In Big Picture for Washington Redskins Organization, Focus Disappeared Long Ago

It was a rough day for Redskins fans as the Lions ended their 19-game losing streak.
It was a rough day for Redskins fans as the Lions ended their 19-game losing streak. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Thomas Boswell
Monday, September 28, 2009

DETROIT The NFL has seen many more important defeats than the one that befell the professional football franchise from Washington on Sunday at Ford Field. However, in the league's history, there have been few more embarrassing defeats than the Lions' 19-14 win over Washington, breaking a 19-game losing streak.

For the Redskins, it's not as bad as losing a title game 73-0. Nowhere close. Then they were playing for honor. But in the long annals of the whole league, not just the Redskins, this one is hard to top for gall.

When you're one of the most valuable franchises in American sports, when you have a 70-year tradition of great teams and Hall of Famers, when the Lions are -- among all NFL teams -- the one that you always beat up, you're not supposed to get whipped, especially when everyone spends an entire week screaming, "The Lions will beat 'em."

After this game, the Washington locker room truly was a sorry sight. The Redskins had spent three hours making the most eloquent possible case -- against themselves.

After all the strident warnings that they might be upset and the questions of whether they were ready to play, they fell behind 13-0 and were outgained on the ground in the first half 116-0. And the Lions won despite having their best running back, Kevin Smith (101 yards on 16 carries), knocked out of the game early in the third quarter.

Would the Redskins play nervously, as though all the criticism of the team and its ownership had distracted them? Would they act like a team that was booed after it won an ugly 9-7 home opener the previous Sunday? Would they perform like a team that has endured the joke over and over all month: The fans should sue the team, not the other way around?

"I just don't really know what happened today," said stunned quarterback Jason Campbell, acknowledging a "weird" atmosphere, where it seemed that a Redskins team on an awful run of luck -- much of it self-inflicted -- was destined to trump the Lions' bleak recent history.

Twice, the ball simply slipped out of Campbell's hands for fumbles as he stood in the pocket, untouched. He recovered both. And had a 27-of-41 passing day for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Yet a dark cloud -- some particularly Redskins blend of outward overconfidence and inward self-doubt -- hung over the game.

"Everybody said we were going to lose this game. Some guys maybe started to believe it," defensive tackle Phillip Daniels said.

Perhaps only one thing is almost certain after a defeat this shocking: The Redskins will get better or they will get worse. After a defeat this defining, this painful, things never stay the same, especially when this loss feels like the culmination of a slide that began at 6-2 last season.

"You never know what's going to be our changing point," Campbell said.

"Are we going to bond like brothers or fall apart?" defensive back Fred Smoot said. "I'm going to take it hard, but it's not the end of the world. We can right the ship. The Lions did it.

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