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A Lack of Focus Brings Strong Run to a Grinding Halt

By Dan Steinberg and Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 13, 2008

Several Redskins veterans insisted over the past week their team would not lose focus or overlook the Rams, despite rampant local chatter about the likelihood of a 7-1 start to the season. But after yesterday's game, Clinton Portis suggested his team had in fact listened to the sudden praise. He said practices on Thursday and Friday were excessively relaxed, that Coach Jim Zorn needed to "get on" players, and that the Redskins had more focus when they had been regarded as underdogs.

"I think it was loose. It was people smiling everywhere: us, coach," Portis said of the past week. "You know, we overlooked a team that came here ready to play. And honestly, we've been the underdogs since I've been here, and we came out with fight every game we was the underdog. Win, lose or draw, we came out to fight. So for us to expect St. Louis not to come out and fight, I don't know how we let them shock us like that."

Despite an early-season schedule that has included some of the NFL's best, every Washington game has been decided by single-digits. Five of their six games have been decided by a touchdown or less; only the opener against the New York Giants failed to follow that pattern.

"We're playing up and down to our competition week in and week out," Portis said. "We come out and play tough games, and every game shouldn't be tough.

"You know, it's some games that we really should come in and dominate. I think this was one of those games. . . . I think it's a focus thing. You know, the previous four games the focus was there. We knew that we couldn't go out and put ourselves in that position. We come out today, and all of the sudden you start to get patted on the back, and you feel like you're a better team."

Incognito Makes a Scene

Rams guard Richie Incognito seemed baffled after the game as to why he was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with just seconds remaining and the Rams on the 17-yard line, about to kick a game winning field goal. The penalty forced St. Louis back to the 32 and forced place kicker Josh Brown to make a much longer field goal, which he did.

"I can not explain it," Incognito said.

He said as Rams quarterback Marc Bulger kneeled to run out the clock, setting up the field goal, several Redskins players tried to swat the ball from his hands, causing a minor scrum between players from both teams. Incognito said running back Stephen Jackson was trying to pull him away from the scuffle when the flag was dropped.

Rams Coach Jim Haslett said the officials told him Incognito was penalized for swearing.

Several Redskins said Incognito blurred the lines of fair play, drawing their ire on more than one occasions.

"He could have got several penalties, several personal fouls," linebacker London Fletcher said. "That's his M.O. He does a lot of late hitting, grabbing face masks, things like that."

Betts Hurts His Knee

Running back Ladell Betts, who sprained his knee in the fourth quarter, finished with 32 yards on seven rushes.

"I need to find out if I have to get an MRI," Betts said. "I just remember waiting to set up my blocks, one of the guys was pulling for me, and right when I went to plant and cut, I think I got hit at the same time.

"My knee just felt like it buckled. It felt awkward. I knew something wasn't right."

Staff writer Jason LaCanfora contributed to this report.

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