By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The physical bruises on the Washington Redskins' secondary were considerable. After last night's 19-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field, the sight of Shawn Springs, who did not play as he recovers from abdominal surgery, was compounded by nickel back Pierson Prioleau hobbling past him on crutches after what could be season-ending injury to his right knee on the opening kickoff.
But the bruises to the psyche of the remaining members of the Redskins' secondary were of equal if not greater weight.
During the week, Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said he was curious to see how his team responded to the first game of the season, especially after a checkered preseason that left many questions. But nearly every player in the Redskins' secondary made mistakes.
Incumbent right cornerback Carlos Rogers spent the evening walking the cornerback's tightrope. He was beaten for a touchdown on a jump-ball fade route by wide receiver Marcus Robinson and breathed sighs of relief when on third and eight from the Minnesota 41 in the second quarter, wide receiver Troy Williamson beat him down the sideline but dropped a sure touchdown pass at the 15-yard line. But in the fourth, Rogers lost the biggest battle of the night with Williamson, unable to wrap him up short of a first down on a key third and nine with 2 minutes 50 seconds left that would have forced a punt and given the Redskins possession with less than three minutes to play.
Left cornerback Kenny Wright, starting in place of Springs and heavily motivated playing against the team that drafted him in the fourth round in 1999, was relatively unchallenged in the first half. But on a critical third and seven from the Minnesota 47, he was called for holding. It was penalty that kept the Redskins' defense on the field. Six plays later, Robinson beat Rogers for the touchdown that gave Minnesota a 16-13 lead.
Mike Rumph, in the game on third and seven from the Minnesota 48 on the Vikings' first series, was burned for a 46-yard pass from former Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson to Williamson that set up the Vikings' first touchdown.
Safety Adam Archuleta was beaten in the first quarter on a goal-line touchdown run by Chester Taylor when guard Steve Hutchinson blocked him out of the play, and later in the fourth quarter he was called for a face-mask penalty in the fourth quarter.
"They were going to call it tight. We knew that," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "We knew the rules of engagement. The penalties, the penalties killed us."
Then there was free safety Sean Taylor, who was called for two key 15-yard personal foul penalties in the final 11 minutes. The first -- an unnecessary roughness penalty called when Taylor hit Robinson down the sideline on third and eight from his 8 -- gave the Vikings field position that allowed them to escape the shadow of their own end zone. The latter penalty came when Rogers was beaten by Williamson on that critical third down for 13 yards. Taylor's penalty turned the play into a 28-yard gain.
"I'm not an official. I'm just a player," Taylor said. "I can't call the game. That's what they're there for. There was a call called, and they called the personal foul."
Taylor said he did not discuss the call with the officials. The play angered the Redskins even more later in the game, when in the final seconds Redskins wide receiver Brandon Lloyd was hit on a play similar to the one that netted Taylor a 15-yard penalty.
"I didn't ask," Taylor said. "After they call a call it's not like you're going to talk him out of throwing the flag. Once they throw the flag, it's pretty much determined."
The penalties to the secondary, defensive players said, especially in the final quarter, effectively doomed the Redskins.
"The first game is always the hardest one because you never know what people are going to come with," said defensive tackle Phillip Daniels. "But penalties are the things that killed us more than anything. You take away all those penalties, and it's a different ballgame. Maybe we win."