Among the things the Redskins did well Sunday was dress.Following the 38-20 victory over the woe-begone 49ers, the Redskins broke all records in the NFL shower-and-dress. They have an extra day off this week because the next game is Monday. So everyone, it seemed, was catching a plane to Tahiti or St. Tropez or, at least, to Takoma Park.
Dave Butz didn't like it.
"Here we are," the Redskins defensive tackle said 45 minutes after the game. He swept an arm around the locker room. "Just about three or four of us."
Butz asked a reporter, "Do you have any questions? Like, 'Where in the hell is everybody?'"
Professional sports teams hang aroundthe locker room a lot. They talk to reporters, go on television, blow-dry their hair. The losers dress quickly, as if leaving the scene of an accident, while winners linger, savoring sweet victory.
Not the Redskins this time.
"I've never seen ballplayers vanish so fast," Butz said. "Makes you wonder."
"Why guys need to take a vacation in mid season."
Well, why do they?
"Draw your own conclusions," Butz said with a wink.
An old newspaperman's adage reminds us to never assume anything except a 4 1/4 percent mortgage. So no one is assuming from Bitz's coy remarks that the big guy is knocking his teammates. But, as that old sportswriter Hank Thoreau said, "Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk."
And Butz, for one, say trout everywhere Sunday. If the easy victory was reassuring to the Skinmaniacs for its display of that marvelous antique quarterback, Billy Kilmer . . . if Danny Buggs' 35-yard sprint with a short pass was the Big Play so long missing . . . well, Dave Butz saw circumstantial evidence that the victory meant little.
"This game just means we've got more work to do, defensively and offensively," he said. "The 49ers had won only one game, and we certainly weren't overpowering them. We've got to do a lot more work if we want to be the dominating force we were earlier in the season.
"Back then, you could look up at the scoreboard in the second half and see 27 points up there. That makes playing defense easier. Then we don't have to be a 'defensive' defense, we can be an "offensive' defense on the attack. We have to get back in that kind of deal."
The 49ers drove 78 yards the first time they had the ball, going ahead, 7-0. As drives go, this was a snore. Nothing happened. The 49ers simply hammered the ball downfield, four and five yards at a time, with the single exception of a 32-yard pass.
It was, Butz said, embarrassing.
"They shouldn't be able to do that," he said, "espectically to a team that is supposed to be in the play-offs.
"No, when a team that's only won one game takes the ball down the field on us, that surprised some people. We were very, very flat. Now, if we'd start out against Dallas like that, we'd be in for a helluva fight."
In the 9-5 conquest of the Cowboys a month ago, the Redskins were mighty. Since, they have been mediocre. Several explanations for the decline seem plausible, and all taken together make it seem inevitable. Injuries to running back Mike Thomas and Buggs took away offensive weapons that, in turn, compounded the slump of Joe Theismann; emotionally, the Redskins simply could not work up a good hate for the Eagles and Giants after using so much of the stuff on the Cowboys, and, because of this is the NFL, everybody loses sooner or later.
It is generally agreed that 10 victories by the Redskins will get them in the playoffs, that 11 might win the division championship and 12 certainly would. At 7-2 now, the Redskins have seven games left - against teams with a combined 28-34 record. Of those seven teams, only three are over 500 - New York at 5-4, and Dallas and Miami at 6-3.
Had the Redskins lost Sunday, those seven teams would have appeared formidable. A team on a three-game losing streak is life and death to beat your Aunt Harriet's bowling team. But now the Redskins have scored 38 points on a Sunday, which is nice even if Harriet is a cornerback, and Pete Wysocki, the linebacker/phrasemaker, said, "The worm's turned."
Maybe. Numbers show that the 49ers had more total offense than the Redskins. Had the 49ers been able to kick the cursed pigskin and catch it when it was kicked to them, they might have won the game. Kilmer put up 38 points, but - who knows? - Joe Theismann might have scored 48 and your Aunt Harriett 58. The 49ers are bad.
"Well, I hope quarterbacking is more complicated than that," said Butz of Harriet. "Starting Billy, Mr. Pardee showed that he isn't afraid to go with somebody else when the job isn't being done. He's not a man that would stick with something and die with it.
"But I do hope Joe doesn't go into an inner brooding thing. Both quarterbacks have to know they're just as important as the other one."
So while Butz wasn't all that thrilled with his defensive playmates and the offense, though improved, profited largely from 49er ineptitude, the big tackle did see one important benefit from the game.
"If we'd lost, we'd have guys getting on each other," he said. "It would have kept us from staying together.The defense would have been on the offense, guys in the line would be getting on other guys in the line. We absolutely had to win this so the guys wouldn't be at each other."