- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Elias Sports Bureau deemed Washington’s early-season schedule the easiest in NFL history. Since the Redskins trudged out of Giants Stadium for the last time Sept. 13, they have faced an unmatched run of five straight winless opponents.

That enviable stretch ends with Sunday’s visit by the Kansas City Chiefs (0-5). Trouble is, coach Jim Zorn’s Redskins (2-3) have more than failed to take advantage of this wonderful gift from the NFL’s schedule-makers.

Washington lost to two of the winless teams, snapping Detroit’s 19-game skid in Week 2 and blowing a 15-point third-quarter lead last Sunday at Carolina while losing offensive tackle Chris Samuels to a neck injury - perhaps for the year.

In the dismal postgame locker room, a veteran starter said, “No one told the Panthers they were supposed to lose to us.”

Making the mood even bleaker is that the Redskins’ victories haven’t been worth celebrating. They needed a late pass breakup to hold off visiting St. Louis, which has lost 19 of 21, by two. And they had to rally from a 10-0 halftime deficit at FedEx Field to beat Tampa Bay, now a loser of nine in a row, by three.

“This is the NFL - any victory is good,” defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said. “They don’t give style points. There’s no such thing as a pretty loss.”

But during their previous recent sub-.500 starts, the Redskins at least had highs to treasure - coach Steve Spurrier’s first victory and a thrashing of Tennessee in 2002; Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs’ rousing return from a 12-year retirement in 2004; and a rout at Houston followed by a dramatic overtime triumph over Jacksonville in 2006.

Even Griffin, one of just four active regulars who played on that 2004 team, admitted there was more excitement back then after five games at 1-4 than there is now with a better record because of Gibbs and the idea of building with so many new players. The 2009 Redskins have had much less roster churn from the team that made the playoffs in 2007 and stumbled last year to an 8-8 finish.

Surviving the bumbling Bucs and the wretched Rams is perhaps the team’s most depressing start since 2001, when coach Marty Schottenheimer’s 0-5 debut included three blowouts. Of the players on the current roster, only Samuels, reserve cornerback Fred Smoot, defensive end Phillip Daniels and snapper Ethan Albright were on that team; they can remember the spark delivered in the next game by LaVar Arrington’s interception return for a touchdown that began the rally to 8-8.

“That was pretty bad,” Samuels said. “We were getting smoked. At least we got two wins now. The guys aren’t really down as people make us out to be.”

Making it harder for this team to generate a similar turnaround, and more critical that they get back to .500 on Sunday, are what lie ahead: games against the unbeaten Giants, Denver and New Orleans; two apiece with powerful Philadelphia and potent Dallas; and a visit to formidable Atlanta.

“We’re a couple steps from getting ready to panic,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “We gave Detroit their first win. We gave Carolina their first win. We can’t give Kansas City their first win - that’s the bottom line.”

Zorn needs the victory even more than his players. If the Redskins are upset by the Chiefs, who’ve won just two of their past 30, he could be in danger of being dismissed during the Week 8 bye if it’s preceded by a one-sided loss to the Eagles.

“Coach Zorn didn’t cost us these games,” Daniels said. “I hope he stays, but I can’t worry about that.”

The players have enough headaches of their own.

Note - In a repeat of last week’s pregame move, the Redskins promoted punter Glenn Pakulak from the practice squad and cut defensive end Renaldo Wynn. Starting punter Hunter Smith is still battling an injured groin.

Pakulak punted five times with a 42.4-yard gross average and a 35.6 net at Carolina. Wynn has yet to be active this season. He returned to the roster Monday when Pakulak was released before being re-signed to the practice squad.

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