Disappointed Redskins try to trudge on
Beaten up and beaten down, the players take no solace in third consecutive near-win

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Quarterback Jason Campbell called it the "strangest" game in which he'd played. Running back Rock Cartwright said it was the most "disheartening." And linebacker London Fletcher described it as the "most interesting."

And now they have to move on, take stock of their wounds from a 33-30 overtime loss to the unbeaten New Orleans Saints and travel to Oakland to face a Raiders team that has upset Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in two of the past three weeks.

"It's just inside," defensive end Andre Carter said after the game. "There is no secret, there is no secret remedy to it. It's just to continue to be driven. And we are driven, don't get me wrong, it's just that one additional piece."

The Redskins will again begin their workweek with uncertainty surrounding several key roster spots. Coach Jim Zorn isn't sure whether he'll have the services this weekend of running back Clinton Portis, fullback Mike Sellers, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth or cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

There's also a bit of a cloud gathering over the place kicker position. Shaun Suisham missed a 23-yard field goal against the Saints that would have given Washington a 10-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. The kick went wide right, and the Saints tied the game in regulation and won it in overtime.

The team planned to audition kickers on Tuesday. Among those expected to kick for coaches at Redskins Park are Nick Novak and Graham Gano.

Novak is a University of Maryland product who has bounced around the NFL, including two stints with the Redskins in 2005 and '06. Gano is a rookie out of Florida State who was cut by the Baltimore Ravens in training camp and spent the past couple of months with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League.

Suisham is 18 of 21 on field goal attempts this year, and Zorn said Monday the auditions don't necessarily "mean that he's cleaning out his locker."

Following the Saints' loss, Zorn expressed some concern over the snap on the play, and long snapper Ethan Albright took responsibility for the missed field goal. But on Monday, Zorn laid the miss squarely on Suisham's shoulders.

"It was a decent snap. It was an excellent hold. And it was a poor kick," Zorn said.

The team, meantime, could learn more about Portis's status Tuesday night. Portis, who suffered a concussion at Atlanta on Nov. 8 and hasn't played since, traveled to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center with a team trainer on Monday for a second round of tests.

Portis first met with Pittsburgh specialists on Nov. 20. Pending the results -- and if Portis receives clearance to return -- he could be in the backfield at Oakland for the first time in five games. Otherwise, the Redskins could again rely heavily on a rotation centered around Cartwright and Quinton Ganther, who combined for 85 yards on 21 carries against the Saints.

"I like the way all the running backs are giving effort," Zorn said. "It's one of those deals where, by committee, we're doing a pretty good job. I think each guy in his own right is going as hard as he can. I think we're getting better as we go down here. The guys are feeling more and more comfortable getting themselves up the field."

The other uncertain piece of the backfield is Sellers, who coughed up the fumble in overtime against the Saints that led to New Orleans's game-winning field goal. Zorn wasn't certain whether Sellers was hurt on that particular play, but the fullback suffered a serious thigh contusion late in the game. The team was worried about compartment syndrome, the same affliction that sidelined Jason Taylor a season ago, and Sellers spent Sunday night at a local hospital as a precautionary measure. He was released Monday morning.

Also, Zorn said Haynesworth aggravated his ankle sprain, and Hall's status is also uncertain for this weekend's game. Hall has missed has missed the past two games because of a knee sprain. "I know he'd love to play against the Raiders. . . . It's all about how his knee is responding," Zorn said.

Despite mounting injuries, the Redskins put themselves in position to hand the Saints their first loss, which offered little consolation for players. "Win or lose -- that is all that matters," center Casey Rabach said. "There are no moral victories in the NFL. We lost."

Even though Campbell and wide receiver Devin Thomas both posted career bests and the offense scored more than points than in any of the Zorn's 28 games as head coach, the end result was the same as the previous two weeks: The defense relinquished a fourth quarter lead and the Redskins lost to a playoff-caliber team.

"Stats don't matter when you lose a football game," Cartwright said. "The main stat is the W and we didn't get that so all the other stuff doesn't matter. Congratulations to Devin, he had a great game. Jason had a great game. But at the end of the day, we wanted the win, and we didn't get that so nothing else matters."

Said safety Reed Doughty, "I don't know what to attribute it to, but really good teams find ways to win these games and we're not doing it now."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company