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Redskins are as entertaining as they are unpredictable

By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 20, 2010; 12:06 AM

This town wants us dead. I did not come to this conclusion lightly. If the shoveling of 20 feet of snow didn't get you last winter, and you survived the hottest summer since Bob Ryan was in short pants, then this Redskins season may finally do the trick.

They won't be boring, the 2010 Redskins. Last season, you could have slept through most of the games. If you were smart, you did. Or you beat your head against the wall until you were unconscious. The Redskins were nearly unwatchable on their way to a 4-12 season.

This bunch is hardly unwatchable. Unwieldy, unpredictable and still largely unknown, but very watchable. If they're not surprising you with 62-yard completions, they're blowing 17-point leads to lose in overtime, 30-27, to the Houston Texans.

This season will not be for the faint of heart, the small of bladder, the fragile of psyche. The Redskins are improved enough to give almost anyone a game, but still have enough holes to be vulnerable.

What holes? The passing game found its feet Sunday but the running game is almost non-existent, as in 17 carries for 18 yards. When Clinton Portis scored the first offensive touchdown of the season on a one-yard run, it was also the Redskins' first rushing yard of the game - at 12 minutes 33 seconds of the second quarter. Portis had two touchdowns to move into second on the Redskins' all-time rushing touchdowns list, ahead of Stephen Davis, but finished with just 33 yards.

The defense looked impregnable last week but increasingly mortal as Sunday's game went on. The Redskins held the surprising Arian Foster to just 69 yards but allowed quarterback Matt Schaub to complete 38 of 52 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns. The offense's struggle with the running game led to some short drives, including two of less than two minutes each in the fourth quarter, which gave the defense some short rests near the end of the game.

A week ago, in a victorious locker room, Andre Carter did an impression of his mood swings during the final three seconds against the Cowboys - happy face, frowny face, happy face - as Tony Romo completed a touchdown pass that was called back on a holding penalty.

On Sunday night, Carter wasn't doing impressions. He walked slowly to his locker, looking like a head-to-toe charley horse, and gingerly took a seat before trying to explain what it felt like to give up 17 unanswered points.

"It was very disappointing," Carter said. "Nothing can be said. You just have to put it away. Houston's a great team and the momentum shifted on their side and we just couldn't finish it. It's all a learning experience. That's pretty much it."

Any other holes? Well, the return game has improved - there were so many fair catches signaled last season, it looked like Antwaan Randle El was perpetually hailing a cab - but there are still too many penalties on the coverage teams.

Graham Gano is a steadier hand (or foot) than Shaun Suisham, but last week a fumble on the snap cost him an almost certain field goal; this week a 29-yarder in the fourth quarter was blocked.

Gano also got iced by Houston Coach Gary Kubiak on what could have been the game-winning field goal. Using the stupid rule that allows coaches to call timeout just before the ball is snapped on a field goal attempt, Kubiak negated a 52-yarder by Gano. His second attempt was wide right.

"It's fine, you know, it's the way it is," Gano said of the icing call. "It's fine."

What was different about the second attempt?

"The operation was good," he said. "I felt real good about the first one, hit the first one real well. I think maybe I got a little more relaxed on the second one. I thought I was going to make it. Maybe next time not relax as much."

He may have been relaxed, but no one in the crowd was. Last week's finish brought Redskins fans out of their long coma; Sunday's game returned them to pre-2009 form.

Perhaps that was the purpose of this loss - to prevent the area-wide tickle fight that would have accompanied a 2-0 start. If the Redskins had held on and won this game, there would have been nut bags out there mentioning the words "Super" and "Bowl" in the same sentence. Inevitably, someone would have sent a bad "Ode to the Redskins" to the local newspaper, probably rhyming "McNabb" with "taxi cab" or "bar tab." (New Post policy: Manifestos only.)

Last week's victory over Dallas was important for a lot of reasons - as the first Redskins victory for both Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb and as a sorbet to get the taste of last season's vile 16-course buffet out of everyone's mouth - but the Cowboys are vastly overrated so far this season, and the Redskins couldn't manage an offensive touchdown.

When McNabb hit Joey Galloway (combined age of tandem: retirement) for 62 yards in the second quarter Sunday, it was the longest completion of the season for the Redskins, by 38 yards. McNabb racked up 426 yards and got everyone but Albert Haynesworth involved in the passing game, so that issue seems to be solved.

Now all that remains for the Redskins is a short to-do list for next week's game at St. Louis: Fix the holes on offense, defense and special teams. Just three items. No worries.

Their fans have just one assignment before Week 3: defibrillators. Lots of defibrillators.

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