This one hurt Jack Pardee. Hurt him bad, hurt him so he wanted to cry. His team is 1-5 now. Nothing is going right. They hold at the wrong times. They drop the ball when it needs to be caught. When they do the thing right, even then, it comes out wrong, and it hurts all of them. Tonight the Redskin locker room hurt bad.
They rallied for a fourth-quarter lead with barely seven minutes to play. They went ahead on a Joe Theismann pass, a beauty, to Art Monk, the first-round draft pick, who sailed backward in the end zone to make his first touchdown catch. Dreamers could see the future in that touchdown play.
Jack Pardee's teams are distinguished by wonderful defenses. The Redskins won 10 games last year not because they were an offensive juggernaut, but because they made only a few offensive mistakes while the defense wreaked havoc on the enemy. If the Redskins would win tonight, if they would take a tiny step toward respectability, their defense would have to win the last seven minutes.
It couldn't. Denver needed only seven plays to go 79 yards. The Broncos went the last 32 on a pass from Craig Morton to Rick Upchurch. The pass should have been knocked out of the air by Mark Murphy, the Redskin safety there. But things aren't going right for the Redskins, and here came the pass falling out of the night, falling toward Upchurch -- and Murphy couldn't find it.
He turned backward. He knew Upchurch was there. He had to find him. And when he located Upchurch, he needed to see the ball. It was coming from behind him. Jackie Stewart, the old racing driver, said things go slow at 180 mph -- until something goes wrong, and then the world is too much with you too quickly. Murphy, knowing the ball was flying in from some angle, groped aimlessly in the air, the way you grope in the dark for a light switch.
And he found nothing.
Denver led, 20-17, with three minutes to play.
This was going to hurt. You could feel it on the sidelines.
Mark Moseley missed only eight field goal tries all last year, making good on 25. He made the Pro Bowl team. This year, in the first five games, he missed eight times, making only two. On the sidelines, with time vanishing, Moseley swung his foot in practice arcs. After each swing, he pushed at his thigh pads, sliding them to where they felt in perfect balance.
And he looked at the clock.
It said 1:52 now.
It was quiet on the sidelines. It was very quiet among the Redskins. It was the quiet of unrequited desire. They had tried so many times, so many times had failed. Tradition, said Darrell Royal, is expecting good things to happen because good things have happened before. These quiet Redskins, hoping, looking at the clock sideways -- Perry Brooks looked away from the clock quickly when he saw the 1:52 -- knew that these are times when bad things are happening.
Pardee would want to cry later.
He stood with his back to concrete wall, cold and bare, and his face was cold and bare, empty.
" . . . have some problems," he said, the words so soft you couldn't hear them all. "And they're loaded on by dozens."
With 1:52 to play, Theismann threw a pass to Don Warren, his tight end only now back from a broken leg. Warren ran 21 yards to the Denver 28-yard line.
And along the sidelines, the silence roared.
They had seen the flag.
The Redskins had seen their halfback, Bobby Hammond, 10 yards behind Warren. They had seen Hammond throw up his hands in torment.
The flag was for him.
Clipping 10 yards behind the play, back there where it could do no good, where it was what the basketball people call a foul away from the play.
"I saw it," Pardee said. "Right there across from me."
Was it behind the play?
"Behind the play," Pardee said. Anger touched his pain. But the words came out softly. He was tired, too tired to scream out loud. He screamed softly in the night. "Behind the play. And the guy turned his back. Hell. sAsk the official what he saw."
With no timeouts left, the Redskins used three more plays to get to the Denver 35, close enough for Moseley to kick a field goal that would send the game into overtime, would keep alive hope in this season when John Riggins deserted, when the offensive line was crippled early, when the defense suddenly can't stop anyone running.
The 35 was close enough for Mosley.
He was seven of 15 from outside 50 yards in the last three years. But with two failures in two tries from out there this season, he faced the crossbars tonight with time disappearing, the clock changing lights from :35 to :34 . . . t
The kick was long enough. It was high enough. But in the dark, in the silence, as 70,000 people waited for the ball to fall to earth, it twisted crazily in its flight. It had been mis-hit by, perhaps, an inch, an inch right of center, and instead of spinning backward, end over end, the ball twisted at its equator.
The twisting carried it left. By a foot, maybe less, it sailed left of the goal post, and Mark Moseley, last year's hero, slapped both palms against the front of his helmet. On the sidelines seconds later, Joe Theismann hurled a water bottle against the ground. He had been 18 for 23. Wilbur Jackson had run for 104 yards. These things speak well for another week, another time.
Against that locker room wall, Jack Pardee hurt right now. "Only thing to do," he said, "is pack up and get home."