By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 29, 2007
FOXBOROUGH, Mass., Oct. 28 -- As Carlos Rogers limped off the field after spraining his right knee in the first quarter Sunday afternoon, the Washington Redskins were left to face the league's top-rated passer, most prolific wide receiver and most productive passing offense without the two cornerbacks who had started Week 1.
The short-term results were disturbing: The New England Patriots passed for 334 yards in their 52-7 victory, the most Washington had yielded in a regular season game in more than a year. The long-term ramifications should become more clear on Monday, when Rogers will undergo an MRI exam on his knee. A team spokesman said Rogers's medial collateral ligament had a "significant sprain," and that there was also concern about the cornerback's anterior cruciate ligament, meaning the injury could be considerably more severe.
Rogers and fellow cornerback Fred Smoot had nursed injuries over the past week, but both had said they expected to play on Sunday. Rogers started despite an existing knee injury, but during the Patriots' first drive his leg gruesomely buckled underneath his body. He did not return, and was gone from the locker room by the time it was opened to reporters.
"I'm most worried right now about Carlos," Coach Joe Gibbs said after the game. "We'll just have to see what it looks like" on Monday.
Smoot, meantime, tested his ailing right hamstring before the game, and coaches and trainers then determined that he would not play. But after the game, Smoot said he had wanted to play and thought he was ready.
"They didn't let me," he said. "It's always someone else's call."
Smoot already missed two early-season games with hamstring problems; he aggravated the right hamstring against the Arizona Cardinals last week and was forced to leave that game. He said he didn't know whether he would be cleared to play next week against the New York Jets, but said he was "tired of testing it out."
"I'm going to wait and see what someone tells me," he said of his future availability. "I don't know. I don't know."
With both Rogers and Smoot out, the Redskins turned to veteran Shawn Springs and second-year pro Leigh Torrence, who had played mostly on special teams this season. Safety Pierson Prioleau, who plays in nickel packages, said he was involved in more man coverage than in previous games, but said that might have been because of the game plan more than the injuries.
David Macklin, who had been inactive for four of Washington's previous six games, was the lone remaining cornerback on the active roster.
"It hurts anytime you don't have your full squad, but that's why we have 53 players on the team," Prioleau said. "Guys have to step up. Losing Carlos and Smoot, we'd definitely love to have them out there, but we still need to go out and do some things better as a team."
Still, the secondary was not particularly to blame for Sunday's problems, which afflicted every segment of the team, and much of New England's offensive success came on short passes that Redskins players and coaches said were virtually running plays. New England's longest pass play was a 35-yard deep route to Randy Moss in the fourth quarter, but Moss -- who leads the league in receiving yards -- had just three catches for 47 yards. New England quarterback Tom Brady instead concentrated on dissecting the Redskins' defense underneath; Wes Welker had nine catches and running backs Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney combined for nine more.
"We came in here wanting them to earn every single inch, meaning don't give up explosive plays," said Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense. "We did not let them have things cheap and fast; it's just they were able to execute and we weren't."
Williams said he did not know whether Smoot would be available against the Jets and hadn't had a chance to speak with Rogers before the latter left the locker room.
Smoot and Rogers "are guys that are more physical in some places, and the experience that they have also helps you in a lot of ways, but there's no excuse for that," Williams said. "We've got to find ways to get it done regardless of who's out there."