- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2011


This time, there was nowhere for the Washington Redskins to hide. Injuries? Heck, the Minnesota Vikings lost their All-Pro running back (Adrian Peterson) and starting quarterback (rookie Christian Ponder) on the first two snaps of the second half.

Nothing to play for? Who has less to play for than the Vikings, who were 2-12 when their buses pulled up to FedEx Field?

Short work week? Sorry, but the Vikes had to travel on their short work week.

No, what happened in Saturday’s home finale — Minnesota 33, Washington 26 — was a classic case of the Redskins being the Redskins. Let’s face it, this is a team that, for too long, has played to level of its competition, no matter how low it’s had to stoop. It’s a team that lost to a 2009 Lions club that had dropped 19 straight and to a 2008 Rams club that finished 2-14.

And the Christmas Eve loss to the Vikings, which saw Jim Haslett’s defense give up more points than it had all season, was as bad as any of them. Rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan called it “unacceptable,” which is a good place to start but only begins to describe The Horror.

After all, there’s no reason, on a day when Peterson exits after doing minimal damage, that Minnesota should rush for 241 yards — I mean, unless the Redskins are playing with 10 men. And there’s no reason Webb, the Vikings‘ wildcat/backup QB, should throw for more touchdowns in one game (2) than he had in his entire career before Saturday (1). That’s the kind of stuff that can make you a league-wide joke.

But as Lorenzo Alexander, the Redskins‘ special teams stalwart, said, “That’s what we’ve done since I’ve been here — up and down every week, depending on who you’re playing. … Trying to turn the corner is, to me, putting several good games together, not just one good game.”

Right now, that corner seems as far away as it ever has.

Of course, it always does after these debacles. When you lose to one of the worst teams in the NFL, it makes it look like you’re one of the worst teams in the NFL, even if your record (now 5-10) is better than that of the vanquished (3-12). And when you do it on your home turf, in front of your dwindling fan base, it just compounds the felony.

Mike Shanahan was essentially acknowledging this when he thanked the announced crowd of 68,370 — it didn’t appear to be nearly that large — for “being loud and showing up.” The question is: Why didn’t his own well-paid warriors show up, holiday weekend or not? They were coming off their best showing of the year, a 23-10 road win over the New York Giants, and had a chance to end their disappointing season on a high. Given some of the obstacles they’ve had to deal with, a 7-9 record would have been quite respectable.

But now, with a game in Philadelphia still to play, they might actually head into the offseason on a downer. Only the Redskins.

The faces change in Ashburn — constantly — but the results stay pretty much the same. It’s not just that the Redskins lose (and lose and lose); it’s that, too often, they beat themselves with penalties that wipe out touchdowns (e.g. Brandon Banks’ 59-yard end-around against the Vikings, which would have tied the game midway through the fourth quarter), turnovers of the most killing kind (pick a Rex Grossman interception, just about any Rex Grossman interception) and a level of commitment that fluctuates like the NASDAQ from week to week.

This quote from Grossman sums it all up: “It’s kind of odd that a 5-10 team feels confident all the time, but we know we are competitive, and we can beat anybody.”

What the Redskins keep forgetting is that they’re capable of losing to anybody, too. You’d think some of these defeats they’ve suffered, as hideous as they’ve been, would stick with them. But the Redskins, it seems, have Teflon memories. Losses like the ones to the Lions in ‘09 and the Rams in ‘08 just slide off — leading, inevitably, to losses like Saturday’s.

It’s always interesting to see how newcomers to the Washington locker room – those used to winning, especially — respond to the organization’s dysfunction. Barry Cofield, for instance, won a Super Bowl with the Giants in his second year and had never experienced a losing season as a pro until he signed with the Redskins. And now … he’s just searching for answers along with everybody else.

“There’s no rhyme or reason why one team comes out energized [on a given day] and one comes out flat,” he said. “If there was a formula, we wouldn’t have won last week [in New York]. We’ve just got to take our medicine and look back on this and know that we didn’t get it done. Hopefully, we can use an embarrassment like this to drive us.”

It’s a nice thought — that a club that has Known No Shame might be embarrassed enough by a loss to mend its wastrel ways. Seeing is believing, though. And against the Vikes, the Redskins did nothing to earn any benefit of the doubt.

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