Washington Redskins' botched snap on extra point vs. Bucs captures an era

Two missed field goals and a botched snap on an extra point in the final seconds ruin the Redskins on a cold, wet day at FedEx Field.
By Thomas Boswell
Monday, December 13, 2010; 12:01 AM

With one botched extra-point snap with nine seconds to play, the Redskins created a moment that captures an entire era.

As soon as Nick Sundberg's high snap slipped through the hands of holder Hunter Smith, you had to gasp. A game that seemed certain to go to overtime had suddenly turned into a 17-16 gift win for the Bucs. Now, Tampa Bay, you've seen the Redskins as we have known and endured them for so long.

Unless you actually play for the Redskins, you probably had to scream, laugh or just watch slack-jawed in awe at the single most unfathomably amateurish and embarrassing blunder in the last 18 years of gaffe-, gall- and guffaw-filled Washington football.

That decisive play - a snap that wasn't terribly bad and a muffed hold that wasn't all that easy - combined the cruel and unfair, but also seemed perfect and symbolic, too. It captured everything the Redskins have promised to be but then, for almost two decades, usually have failed to deliver.

The sublime and the ridiculous, usually poles apart, occasionally collide to produce the sublimely ridiculous. The Redskins are artists in the form. Yet, somehow, they never flip the script and accidentally stumble into the ridiculously sublime.

"The years come and go. The players come and go," said Redskins veteran Santana Moss, the tiny, tough receiver whose six-yard touchdown catch on fourth and goal on a pass from Donovan McNabb, with the game at stake, seemed to have capped a classic 75-yard, game-saving drive. "We're blessed 'cause we keep getting opportunities. But what's opportunity when you can't come through?"

What indeed? Especially in the last dozen years under owner Daniel Snyder, when vast financial resources, usually incinerated in some farce like the Albert Haynesworth escapade, have constantly bought the Redskins the appearance of opportunity, the reality has been disappointment, usually served with a sauce of disbelief.

"We've got some type of bad luck going around here," said Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo, who's only needed two seasons to pick up the black-cloud vibe.

This high snap brought up harsh memories of the 1999 season, when Dan Turk's bad snap on a 51-yard last-second field goal attempt (against the Bucs and in a one-point game) knocked Washington out of the playoffs in the second round.

Was that when the bad karma started? Turk died of cancer within a year of that snap and his widow was angry that so few Redskins representatives visited him after his cancer diagnosis, even though they lived near Redskins headquarters.

That, however, is only one slice of the wide range of local response to these years of frustration. On Sunday, in a cold drizzle, a paid attendance of 66,124 was announced, so perhaps only 25,000 seats were empty on a day so lousy that anybody could be excused for ignoring another losing team.

As kicker Graham Gano dead-hooked two awful field goal attempts from 34 and 24 yards, then almost missed an extra point, most of the crowd stayed. When the Redskins got a delay-of-game penalty at the Bucs 2-yard line with 20 seconds left in the half, perhaps squandering four points, no insurrection of boos erupted.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company