- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2008

At his shorter-than-usual Monday news conference, Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn repeatedly blamed himself - but not his team - for Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“They’re putting out tremendous effort,” Zorn said. “They’re putting out tremendous emotion to come out there and play.”

Yet that emotion wasn’t apparent at the onset Sunday, when the Bengals outscored the Redskins 14-0 in the first quarter en route to the victory, just their second of the season. It was the first time all year the Bengals reached double figures in the first quarter, which prompted this assessment Monday from linebacker London Fletcher: “The energy was terrible yesterday to start the game. Very flat.

“I don’t know what it was,” he continued. “What’s the reason behind it? There were great practices leading up to the game. We felt real good about the game plan, the preparation, the meetings leading up to the game - things like that. But for one reason or another, there was a sense of flatness, so to speak, at the start of the ballgame.”

The Redskins have made a habit of falling behind early. They have been outscored 41-0 in that quarter the past four games - losses to Cincinnati, Baltimore and the New York Giants and a 20-17 win at lowly Seattle. The first quarter is the only one in which the Redskins have been outscored - but by a whopping 82-33. Even in their early season win at Philadelphia, the Redskins trailed 14-0 after the first quarter.

Zorn, who scripts the first 15 plays, suggested most of the early game problems were on offense.

“Our first drives have not been successful,” he said. “We make up the first 15 [plays]. It’s a coaching decision to put that group of plays out on the field, and we’ve had to punt. Maybe it won’t hurt to defer if we win the [coin] toss. I’m willing to try anything.”

Play calls didn’t cause Chris Cooley to fumble on the game’s opening drive, a turnover Cincinnati converted into a 7-0 lead. The Redskins went three-and-out on their next possession, but then Cincinnati put together a 94-yard scoring drive (its longest of the year), highlighted by Cedric Benson’s 79-yard gain on a screen pass.

The Bengals, who had scored 16 points total in their previous three games, extended their lead to 17-0 early in the second quarter.

“We started off tremendously slow,” Fletcher said. “It wasn’t a situation where Cincinnati earned those points. We gave them those points. You can say what you want about the offense turning the ball over or things like that, but defensively, we allowed them to get 17 points.”

The Redskins lately haven’t been so great in the fourth quarter, either. Not only have they failed to score in close games, they have been unable to wrest the ball from their opponents. Cincinnati, Baltimore and Dallas all had long fourth-quarter drives to help put the game away.

“Defensively, we’re called on to come up with one more stop. We haven’t been able to do it,” Fletcher said. “I can’t say what it is, but it has been like this over the last quite a few ballgames for us.”

Injury updates

Zorn said linebacker Marcus Washington, who missed the past four games with a high ankle sprain, might play Sunday against Philadelphia. Washington said he was optimistic.

Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, sidelined against the Bengals with a strained abdominal muscle, said he also hopes to play against the Eagles. Among others who also missed Sunday’s game, safety Chris Horton (shoulder) should be ready for the Eagles, Zorn said, but the status of offensive tackle Jon Jansen (knee) is “unknown.”

Starting defensive tackle Kedric Golston, who has been playing with bone spurs in both ankles, tried to play Sunday but had to leave the game. Zorn said he will “probably be limited” this week.

Fletcher, playing on a badly sprained foot, “has been heroic,” Zorn said. Fletcher has played in every game of his 11-year career - 174 straight. Quarterback Jason Campbell (elbow), receiver Santana Moss (concussion) and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery (hip) all should be OK for Sunday, Zorn said.

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