It was supposed to be "Blue Monday" yesterday at Redskin Park, but there was George Allen actually quipping "I didn't expect to go through the season undefeated." Of course, there was still another vote of confidence from Allen for Billy Kilmer.
In the aftermath of the Redskins' 20-17 defeat to the Giants Sunday, Allen admitted "Billy tool: quite a beating." But Allen said Kilmer would start against the surprising Atlanta Falcons Sunday in the home opener at RFK Stadium.
While the Redskins were less than nimble Sunday, Allen was fast afoot trying to avoid the question of why he did not call a time-out in final two minutes (they had two remaining) when the Giants were runing the ball and clock down to set up Joe Danelo's 30-yard game-winning field goal. The game-winning kick, set up by Mike Thomas' fumble, came with three seconds remaining and left the Redskins only with time to return the kickoff.
Allen, not providing a direct answer, said all he was thinking about on the Giants' final possession was trying to force a fumble. "The timeouts," he said, "were not that much of a critical factor."
However, Allen said he unsuccessfully tried to get a time-out, after the Giants called time with seven seconds left, and before Danelo kicked. "We couldn't get it," he said. "It was a matter of communication. When we have Chris (Hanburger) in there, he usually looks right at me for the signal. But we didn't get it . . . and it was my fault and nobody else's."
On his Monday night television show on WJLA-TV-7, Allen finally said flatly, "We probably should have called a time-out. It was probably a mistake not to. But of all the things in the game, it had the least to do with the loss."
Kilmer was limping around yesterday on the same sore left knee that has bothered him all during training camp. He was sacked only twice officially against the Giants, but he was hit hard often after releasing the ball.
"He was hit time after time, and they hit him in the head, the knee and the face," Allen said. "He took a physical beating, and that will slow anybody down.
"But Billy has come through time after time. Yes, he was struggling, but it wasn't all his fault. We weren't executing, we weren't running the ball. You can't blame the quarterback for everything . . . It's easy to find fault. But you have to go with what you believe in over the long haul."
Allen was asked if he had given any thought toward starting Joe Theismann Sunday and having Kilmer work in relief.
"He's (Kilmer) been our No. 1 quarterback," Allen said. "I haven't thought of him in that way at this stage of his career. I don't think he's ready for that role. Billy took us to the playoffs last year. And I think that would be a very discouraging thing for him. So I haven't thought that way, no."
Allen had other things to think about yesterday.
Ron McDole suffered a dislocated left elbow and, while X rays were negative Allen said the period for that sort of injury to heal was usually 10 days to two weeks.
Offensive tackle Terry Hemeling was also limping on a very sore right knee, and Allen said his status for the Atlanta game was also up in the air. Hermeling says he will play.
Allen indicated that Chris Hanburger's availability was very doubtful this week because he will not be released from Arlington Hospital until Wednesday night. "That would only give him two days of practice," Allen said, "and that's not enough."
Allen hinted he may move Pat Fischer back into the starting lineup at left cornerback. "I'll give him more work this week and see how it goes," he said.
Fischer's replacement, Gerard Williams, had one brilliant moment in New Jersey when he broke up a critical fourth-down pass. But he was also the victim on the eight-yard touchdown pass from Jerry Golsteyn to tight end Gary Shirk that tied the game at 17-all late in the fourth quarter.
"I should have been on him," Williams said yesterday. "I don't know if he was held up at the line or not. I'd have to look at the films. But I saw the fake into the line and I took a step that way. By the time I turned back it was all over. But hey, we made a lot of mistakes out there."
Allen second-guessed himself on the decision to go for a touchdown with eight seconds left in the first half instead of trying what would have been a 48-yard field goal attempt.
"I probably should have called a time-out and kicked the field goal," he said. "But my experience over the years has always been that you can get two passes off in eight seconds."
And then he second-guessed his own second-guess.
"I think I'd still do the same thing. I think there was a mix-up with the clock. When I looked up, there were still two seconds left (after a pass to Charley Taylor in the end zone was broken up)." Game officials ruled the time had expired.
Allen also criticized a penalty for illegal use of the hands called on Danny Buggs that nullified Eddie Brown's 51-yard punt return and said he phoned Art McNally, the NFL's director of officiating to complain. But that will hardly help change the outcome of Allen's first season-opening loss in 12 games.
"I have a list of mistakes that long," Allen said, stretching his hands wide apart. "But we'll bounce back, we have in the past. We've got a real challenge now, and that's what it's all about."
He also talked at length about improving concentration and intensity, the need for better practices, the necessity to eliminate all those costly penalties and the fact that Mike Thomas must work himself into shape during the regular season.
The pass rush, he admitted, was still a problem and he said, "We have to get the offense going. If you want to analyze it, we lost the game in the first half. If you can't put points on the board in the first half in this league, you're in trouble."
All this, of course, has been said before. Allen had a new message, as well. He fully agreed the Redskins seemed to be missing some of the old fire and enthusiasm of years past when they got down early in the game.
"We need more leadership within the ball club," he said. "That's very important. After the game starts there are things nobody really has control of. This is where solid leadership from quality guys helps get the other guys going. We haven't really had that."
"There was nothing wrong with our game preparation. We had everything on the button. We felt we could throw against them, but we just didn't execute."
"I'm disappointed. It's not so much the loss at the way we lost. I've always liked to think we have teams that don't beat themselves. We let the other guys make mistakes and then capitalize on them."
"But I think our club has a lot of character. This is a new experience for all of us and I think we'll bounce back because we have to. Atlanta is a better team than the Giants.
"Anybody who can handle L.A. like that I consider to be a good team. I consider L.A. one of the top four teams in football."