By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 19, 2005
Once he could throw his way out of the trouble, counting on his right arm to make the impossible heaves even as the wall came down in front of him. But that was back when Drew Bledsoe was a strapping towheaded quarterback from the arid fields of Eastern Washington with the boundless energy of a 24-year-old.
By last night as the dam broke and brought a flood of burgundy and white, it was an old Bledsoe with 13 years of NFL collisions behind him, standing helpless in the Dallas Cowboys' backfield. His line had deceived him, his receivers were covered. There was nowhere for him to go. He was all alone.
And in came the Redskins.
There was Phillip Daniels roaring from Bledsoe's left, dropping his head and driving 290 pounds into the quarterback's spine.
Around the other side stormed Renaldo Wynn and Cedric Killings, collapsing on Bledsoe. His arms dropped. The ball almost dropped.
Suddenly Bledsoe, the best hope of this Cowboys season, looked very, very old.
He folded, collapsed, turned his back like an old, punch-drunk heavyweight unable to do anything but cover up and absorb the beating.
Later, he walked through the Dallas locker room, heaved his giant shoulders after the worst Cowboys loss to Washington and sighed.
He said something about the defense the Redskins played against him, mentioning the cover 2 the defensive backs used on his receivers as well as the pressure from the defensive line. "They did a nice job," he said. He noted that Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense and Bledsoe's head coach in Buffalo, was known for his defensive blitzes.
"But that wasn't the problem today," he added.
No, the problems for Dallas -- once considered a solid wild-card team -- went far beyond a quarterback who was unable to roll his way out of trouble. The Cowboys appeared stunned as they flailed at the parade of Redskins running backs who thundered through their tackles. They couldn't get a hand on Santana Moss or Chris Cooley, who slithered out of their grasp.
As the final seconds ticked down, several Cowboys players sprinted for the tunnel and the refuge of their locker room. Coach Bill Parcells, made a turn toward the same tunnel, then spotted Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs, so he came back, gave a half-hearted handshake and then walked quickly off the field, turning every few steps to look back at the scoreboard as if he couldn't believe the 35-7 defeat that glared back at him.
"We kind of got overwhelmed," he said, conceding perhaps as well as Parcells is capable the vanquishing his team had faced.
A few moments later, he added: "We looked like we couldn't handle it. We just didn't do anything well. We lost our poise."
Someone asked about Bledsoe, about the way the Redskins poured in around the quarterback for seven sacks, a forced fumble and an interception on a pass deflected by Daniels. Parcells stared blankly.
"We didn't block them, we got overwhelmed," he said.
And then Parcells had enough. Two minutes after entering his postgame press conference, the coach left, cutting off a question by saying, "I'm not doing a State of the Union right now."
The Cowboys, who now lose any tiebreaker to the Redskins, appear to be a team in trouble. Already missing star tackle Flozell Adams for the season with a knee injury, they lost right guard Marco Rivera, who was taken off the field on a stretcher then placed, immobilized, into an ambulance after the game. Rivera was expected to be hospitalized overnight with a strained neck. The injury means the plodding Bledsoe will be left with even less protection.
As the points poured down on the Cowboys, the team turned on itself as Parcells snapped at punter Matt McBriar after he shanked his second punt of the day.
Not long before, receiver Keyshawn Johnson was seen shouting at place kicker Billy Cundiff after Cundiff missed a field goal late in the first quarter. Asked what he said, Johnson later snarled, "He needs to make his kicks. There's a headline for you, there's a controversy for you. He needs to make his kicks."
Across the hall, in a tiny interview room, Bledsoe stared as questions came his way after the game. He seemed to be searching for an answer, something that could explain away such humiliation. Instead he came up empty.
Someone asked what Parcells, who spent about 20 seconds in the locker room after the game, had to say.
Bledsoe shook his head.
"He never thought you would see that happen to our team," he said. "I didn't, either. I didn't think this team was capable of losing like that."
Then he paused.
"It happened," he said.
Then, like Parcells, he, too, was gone, moving as slowly through the crowd of reporters in the cramped FedEx Field hallway as be had on the field just minutes before.