There's No Need to Panic -- Well, Maybe There Is

Gleeful Cowboys gather around Patrick Crayton after he scored a touchdown on a short pass in front of Sean Taylor, who pulls himself up off the ground.
Gleeful Cowboys gather around Patrick Crayton after he scored a touchdown on a short pass in front of Sean Taylor, who pulls himself up off the ground. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Michael Wilbon
Monday, September 18, 2006

IRVING, Tex. -- Had Joe Gibbs tried to get into the specifics of all that is broken, he would have needed a DVD player and three or four hours. So in the immediate aftermath of getting backhanded by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, Gibbs stuck with a more general diagnosis when he said, "We've got to find a way to fix a bunch of things."

Well, they've got one week to get it right. Next Sunday in Houston is it.

Don't get me wrong, I hate dramatic discussions this early in the season because every year we see teams limp into the season, get hot after Halloween and bolt right into the playoffs. The Redskins, in fact, did it last season.

Still, a whole lot will be riding on a second trip to Texas, to Houston, because the annual trip to Dallas was a big bust. The Redskins collapsed.

The defense was bad, the offense was worse. The players and the coaches ought to be falling over one another to claim blame because the Cowboys are nothing special. In fact, the Dallas Cowboys were there to be had late in the third quarter.

A turnover produced by Sean Taylor put the Redskins in Dallas territory. They were trailing only by a touchdown, 17-10 at the time. The Redskins weren't playing particularly well, but they were at least knocking heads.

You could hear and feel the crackle of the Redskins' hits on Cowboys receivers and ball carriers who were starting to flinch and drop passes. A touchdown then would have tied it and even a field goal could have given the Redskins the lift they needed to put a reeling team on its backside.

But Mark Brunell lofted a pass that Roy Williams intercepted at the goal line. And instead of being tied or within four, the Redskins then let the Cowboys march 99 yards on just six plays to turn a tight game into a rout.

Since the Redskins can't beat anybody their own size just yet, maybe they can get it right against the sorry, no-account Texans next week. They had better. Like the Texans, the Redskins are winless. Like the Texans, the Redskins (surprisingly) can't stop anybody when it counts, and certainly can't manufacture any offense. Like the Texans, the Redskins kill themselves with penalties and mistakes, small and large. As bad as 0-2 is, 0-3 is much worse.

Yes, it's a long season, but it's not a baseball season or a basketball season. The Redskins already are reduced to hoping they can avoid disaster and we haven't even reached autumn yet. "We have to go to work and somehow, some way figure out how we can win a football game and get ourselves" on track, Gibbs said.

It's not like the Redskins stink. They're not Oakland bad or Detroit bad.

They're just not any good, not yet anyway. If you didn't know Al Saunders's body of work over the last five years, you would think the Redskins' offense is being coordinated by Colonel Sanders. Two weeks in, it's just a bunch of dump-offs to the backs and quick screens. Brunell hasn't thrown one of those rainbow deep balls in two weeks. You know how the Raiders (well, at least the old Raiders) like to play vertical football? The Redskins and Cowboys are both playing horizontal football. Nobody goes down the field despite having cheetahs lined up wide.

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