Lions Feel Redskins' Pain
Monday, October 8, 2007
They came into the great canyon of a stadium as one of the most potent offenses in professional football, a blur of receivers scattering across the field in a mass of organized cohesion. In the few short weeks of this NFL season, the Detroit Lions had become a team to be feared. And yet in the strange autumn heat yesterday, they looked befuddled, amazed that everything that had been so good was suddenly falling apart.
For more than three hours, the Washington Redskins poured in on Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna, sending him scrambling in panic. Pass after pass wobbled harmlessly downfield. Two even found the arms of Redskins players. Three other times he simply dropped the ball. By late afternoon, as the thoroughness of their 34-3 victory became clear, the Redskins quietly celebrated on their sideline.
It might have been the most impressive win of this surprising season in which they are 3-1, but the two previous weeks had been hard ones, wrought with the anguish of blowing a 14-point lead to the New York Giants in their most recent game at FedEx Field. So even a dismantling of the league's best passing offense did not elicit wild celebration among the Washington players; they were too worn out for that.
"We know we should have won that game," Washington defensive end Phillip Daniels said of the New York loss.
The Giants game had been a frequent topic of conversation around Redskins Park in the days following the defeat. Because the team had a bye last weekend, players were given a week off. And when they returned, they were faced with constant reminders of their collapse in the New York game. It was discussed in the daily team meetings. It was driven into them on the practice field. Then it came up again yesterday in the locker room as Washington held on to a 14-0 halftime lead.
Daniels could hear the coaches shouting their reminders as he sat in the training room having his separated shoulder pushed back into place: "Don't let down."
And this time, Washington didn't. As Kitna tried frantically to bring the Lions back, he continued to face an onslaught of Redskins. The passes continued to go awry. And he fell constantly to the turf, pounding the ground in frustration.
"That's not what we are," Kitna said afterward. "You give them credit. They did a great job of playing coverage and we couldn't ever crack it."
Yesterday spoke to the ironies of a game that seems built so much on swings of emotion. The loss to the Giants was deflating for a team that had cautiously come to believe it might be decent this year. Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs possibly sensed that and did a strange thing for an NFL coach: He gave the team the following week off. The move stunned Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach-defense who had never been involved with a team that left for the entire bye week. He wondered how the Redskins would react.
He worried they might be distracted, unfocused and unprepared to concentrate on the task of trying to devise a way to stop Kitna and the Detroit offense.
Instead, the opposite happened. The Redskins came back revived.
"You can't fault Joe Gibbs for what he did," Williams said. "We needed to get fresh. We had players who needed a rest. . . . I think he's keeping his thumb on the pulse of this football team."