Redskins vs. 49ers: Another flop in a nationally televised prime-time game

November 26, 2013

The bright lights and big stage proved overwhelming for the Washington Redskins again as they lurched and wobbled their way through another embarrassing performance in prime time.

With their 27-6 loss at FedEx Field on Monday night, the Redskins fell to 3-8 on the season and 0-4 this year in nationally televised games.

As the clock struck triple zeros, bringing finality to yet another hapless performance, the bulk of the players trudged to the center of the field for the obligatory handshakes. But a fair amount lumbered to the locker room without bothering to greet the opponents who handled them so thoroughly.

And long before that, the bulk of the 79,773 fans in attendance had already left.

“We come off of every loss we have, and they’re embarrassing,” tight end Niles Paul said. “We want to win all those games. But I think this one, ‘Monday Night Football,’ it hurt a little bit more.”

The Washington Post's Mike Jones analyzes what a tough loss to the 49ers means for the Redskins and coach Mike Shanahan. (Mike Jones & Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, several of his teammates said the defeat indeed proved painful but not because it came in front of a national audience.

“It doesn’t matter,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “One o’clock, 4 o’clock, 9 o’clock, they all suck.”

Monday night’s showing certainly wasn’t anticipated at the beginning of the season, when this was projected as a possible meeting between contenders for the NFC championship.

Following their dramatic turnaround and the march to the NFC East title — their first in 13 years — and Robert Griffin III’s historic rookie season in 2012, the Redskins seemed like the hot ticket.

When the league’s schedule-makers huddled during the offseason, they set up Washington with five prime-time matchups. That marked the first time since 2010 — Mike Shanahan’s first season with the team — that the Redskins had entered a season with more than one prime-time game on the schedule. (The team had three in 2010 and originally was scheduled for one in 2011 and 2012 before the league flexed last season’s finale vs. Dallas to the “Sunday Night Football” slot).

But the national stage has been anything but kind.

They opened the season with a thumping by the Philadelphia Eagles on the first “Monday Night Football” game of the regular season.

Then came a 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 6.

Washington returned to the national stage with a “Thursday Night Football” meeting at Minnesota. The Redskins blew a 27-14 third-quarter lead and let Vikings backup quarterback Matt Cassel lead his team to a 34-27 victory.

Then came Monday night’s home game against the 49ers.

Vegas oddsmakers didn’t pick the Redskins to win despite the game being at FedEx Field. The Super Bowl runners-up entered as four-point favorites.

Both teams found themselves in desperate situations, having lost their past two games. San Francisco needed a win to keep pace with Arizona in the playoff hunt, and Washington needed a victory to change its fortunes and take a step toward ending its season in respectable fashion.

But the Redskins couldn’t summon the gumption needed on offense to overcome a defense that ranks among the stingiest in the NFL.

“We just didn’t show up,” running back Alfred Morris said.

It marked the first time all season Washington hadn’t scored a touchdown and the first time in Griffin’s career, in college or the pros, his team hadn’t reached the end zone.

“We knew we were going to be challenged,” Shanahan said. “I was disappointed we didn’t get in the end zone and get more points. I knew it was going to be one of those tough games where we couldn’t turn the football over. We had to take advantage of some opportunities. They took advantage of those opportunities. We didn’t.”

Meanwhile, on defense, despite faring well against the run and holding Frank Gore well below 100 yards, the Redskins did poorly against the pass — allowing Kaepernick, who entered the game having completed just 56.2 percent of his throws — to finish with 235 yards and three touchdowns while completing 15 of 24 attempts.

Now the Redskins must get back to work on a shortened week. But they return to the national stage again in their next game, hosting the New York Giants on Sunday night.

“It’s very disappointing when you go through a game like that and get beat,” Shanahan said. “Now you have to come back and fight, especially with a short week. With Thanksgiving, Monday night game and obviously Sunday’s game, a lot goes into the preparation. Now we can’t dwell on this too long. Now you have to come back and get ready for the next game.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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