For the NFL's worst, it always gets better when they play the Redskins

The Redskins fall behind early, come back to take the lead in the third quarter, but fade down the stretch in a 30-16 loss to the Rams.
By Thomas Boswell
Monday, September 27, 2010; 12:35 AM


If Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb had any doubts about what they were getting into, now they know.

Entering Sunday, St. Louis had lost 28 of its previous 29 games. Until the Redskins got here, Rams fans were so depressed that when they tailgated, they took turns sitting next to the exhaust pipe. Now it's Redskins fans who'll need to be talked off the ledge.

The Redskins team that lost, 30-16, to lowly St. Louis is the same entitled bunch that, year after year, produces a couple of stinkers like this. Like clockwork, Washington fans are driven crazy by the Redskins ' ability to play their worst against the NFL's most rotten franchises. In a sense, it's the Redskins' only form of consistency.

For years, we've seen these Redskins lose to franchises that are in the midst of horrific multi-year catastrophes. In part, it's because the Redskins receive so much more attention and adulation than they have earned in the last 19 years that the players are seduced into thinking they are significantly better than they are. Maybe all of us, the whole town, is partly to blame. But the team's internal culture of big salaries, fat reputations and past glories (often in other towns), makes it an ideal upset victim.

When a 6-10 team thinks it's a 10-6 team, this is what happens.

We've seen it over and over. But Shanahan and McNabb haven't. If they want to know their first task, as coaching motivator and quarterback leader, it's to eradicate pestilential losses like this one.

"Leave it to us to give teams [like this] a breath of fresh air," said defensive end Phillip Daniels, who blocked a 21-yard Rams field goal attempt. "This has happened year after year. We've all got to look in the mirror."

As is so often the case in these periodic Redskins debacles, Washington fell behind quickly, 14-0, then fought back, even leading briefly at 16-14 in the third quarter. But by then they'd given the team with the long history of nightmares that crucial sliver of hope that this is their "any given Sunday."

By the end, the Rams had dominated time of possession (34:50 to 25:10), outgained the Redskins 365-349 and seen No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford come close to McNabb in passing yardage (235 to 236) and quarterback rating (79.7 to 78.1).

"I don't know whether you want to call it playing down to the level of the opponent, but whatever you call it, we definitely do that against teams that haven't won in a long time," said linebacker London Fletcher, who led the team with nine tackles. "The Rams haven't won at home in [almost]two years. They haven't scored 30 points in a long time [only once since '07]," added Fletcher. "We all have ownership in this."

That ownership has grown into quite the house of horrors, which the Redskins possess free and clear after many painful mortgage payments. Two years ago, the Redskins lost to these same Rams (on their way to 3-13), then went to Cincinnati in December and lost to the 1-11-1 Bengals to blow up any remaining playoffs hopes in a season that Washington had started 6-2.

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