Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Redskins even struggle at showing heart

By Tracee Hamilton
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not all the news was bad for the Redskins in Sunday's 31-17 loss to Atlanta. Those second-half scoring drives were the best I've seen them put together this season -- nice blocking by the offensive line, nice mix of plays, nice use of the clock, nice work by a battered Jason Campbell. I don't know who called which play -- Sherman Lewis, Sherman Smith, Sherman Hemsley or Shermy from Peanuts -- and with those results, I don't care.

However . . . there's always a "however" with this team. This week's "howevers" were many and varied. It took a rant-fest at halftime to inspire the offensive line. The normally stalwart defense stumbled in the second half, when the offense needed it most. And there was a lack of fundamentals and discipline that was appalling.

Other than that . . .

Let's start with the offense, which had a dreadful first half. Five sacks? Oy. So at halftime the coaches resorted to screaming and ranting and raving. It's hard to blame them; Redskins fans have been screaming and ranting and raving all season. But why in God's name is it necessary to yell and scream at (well-) paid professionals to man up at halftime in Week 8, coming off a bye week against a team with a short work week?

"I don't know," said center Casey Rabach, who takes a beating on the field every week and then stands in and takes questions as well, week after week. "I would hope not, no. We're all professionals; we're all men. Each man's got to be held accountable to himself, first and foremost. Whatever it takes to go out there and win is what we need to do. Just go out there and play good football, that's what we need to do."

The Redskins were 2-5 and had just finished a wretched first half. I get why the coaches were yelling. But is it too much to expect that the Redskins play two entire halves of football, once a week, for 16 weeks, with one week off? Is that really too much to ask?

"We all felt that we were in need of some sort of injection of purpose here," Coach Jim Zorn said Monday. Offensive line coach Joe Bugel "did a very good job in our halftime meeting. He was getting after it pretty good. Then I got to talk to the whole team, and I've got a quarterback voice as well, so we did what we felt like we had to at that time. But that's not something that we would do every week, or it's not a need every week.

"We were all emotional because we all felt the score could be a lot closer than it was. That's the disappointing part. And the thing that really" -- and here he thumps the podium with his fist -- "can irritate all of us today as we watch the video is that we did accomplish some things in the second half."

That's a lot of Zorn-speak, but he summed up his feelings -- and mine -- quite nicely: "I can be really excited [about] the fact that they responded, but I want the response on Play 1, not on Play 30."

Exactly. At least the offensive line did respond; Campbell might not have survived two more quarters like the first two. I don't see a lot of giving up on this team. I do see a lack of discipline and fundamentals, and unlike the not-playoff-caliber roster and the escalating war between the franchise and its fans, that has to be laid at Zorn and the coaching staff's door.

LaRon Landry's out-of-bounds hit on quarterback Matt Ryan was just ridiculous -- but not unique. We've seen this kind of bush league move from Landry and DeAngelo Hall before. Sometimes a defender is locked in and launched and can't stop himself, or can't adequately judge the distance to the sideline. This was not one of those times. Flag, 15 yards.

Then Hall decided to "rescue" Landry from a sideline full of Hall's former teammates and coaches, from whom he did not part on terrific terms. Instead of grabbing Landry and getting out of there, he became entangled in pushing and shoving. (Opinions differ on whom was more responsible, the Falcons or Hall.) But where were his teammates and coaches? The minute it was obvious Hall was involved in something on the opposing sideline, someone should have jumped in and pulled him out.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company