KANSAS CITY, Mo.
The Redskins make you talk to yourself. One minute you're sitting there sanely watching a football game, and the next minute, you're doing hand puppets. "This team's pretty good," one hand says. "Shut up," the other hand says. "No, they're not."
The argument went on like that, back and forth, all afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs. Just when you thought the Redskins were coming together, they fell apart. For every big play, there was a calamity. The terms "give-aways" and "take-aways" had new meaning on every series -- each time they gave themselves a chance to win, they did something to take it away.
It started on the opening drive. The Redskins moved swiftly downfield at Arrowhead Stadium, and were staring at the end zone from the 7-yard line. "Surely, they can score from there," one hand said.
"Shut up," the other said. "Have you seen their stats in the red zone? They're 27th in the league."
Just then, Mark Brunell reared back to pass, the ball cocked in his hand. Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen reached out and knocked it from Brunell's grasp, like a hapless parody of the old Statue of Liberty play. The Chiefs recovered on their own 18.
"See?" the other hand said.
Later, Brunell would ruefully say he should have moved up in the pocket. Had he just taken that step, a split-second earlier he could have delivered the ball to Chris Cooley wide open in the end zone. "We had something there," Brunell said. "If I could've done it again, I'd step up in the pocket. I think we'd walk away with a TD."
But as Santana Moss said, "Shoulda, woulda, coulda don't mean anything."
The Redskins are talking to themselves, just like the rest of us. At the moment, they don't seem to know quite who they are. But they need to decide what their personality is going to be this season, because at the moment it's split. At times, they are a tough, disciplined team that beats the opponent in every statistical category and tangibly improves every week. At others, they are a mistake-prone and self-sabotaging one that seems in danger of steadily deteriorating from here on in.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot," Renaldo Wynn said. "Obviously, we missed a lot of opportunities. It's been a tale of the tape ever since we started."
"I can't tell you how frustrating it is," Brunell says. "We've got a good team."