume anything with this team, especially after watching wins slip away the past two weeks at Dallas and Philadelphia, but I’m going to go out and a limb and say the game was in the ‘W’ column if Suisham had just booted the ball through.)

But he didn’t, of course. The ball drifted to the right just as it did against the Cowboys in the final minutes - also from short range. Thus did a truly inspiring victory over an 11-0 club turn into “I Know What You Did Last Dec. 6.”

After Suisham’s miss, it all went terribly wrong for the Redskins. The Saints needed just 33 seconds to tie the score on a 53-yard pass wide-open Robert Meachem. And they needed just three plays in OT to force a Mike Sellers fumble, which led to Garrett Hartley’s game-winner from 18 yards out and sent the crowd of 84,520 home in a catatonic state. Heck, New Orleans almost didn’t need OT. Less than a minute after Meachem’s TD, Jason Campbell threw his one bad pass of the afternoon and had it picked off by linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and the Redskins had to sweat out a Dempsey-esque 58-yard field goal try before moving on to Extra Time.

How sweet this win would have been for the Redskins. It wouldn’t have done anything to change the first 12 weeks, but it would have provided tangible evidence of improvement. Even so, Andre Carter said, “This shows we constantly come back [from discouraging defeats]. We haven’t given up on the season. We still want to compete.”

That they do. Indeed, in the space of 15 days, they played three likely playoff teams - half of the NFC’s postseason field - and lost by a total of just seven points (7-6 to the Cowboys, 27-24 to the Eagles and 33-30 to the erstwhile Aints).

With each loss, though, the season has taken on more of a “Nightmare on Elm Street” quality. And Sunday’s was so gruesome it almost defied explanation. If there was one play that stood out from the rest, it was the play near the end of the first half, the interception by the Redskins’ Kareem Moore that somehow turned into a touchdown for the Saints.

The Snydermen were leading 17-10 with about 30 seconds remaining, and as Moore started upfield from his 30-yard line, he had visions of Washington 24, New Orleans 10. Hey, you can’t blame the kid. It was his first INT in the NFL. Who doesn’t dream of running for a touchdown with his first career pick?

But when he tried to evade Meachem, the Saints wideout grabbed his arm. “I tried to spin out of it,” Moore said, “but he used my momentum to steal the ball” - and sprint 44 yards the other way to make it 17-17. (Historical aside: I’ve done a lot of nosing around in the dusty archives of pro football, and I seriously wonder whether any player’s first interception has ever wound up being a TD for the opposition - until Sunday. It just strikes me as beyond bizarre, a once-a-century kind of thing.)

Moore, who made a tumbling catch, did well just to hang on to the ball when he hit the ground. (In fact, his grab was reviewed by the referee and ruled legal.) Then he got up and was in the midst of a nice return until fate intervened.

“I wish [the ball] did hit the ground now,” he said, still looking stunned by the turn of events. “It’s something I’ll just have to deal with and live with.”

Think about it: In his 26th NFL game, a 25-year-old safety finally latches onto his first interception, and later he regretted it. Is there a better poster child for the Redskins’ frightful season than Kareem Moore? This is a club that’s so cursed that even good things mutate into bad things.

“There were some pretty amazing plays that did not go our way and dramatically affected the score and our ability to win the game,” Jim Zorn said. “I felt like our team played really well. We had some great coverages, kicks and defensive stands. We put points on the board, and we had over 300 passing yards.”

This is what happens when a team is having the kind of season the Saints are having, the greatest season of their 43-year existence - they win games like this. This is also what happens when a team is having the kind of season the 3-9 Redskins are having - they lose on a day when their quarterback matches the great Drew Brees pretty much yard for yard, pass for pass.

Afterward, in the Redskins’ locker room, Mike Sellers was sitting in a chair when his leg started cramping. He yelped with pain. “Don’t flex it, man,” he told a trainer who ran over to help. “Don’t flex it.”

That’s as good a place to end this horror movie as any - or at least, this week’s episode.

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