I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll probably say it many times again: the more things change for the Redskins – with their never-ending revolving door of big name head coaches, highly touted coordinators, washed up quarterbacks, high-priced free agent acquisitions, and wasted draft picks – the more things stay the same.
During yesterday’s loss to Tampa Bay, the last four minutes of the game basically summed up life as a Redskins fan: a day late, a dollar short, and all out of luck.
Let’s break it down, act by act:
Act I: An all-too-familiar refrain: the Redskins jump out to an early lead over Tampa, nurse this lead through most of the second half, only to blow this lead late in the fourth quarter. Like clockwork, the Redskins get burned on Josh Freeman’s 41 yard touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow with less than four minutes left to go in the game. The Redskins get burned on an all-out blitz, leaving Kareem Moore to cover two guys running wide open deep down the field.
If you’ve been paying attention for the past decade plus, you know exactly what’s going to happen next: the inevitable comeback attempt falling short of the mark. Even as Donovan McNabb took the field on the Redskins last drive to try and maneuver the team towards a game-tying touchdown, you had to have the feeling that something was going to go wrong. That’s just your luck being a Redskins fan: you hope for the best, but you fully expect the worst. They’d either run out of time, run out of downs (oh, the forthcoming irony), or throw yet another game-ending interception.
Act II: On the ensuing (and ultimately doomed) comeback attempt, we get the Santana Moss “non-catch.” In a situation where the referees are supposed to let the play fully transpire on the field instead of making a judgment call that could ultimately decide the game’s outcome, the refs claim that McNabb’s pass hit the ground and Moss didn’t catch the ball.
Let’s examine the facts here: Moss may not have caught the ball 100% cleanly, but there’s not a single shred of conclusive evidence which shows that the ball hit the ground. If the refs had done their job by swallowing their whistles and let the players decide the outcome on the field, then the Redskins would have had the ball deep inside the Buccaneers territory after Moss’ catch-and-run (no Bucs defender touched him after he “caught” the pass).
But instead, the referees when ahead and made a completely subjective, and totally unprovable claim that the ball hit the ground. Even after Mike Shanahan’s reluctant (and ultimately useless) challenge, the refs claimed that there wasn’t enough evidence to say that it was a completed pass. They essentially predetermined the outcome of that sequence of events under the following logic: “We think the ball hit the ground, even though we never saw it hit the ground, and the video doesn’t show it not hitting the ground. So we’re sticking with our guess that it hit the ground. Tough cookies.”
If that doesn’t sound like something that would only happen to the Redskins, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention.
Act III: In a shocking turn of events, instead of folding like a cheap tent in a heavy wind, the Redskins actually rebound from this gaffe and still somehow manage to march all the way down the field, positioning themselves just about six feet away from scoring a touchdown, with the ensuing extra point potentially tying the game (yep, more sweet irony). In just over three minutes, Donovan McNabb – a notoriously mediocre quarterback when running the two minute drill – goes 7 of 8 for 73 yards, down to the Tampa Bay two yard line.
But here’s where it gets interesting. McNabb’s last pass to Anthony Armstrong, on first and ten, was a “nine” yard completion that went from Tampa Bay’s twelve yard line to Tampa Bay’s two yard line. Consider the following:
A: When Armstrong went down after making the catch, it appeared that he was never touched. He alertly gets up and makes his way to the end zone, only to once again be thwarted by the referees calling him “down by contact.” Seriously, isn’t that why we have challenges and booth reviews? Aren’t NFL refs told, over and over, to let things happen on the field, so that they can go back and be reviewed if it’s an incorrect call? Inexcusable.
B: If Armstrong caught the pass and went ten yards on first and ten, isn’t it a first down? Apparently, it depends on who you ask. Armstrong never saw a referee signal first down after his catch. Fox’s game broadcast said it was second and one. The scoreboard said it was second and one. The Redskins believed it was second down.
Except he really did get a first down. Yep, that makes complete sense to me, too.
Act IV: As it forever will be known: “the 5th down.”
On what we thought was second down, McNabb attempts an awful fade pass to Roydell Williams, which falls incomplete. On what we thought was third down, Ryan Torain loses four yards. And on what we thought was fourth down, Fred Davis blows his chance to be a hero for the Redskins, letting a perfectly thrown pass bounce right off his chest and fall incomplete. We can slam McNabb all we want in DC, but that ball hit Davis right at the top of the six on the “86? on his uniform.
But hold on, there’s one more down. The Redskins get one more chance on fourth down. Again. And wouldn’t you know it, with one more chance, McNabb threads a bullet between two defenders, right between the numbers to Moss for a touchdown.
The Redskins are only a point away from redeeming their blown lead, and appear to have completed a fourth quarter comeback for the first time in lord knows how long. Seriously, can you think of the last time the Redskins came back to win the game – or even tie it – when they’re down by a touchdown with less than four minutes to go?
Act V: The culmination of this Shakespearean tragedy known as the 2010 Redskins. Only moments after the incredibly rare fourth quarter comeback drive, with the almost-automatic extra point left to officially make it a tie game, a high snap and wet football leads to a botched hold by Hunter “the punter” Smith. The ball fumbles away before Graham Gano ever gets a chance to attempt the kick, and it’s picked up by a Buccaneers defender to end the game.
It’s almost as if the Karma gods laid down their retribution on the Redskins, taking that very last point away from them after somewhat gifting them the phantom 5th down. Or perhaps it was the system working to correct itself, after the glitch in the Matrix (the Redskins actually making a comeback).
Whatever it may be, it’s par for the course when it comes to the Redskins. All you can do is shake your head and try to laugh it off, fully knowing that the only way you can rationalize yet another punch to the collective stomach of the Burgundy and Gold faithful is by telling yourself:
“Only the Redskins…”