If the Washington Redskins ’ players do indeed believe Mike Shanahan should remain their coach, as a number of veterans have expressed in the past two weeks, they sure didn’t show it Sunday against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.
On the same day a report leaked about a possibly irreparable relationship between Shanahan and team owner Daniel Snyder, which in turn prompted team officials to wonder whether the coach was trying to plan an exit strategy, the Redskins’ players looked as if they preferred to be anywhere but the snow-covered, sparsely filled FedEx Field.
The offense showed only a flicker of life — a seven-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III to Logan Paulsen with their team in a 31-point second-quarter hole. The defense put on an equally ugly performance, failing repeatedly to overcome the short field that the Chiefs frequently worked with. Meanwhile, the special teams units sank to a new low, yielding a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown in a 45-10 thrashing.
Open seats at FedEx Field were plentiful — partly because of the poor weather conditions and partly because of the team’s poor record. The Redskins announced the paid attendance at the 85,000-seat stadium as 56,247 — the lowest in the history of the stadium.
That already thin crowd had dwindled considerably midway through the second quarter. And by that point, those that remained expressed their frustrations with the team by raining down boos after each Kansas City score, and again at halftime with the home team down, 38-10.
“To put up a performance like this and get booed in your home stadium,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “I understand the fans’ frustration. I wanted to boo us too. It’s just not something you would’ve imagined going through. It’s pretty difficult.”
Said fellow veteran Santana Moss: “They beat our [butts], man. It was embarrassing. Ain’t nothing to say about the performance. We stunk.”
The defeat also gave Shanahan and his team their third season of 10 or more losses in the coach’s four-year tenure in Washington. Shanahan went 6-10 and 5-11 his first two seasons. The coach and team reversed the trend with last season’s 10-6 NFC East-winning campaign. But the anguish returned this season, and based on the hapless performances of the past month, one wonders if another win will come this season.
Shanahan and his players have maintained throughout the dismal second half of the season that they will continue to fight as if they remain in contention for a postseason berth. But the on-field results suggested otherwise on Sunday.
For the seventh time this season, the Redskins allowed an opponent to score more than 30 points, and Sunday marked the third time this year that an opponent has topped the 40-point mark.
For the Chiefs, who entered the game on a three-game losing streak, the 45 points were a season high. That output tied a season high allowed by the Redskins this season.
The 35-point margin of defeat marked Washington’s largest of the season and also gave the Redskins their fifth double-digit loss of the year.
Meanwhile, the 10 points generated by the offense ranked second fewest this season. Griffin completed a season-low 46 percent of his passes, and his 164 passing yards ranked third fewest of the season. Meanwhile, his offense converted only 3 of 15 third-down conversions, and usual workhorse back Alfred Morris mustered only 31 rushing yards.
“I think we were just shooting ourselves in the foot too often, whether it was a bad pass, a dropped ball here or there, or just missed assignments,” Griffin said. “Yes, they played well, but it’s not anything they are necessarily doing. It is what we are doing to ourselves.”
With the stadium less than 10 percent full, 13 minutes left on the clock and Washington down 45-10, Shanahan benched Griffin for the first time in his career and went to Kirk Cousins. But the second-year backup didn’t make a difference. Poor pass protection, errant throws, dropped passes and disjointed play remained the theme.
Meanwhile, a Chiefs team that scored at will in the first half also slogged its way through the second half — a 17-yard run by backup running back Knile Davis early in the fourth quarter serving as their lone score.
Kansas City got off to an impressive start, however, and the Redskins seemed to do their best to assist the visitors.
After getting on the scoreboard first with a 33-yard field goal just 3 minutes 30 seconds into the game, the Chiefs had their way with Washington, capitalizing on short field position and a lifeless defensive effort to score three straight touchdowns.
A 60-yard Dexter McCluster punt return set up a five-play, 13-yard scoring drive capped by a two-yard Jamaal Charles touchdown run. A 40-yard interception return by linebacker Derrick Johnson set up a three-play, 25-yard scoring drive. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe caught a pass on a slant route, got shoulder bumped by defensive backs DeAngelo Hall and Bacarri Rambo and then trotted into the end zone.
Kansas City got the ball in Redskins territory once again — this time thanks to a 24-yard return by McCluster — and then went 41 yards to score on a five-yard pass from Alex Smith to Charles.
Washington’s offense remained ineffective and punted again, and McCluster ripped off a 74-yard return for a touchdown after weaving his way through a group of skidding defenders.
Nine minutes 45 seconds still remained in the second quarter, and the Chiefs already led, 31-0.
Washington’s offense finally mustered a scoring drive — a seven-play, 80-yard march capped by the seven-yard strike from Griffin to Paulsen. But Kansas City snuffed out any hope for potential momentum gain when Quintin Demps returned Kai Forbath’s ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
“I take full responsibility for this game today. I didn’t have the players ready to play,” Shanahan said. “I thought they were ready to play. We did, obviously, horrendous on special teams. We gave up big play after big play. We didn’t tackle the way we normally tackle on defense. Offensively, we did a couple good things, but couldn’t get anything going in the second half. I will put that on me.”