So this rejuvenation of the Redskins will be no snap after all. Jack Pardee knew it before becoming head coach in January. Probably, he still knew it after the 6-0 start, using CoachSpeak ("Let's see how things go the rest of the way") as a public trap play.
Now even the stoutest burgundy heart knows it.
That became ever so clear yesterday when the Cards, still with less than a full deck of hale and haughty players themselves, clubbed the Redskins by more than the 10-point difference in score shows.
Every team that ever donned football togs, one leg at a time, of course, had days when almost nothing worked, when some gazelle scored on a long punt return, when its Danny Buggs dropped a near-certain touchdown pass, when end-zone goofiness ended in an opposition touchdown.
That all hit the Redskins yesterday, but do did the fact that they do not have enough depth or overwhelming players to cover for the absence of a John Riggins, a George Starke, a Lemar Parrish and a less-than-complete Jean Fugett.
The latest darling of the fans, Mike Curtis, volunteered some answers. But they also lead to some more questions.
"We're not being aggressive enough," he said, adding that the problem is more than players paid handsomely to be nasty suddenly going soft. "I also mean blocking downfield, guys on pitchouts not heading for the Gatorade (sidelines).
"It's not a pillow fight out there."
What this implies is lack of effort, and perhaps in a few instances that rings true. But opponents also are taking delight in exposing what seem genuine weaknesses - the offensive and defensive lines.
Poor Jeff Williams clearly is making every effort to keep quarterback Joe Theismann alive. But another often harmless defensive end, one Bob Bell, looked like an All-Pro against the inexperienced Redskins right tackle.
Bell is a former top draftee whose history includes playing out his option annually and realizing that no one cares to pay him more than the Cardinals. If Bell rings Williams, what will Too Tall Jones do Thursday in Dallas? Or might Jim Harlan by healthy be then?
In a year when the rules make it all but impossible to hold. Redskin blockers have managed holding penalties at serious times. There were a few yesterday - and also nine quarterback sacks by a St. Louis defense that usually gets that many in eight games.
Of course, the Cardinals gaining a 21-0 lead slightly into the second quarter was as helpful as another rushman. Washington had to pass and the Cardinals could afford to overlook Mike Thomas even when he was running forward.
To have any hope of completing a pass, Theismann had to keep at least one and sometimes both runners in the backfield as blockers. Three receivers against up to seven defenders is not the way to generate a pass offense, but Theismann threw well in most instances.
Twice Theismann got giddy, though understandably so. Once he failed to loft a pass high enough to the open Buggs and Carl Allen intercepted at midfield. But any gain would have been nullified anyway, because the Redskins completed that rare double - an illegal forward pass and ineligible receiver downfield. (Has there ever been three penalties against one team on one play?)
With slightly more than two minutes left in the game and Washington at the Cardinal 42, Theismann - on the run as usual - chose to throw rather than dash for what seemed acres of open territory. He threw high - and Ken Stone intercepted.
Still, veteran Redskin watchers were more agog at what the defense was not doing. Usually, Thomas is the runner with all manner of daylight in Washington-St. Louis games. Yesterday, Wayne Morris became the first Cardinal all season to rush for more than 100 yards.
Like other teams of late, the Cards gained much of their yardage either inside or against a Redskin right side manned by Diron Talbert, until he suffered a serious knee injury, Coy Bacon and Chris Hanburger.
And why not? Bacon's strength is as a pass rusher. Teams would be foolish not to run at him. Recently, he and the other defenders have been unable to cope. With Talbert out for the remainder of the season, Pardee probably will add a defensive lineman, though he cautions, "There are not a lot of great players out of work now."
A glance at the NFL standings suggests there are not a lot of great players at work, either. Unhealthy and unluckly and undermanned as the Redskins might be, they still are technically the NFC East leaders and getting wonderful cooperation from everyone but the Eagles for at least a playoff spot.
During his post game comments. Pardee remained outwardly calm and assured, though he seemed more pale then usual. As he left the interview room, he said: "It's a short week . . . got to get back to work . . . It'll be a long night."
More than anyone, Pardee realizes Cowboy games are no pillow fights.