The Redskins Dig Deep, but Don't Dig Themselves Deeper

By Thomas Boswell
Monday, October 5, 2009

On Saturday, coordinator Greg Blache met with his Redskins defense and almost came to tears with an emotional plea to their pride, even to their manhood. The hard-bark Blache, who had taken blame for last week's loss to the Lions, hit every old-school button from his 39 years as a coach. "After he was finished, you were ready to run through a brick wall," one veteran said.

Later, that evening, London Fletcher, the heart and brains of the defense that is at the Redskins' core, gave an eyes-blazing speech at a team meeting to which coaches were invited if they did not speak. He recalled the togetherness and intensity that defined the Redskins less than two years ago when, after the murder of Sean Taylor, they made a long, unlikely run to reach the playoffs.

"London gave a great speech. It brought back that old feeling -- no pointing fingers, everybody coming together," fullback Mike Sellers said. "We've got each other's back. All we've got is each other. The pressure can't get no worse than it was this week."

Then the Redskins went out Sunday in front of 86,412 and, against Tampa Bay, played a first half so putrid they trailed one of the worst teams in the NFL 10-0, and were booed off the field at intermission with a waterfall of jeers almost unequaled in the long annals of Washington's love affair with the Redskins.

At halftime, the Redskins did not talk. "There was no yelling at each other," Sellers said.

"We could have come apart, but we didn't," Fletcher said.

In that bleak moment, even Coach Jim Zorn said he doubted himself. "I thought, 'What else can go wrong with what I'm calling? It's on me. I'm the play-caller,' " Zorn said. "But everybody maintained their poise. No one questioned the game plan. Yet I questioned it."

Then everything changed. Not a lot. Not quickly, but enough.

For how long, who knows? But long enough to come back and beat the Bucs, 16-13, that's for sure. Long enough to fill a locker room with shakes of the head and mutual gratitude. Despite playing four genuinely ugly games, the Redskins had escaped with a 2-2 record and a season that is not yet too badly damaged.

"I was encouraged by our players. There was nothing that resembled giving up. Although I was taking a few deep breaths," said Zorn, who is as refreshingly candid and out of the rigid NFL mold as any Redskins coach since Steve Spurrier. "We had committed men after last week's demoralizing loss."

After losing to the Lions and barely beating two of the NFL's weakest teams at FedEx by a total of five points -- 9-7 and 16-13 -- it is reasonable to wonder if this will be even a winning team. But at least it's a bunch that might have rediscovered its heart.

"We needed this bad," Fletcher said. "We've been maligned. Our defensive coordinator was under fire.


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