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Sunday Night H-Back

There is one question I probably get more than any other, and I never know how to answer it. "What's the mood of the team?" With a 60-man roster, including practice squad, and 20 more coaches, there is a spectrum of opinions and feelings about just about everything.

In a case like this, where Joe Gibbs did not know a rule about consecutive timeouts, it brings out a wide array of responses. I received calls from a handful of players after the game on my way to the airport, and two stood out.

One was from a veteran offensive player, who has been critical privately in the past of the in-game decision making and the ability of the coach to get the most out of his talent. But in this case, as frustrated as the player was with a heartbreaking defeat that likely expunges any real playoff hope, he felt sorry for Gibbs more than anything else.

"He's a good man and he wants the best for us and he treats us great," the player said. "I'm embarrassed for him. I feel terrible for him. After this week and what happened to Sean. Of all the weeks for this to happen. It's awful."

This player spoke to some teammates who heard that some fans were chanting "Joe must go," near the Comcast set during their post-game show (I did not hear this myself in a rush to get to the airport, and you guys would have a better idea about how loud it was, etc.).

There was a sense of deep sympathy in the player's voice and he hoped that the media would not be too hard on Gibbs, all the while admitting that he understood why the criticism was coming.

This player also wanted to know what other players has said in the locker room. He sincerely hoped his teammates, when asked about the timeout blunder, pointed to themselves, and their mistakes. I told him that was largely the case, but that some also vented privately and were outraged that their coach made such a huge mistake in a critical juncture in the biggest game of the season.

I also spoke to a defensive player, who while conceding there players made mistakes as well, was fired up. "That's like the fourth game this year we lost because of game management," he said. "This was the worst one yet." I know that word has gotten around to other players in the league that there are a number of players in the Redskins locker room who are angry about the slew of questionable decisions.

This defensive player, and others, wanted to know what Gibbs had said directly after the game as well. I told him that Coach Joe was a stand-up guy about this and took full blame for the mistake.

I'm guessing, without having time to canvass the entire roster, is that most guys fall somewhere in between the two I spoke to. But I do know from the uncomfortable looks and awkward responses many players gave when asked about the decision to call timeout, that most chose not to embarrass their coach by saying with they really thought about the sequence.

Many players feel like there is 10-win talent on this team - a topic that some personnel execs expressed to me at the start of the season as well - and some believe that coaching has a large role in the perpetual underachievement.

As I stated in an earlier post tonight, I think there's plenty of blame to go all around, from the top of the front office right through the players. This team, for whatever reason, just can not sustain any sort of momentum. This time around for Coach Joe has basically unfolded in three parts.

Act 1 - Getting Re-Acclimated: 11-16 from 2004-Dec. 2005
Act 2 - The Streak 6-0 (getting to the postseason and winning at Tampa)
Act 3 - The Fall (10-19 dating back to playoff loss at Seattle)

Overall, including the playoffs, they are 27-35 (just 15-15 at home), with a losing streak of three games or more in each season. Maybe they can still turn it around and Act 4 will be the redemption for this to happen now, on the heels on the 4th and 1 decision in Tampa Bay and the timeout and clock management blunders before that

Gibbs has not been more than one game over .500 since coming back (he won his first game and then was 17-16, including playoffs, after beating Tampa in the 2005 postseason. As a franchise, the Redskins have eight straight seasons with at least one three-game losing streak.

Breaking Down The Game

No Sellers - The loss of FB Mike Sellers has been huge and I've been remiss not making enough out of it. It's part of the reason the run game has collapsed again - though Poris and the O Line are culpable as well - and his absence has been felt in the red-zone passing game as well.

Portis carried the ball 66 times for 333 yards over two games at the start of November, a gaudy five yard average. In the past three games Portis has 57 rushes for just 154 yards - just 2.7 per rush. On the season he is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, below the NFL average of 4.1. He loves running in Sellers's pocket but without that stud lead blocker it's been tough sledding.

Abandoned The Passing Game - Yeah, you read that correctly. The Redskins again did not go for the throat, trying to milk a marginal lead, and, as is so often the case, it burned them. They through the ball 22 times in the first half with great success. Chris Cooley and Santana Moss combined for 10 catches and 133 yards.

Despite an absent run game in the first two quarters - Portis had 11 rushes for 17 yards - the Redskins dominated the game clock (19 minutes of possession), led 9-2, ran 40 plays to 23 for the Bills and had twice as many first downs. They did it through the air.

Yes, they failed the turn that yardage dominance into sufficient points - flopping in the red zone yet again - but still had a blue print for moving the ball against Buffalo's secondary. Yet in the second half the Redskins ran the ball 14 times and threw it just 15 and let another game slip away due to offensive ineptitude.

I thought they could have kept spreading them and tried more deep patterns for Moss. He was unstoppable on third downs early in the game, and I know they directed a lot of defensive attention to Cooley and Moss in the second half, but there's no way they should have combined for just two catches and 19 yards Not having another WR capable of spreading the field with Randle El out was too much to overcome, it seemed.

O Line: Not looking good lately. Jason is getting hit way too often, and the running game is drying up.

Turning Points: The false start on 4th and short inside the 10 was huge. I really felt they were going to get that, get in the end zone and get it done Sunday. Not to be. Kicked the field goal instead and had another game of 3 rather than 7.

London Fletcher getting beat on the 54-yard screen pass, leading 16-11 with 9 minutes to play was huge. It was third and long and a punt there, rather than the FG the Bills got, and the Skins win.

Likewise, Larry Tripplett deserves a game ball for his forced fumble and diving INT grab with the Skins up 16-8 was huge. If Washington takes even 4 minutes off the clock there late in the 3rd quarter they win the game. Instead, it's another FG for the Bills on the short field. Buffalo actually used the exact blueprint the Redskins should have used at Tampa - 5 second-half FGs - but that 4th and 1 decision ended up stifling the Redskins in that game.


General Observations:
Overall, I thought they badly needed a big play by the linebackers. London had some trouble in coverage and Rocky and Marcus had quiet games. With the secondary so beat up and the D Line sinking after a torrid start, they needed something from the guys in between. Facing a kid QB I thought one of them would have found a way to get to the passer, but Edwards wasn't sacked and got much more comfortable in the second half.

Spoke to a scout earlier last week who made what I thought was a great point. Put the 2006 Redskins offense - yeah, ho-hum, not a ton of points, but good ball control, very few giveaways (17) and sacks (19), - with the 2007 Redskins defense, and you have a sure fire NFC playoff team.

The Defense has allowed 1 TD in the past two weeks - a short field score after a turnover - yet lost both games. (Way too many dropped INTs again this season). The Redskins are just 8-7 the past two seasons when holding opponents to 21 points or less.

The Road Ahead: The Redskins' final 4 opponents are a combined 30-18.

Believe it or not: All you "Anchorman" fans - Bob Mantooth was the replay official yesterday. Promise,. (Wes's long-lost brother perhaps?).

RIP: Didn't get a chance to see much news last week given all that was going on Redskins Park, but just found out Kevin DuBrow, lead signer for Quiet Riot, passed away the other day in his 50s. First concert I ever went to was Quiet Riot/Iron Maiden at the Baltimore Civic Center in like 1982. More sad news.

By Jason La Canfora  |  December 3, 2007; 12:38 AM ET
 
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