By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Washington Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers read the play perfectly.
He recognized the formation from film study, knowing the Pittsburgh Steelers used it to run a variety of pass plays, from slants, to outs, to post patterns. But when wideout Hines Ward lined up and made the slightest of leans, Rogers knew an out route was coming.
"If he out and upped me, he out and up," Rogers said. "It was just taking a chance really."
So as Ward broke out of his pattern toward the sideline, Rogers jumped inside to head off Ben Roethlisberger's pass, with nothing but green grass separating the fourth-year veteran from the end zone.
Part of the FedEx Field crowd rose in anticipation of the interception and the likely touchdown return, but the pass instead slipped through Rogers's hands, innocently falling to the cornerback's feet.
In the midst of his best season as a professional, one in which he has played at a Pro Bowl level, Rogers had once again squandered an opportunity at a sure interception -- and this time a sure touchdown -- continuing a trend that has haunted the first-round pick his entire career.
The play would prove pivotal in the Redskins' 23-6 loss, with Pittsburgh blocking a punt minutes later to turn a 6-3 deficit into a 10-6 advantage at the half, and Washington never recovered.
"Just catches I got to make," said Rogers, who added he looked high for the ball and was surprised by the low pass. "That's a game-changing play, and to get to the next level of where I want to be it's not just shutting these receivers down and breaking up passes. Catches like that, that's game-changers. Make a big difference."
Though Rogers has been stellar, often drawing the top wide receiver, his tendency to drop interceptions has continued.
It was one of several mistakes for Rogers, who was also flagged for a pass interference that set up a Steelers' field goal in the first half. And Santonio Holmes beat Rogers on a five-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Both of those plays, Rogers said, were somewhat unavoidable.
On the penalty, Rogers said he lost the ball. "Can't do much about that," he said. "Guess I got there a little early. I don't know."
And Rogers said he positioned himself inside on a blitz call that resulted in Holmes's touchdown catch, giving the receiver an open lane to the outside for a score.
But the dropped interception was undoubtedly critical, the key play in what would be followed by the game-changing punt block.
After the game, Coach Jim Zorn said the team had specifically discussed securing interceptions instead of worrying about returns. And defensive coordinator Greg Blache also pointed to the interception as a crucial missed opportunity.
"We dropped an interception again, which was huge," Blache said. "I don't know if it was seven points but it was great field position. And if you're gonna beat a good football team you have to make those plays. If you want to be a great defense you have to make those plays. You can't just keep going, 'My bad, maybe next time.' We've got to be able to make those plays to get to where we want to get to."
For Rogers, the drop was a forgettable moment in an otherwise standout season. But he said he wouldn't dwell on it and would instead take the bye week to recover and prepare for the Dallas Cowboys.
"I can't let that just get me down," Rogers said. "You can look at it both ways. That drop is a game-changer no doubt, you can't deny that. But that was an early drop in the first half. We still had a lot of football to go. . . . If anybody want to sit back and say, 'Carlos's drop, that was the game.' No, it wasn't. We had a lot of football to play. And if we are going to sit and harp on that we'll never get to the next level."