Home Is Where the Dart Is

Josh Brown drills a 49-yard field goal as time expires Sunday to lead the Rams to a stunning 19-17 upset of the Redskins.
By Mike Wise
Monday, October 13, 2008

On a roll, at home, against a football team in utter disarray. Other than dumb luck, Jim Zorn could not have asked for anything more before kickoff.

The Rams were about as close to a gimme as anyone gets in Week 6, the perfect measuring stick to see whether Zorn's road warriors could be viewed as an elite team or one of any number of good teams that plays to the level of their competition.

After St. Louis 19, Washington 17, it's pretty much back-to-earth week in Ashburn.

Some of the loyalists will call this more predictable than inexplicable, but that's letting Zorn and his team off the hook.

They knew the winless Rams were already playing for their season, that they had a bye week under Jim Haslett, their pin-the-ears back defensive coordinator suddenly auditioning for another head job after his boss was fired two weeks ago.

Some kind of letdown against a two-touchdown underdog would have been natural.

Zorn's players knew all that, and they still gave a game away on their home field. It wasn't as galling or as much of a kick in the gut as their last loss at FedEx Field, that 17-16 defeat that left fans streaming for the exits, chanting "Joe Must Go," after Joe Gibbs's double-timeout brainlock -- days after Sean Taylor's death -- seemed to seal Washington's 2007 fate.

But it was bad in its own right, and, yes, Al Saunders was party again to the communal heartache. (Uncle Al returned to town victorious as the Rams' play-caller after two years of having his playbook edited in Washington.)

They didn't have to emasculate the Rams and win by 20 to satisfy a mostly subdued and passive 90,000 fans at FedEx Field. But they did have to find a way to score late, sprinkle some of Zorn's pixie dust in the fourth quarter, and shut the door on defense.

Everything but the door part happened, leading to the belief that this team still needs to develop more of an ornery streak before anyone gets any more giddy about playing in January.

After the game, Zorn alluded to a Rams junk-talking, take-no-guff guard as "a little extra curricular." But if he watches the tape closely, he'll realize his team needed the same kind of nastiness that had St. Louis's Richie Incognito taking on all comers. The man was ready to scrap. The same can't be said of Zorn's team yesterday.

Clinton Portis, one of the few who performed up to his capabilities, summed up this eyesore when he said his teammates have to "continue to play like we are the underdogs, as opposed to playing like we have arrived."

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