- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pete Kendall and Leigh Torrence are gone but not forgotten - especially with the St. Louis Rams visiting the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Left guard Kendall’s boneheaded decision to catch a deflected pass and cornerback Torrence’s failure to cover Rams receiver Donnie Avery in the late going were largely responsible for 10 St. Louis points that gave the winless visitors a stunning 19-17 victory against Washington last year.

The Redskins had been 4-1 after victories against contenders New Orleans, Arizona, Dallas and Philadelphia. So even though the Rams wound up 2-14 and were thumped 28-0 by Seattle in this year’s opener, there’s no chance the Redskins will overlook them.

Defensive tackle Kedric Golston saw a challenge from an offense that includes underrated running back Steven Jackson, one-time Pro Bowl quarterback Marc Bulger and young, fast receivers Avery and Laurent Robinson. Also a threat is the defense overseen by new coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was 3-1 against the Redskins as the Giants’ defensive coordinator.

“People say they can’t beat us, but they said that last year and they won the game,” Golston lamented.

Said offensive tackle Chris Samuels: “We all know what happened last year. We’re not going out there overconfident.”

With good reason.

“This team started our downfall,” defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said. “I’ll never forget that.”

The Redskins went 4-6 the rest of the way, with three of those victories being close shaves against lightweights Cleveland, Seattle and Detroit. What looked like a second straight playoff berth for the first time since 1991-92 wound up as Washington’s third 8-8 season in nine years.

“That was one of the games last year that we should’ve won and we didn’t, and it hurt us all year long,” said coach Jim Zorn, who added he was “haunted” by the loss.

Quarterback Jason Campbell noted that the Redskins turned the ball over only once during their 4-1 start but lost the ball three times against the Rams, including Kendall’s fumble that St. Louis safety Oshiomogho Atogwe returned 75 yards for a touchdown.

“The next week they ended up beating Dallas,” Campbell recalled. “All it takes is one game to give a team a little momentum. We’re a team that needs that right now as well.”

That’s the case after last week’s loss at the New York Giants. Other than holder Hunter Smith’s touchdown run on a fake field goal, the Redskins mustered just a field goal during the first 58 minutes even though the hosts were without two of their top three cornerbacks. And running back Clinton Portis ran for more yards (34) on his first carry than on his remaining 15 attempts (28).

“We are a better football team than what we showed,” Campbell said.

Washington’s more-established defense had its own problems, giving up three passes of more than 20 yards - one for a touchdown - to New York’s nondescript receivers.

“When you play 70 snaps, you are going to have some good ones and some bad ones,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “We had enough bad snaps to lose… to a good football team. The fact that we did not tackle as well as we should have and we gave up some plays that we should have made… is discouraging.”

What’s encouraging is what’s ahead. After the Rams comes a visit to the Lions, still winless since 2007; a date with Tampa Bay, which was thumped last week in Dallas; a trip to Carolina, which was pounded by Philadelphia; and a visit from Kansas City, which was ripped by Baltimore. All except the Panthers are expected to struggle this year.

In other words, the Redskins’ next five games are as accommodating as the NFL gets.

“Our season didn’t end last week,” Portis said. “The only thing that stops us from is having the perfect season. Right now all our goals are still attainable. Everything is still in front of us.”

Note - Cornerback Fred Smoot (rib) was downgraded from probable to questionable on the team’s Saturday injury report.

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