- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

DETROIT | The season is only three games old, and the Washington Redskins already have multiple chapters of indignity to their credit.

The latest entry came Sunday, when the Redskins lost to a team that hadn’t tasted victory in 91 calendar weeks and 19 regular-season games.

A six-point favorite against the Detroit Lions, the Redskins sleepwalked through the first half, failed to capitalize on an early third-quarter spark, and ended their 19-14 defeat with a last-gasp play that included two laterals instead of a 36-yard heave into the end zone.

The Redskins (1-2) made rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford look like a battle-tested veteran, rushed for zero first-half yards and poured gasoline on Jim Zorn’s already hot seat.

“There aren’t any words to say yet,” Zorn said. “We did not treat this team lightly. We knew they were good. … It’s about us taking care of the details of work we put on the field. I think our guys played hard. … It will be things we look at that are small issues that we cannot overlook, and we won’t.”

The issues plaguing the Redskins are hardly small in quantity and scope.

The defense continued to struggle on third down, and the offense again failed to finish a drive that reached the 1-yard line.

Outrushed 116-0 and outscored 13-0 in the first half, the Redskins closed to within six points early in the third quarter on Santana Moss’ 57-yard catch-and-run and to within five points with 2:36 remaining on Rock Cartwright’s 4-yard touchdown.

The Redskins regained possession at their own 22 with 1:05 remaining and drove to the Detroit 36 before three Campbell incompletions preceded the wild finale - a 6-yard pass to Moss that included laterals to Antwaan Randle El and Ladell Betts, who couldn’t get out of bounds before time expired.

While the Lions returned to the field to thank their fans for enduring a horrid losing streak, the Redskins were left to contemplate another stinker while pondering how difficult it will be to rebound.

“If you love the game and love playing football, it won’t be hard,” said defensive end Phillip Daniels, who called the loss the low point of his Redskins career. “If you’ve got fight and character in you and pride about yourself, we’ll come back.”

Although national speculation will revolve around Zorn’s job security, a team source said he would be stunned if an in-season change is made. But being Detroit’s first victim doesn’t help things.

“I never really thought about that streak,” Zorn said. “The disappointing thing was a loss, not to a team that had that record.”

Jason Campbell threw for 340 yards and Moss reappeared in the passing game with 10 catches for 178 yards.

When the duo produced the Redskins’ first points, it had the potential to spearhead a comeback. But the Redskins’ next four possessions ended with an interception and three punts.

Detroit wasn’t any better (four punts to start the second half), but the Lions used a 47-yard pass interference call on Chris Horton to set up Maurice Morris’ 2-yard touchdown run with 5:26 remaining.

“When we decided to play, we ran out of time,” Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said.

The Redskins certainly didn’t play in the first half and two early Zorn decisions backfired, contributing to an early 7-0 deficit.

On the Redskins’ opening possession, Campbell completed five of his first six passes, the last an 18-yard completion to Malcolm Kelly, to set up a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line. Campbell threw incomplete on first down (fade to Kelly), followed by a 2-yard Ladell Betts rush and a 6-yard screen pass to Clinton Portis.

Kick the field goal on fourth down, right?

Nope. Zorn instead opted for a Portis run to the left, which Lions linebackers Larry Foote and DeAndre Levy snuffed out.

“We drove all the way down there and I didn’t think we would be denied getting into the end zone,” Zorn said. “It’s a very solid play that we had - easily a 1-yard play. There was no way a team would drive 99 yards on us, I thought.”

Zorn thought wrong; the defense didn’t reward his faith. Detroit drove into Washington territory, but things bogged down when Stafford threw incomplete on third-and-4 from the Washington 33 and Lions tight end Casey FitzSimmons was called for pass interference.

Enter questionable Zorn decision No. 2.

Make Detroit kick a 51-yard field goal? Nope.

Zorn accepted the penalty to set up a third-and-13. But Stafford scrambled 21 yards and then hit Bryant Johnson for a 21-yard touchdown.

The Lions used that early momentum to pound the Redskins in the first half.

Detroit outgained the Redskins 274-94 in the first half and ran 45 plays to Washington’s 19. In that same time, while the Redskins went 0-for-5 on third down, the Lions were 9-for-12… and one of Detroit’s failed third downs was a Stafford spike to set up Hanson’s 26-yard field goal.

“We have to win the one-on-one battle at times, and we’re giving them a chance to convert those situations, and teams have done a good job,” Zorn said. “We have to find an answer, and we’ll just keep working on that.”

Up next is Tampa Bay (0-3), which was stuck on one first down for most of its loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. Even though the season is almost a quarter done, are the Redskins approaching a fork in the road where the next game could tilt things one way or the other?

“If that’s what you all want, I know on my behalf it can’t,” Moss said. “People will have their mixed views of where we’re at and how things are going right now for us. At the end of the day, we have to play the game.

“If you think with 13 games left that you don’t have a chance, you’re playing for the wrong reason.”

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