Jack Pardee said it best yesterday. His Redskins are improving but still not winning and he wondered aloud if the psychological damage done by their 1-5 start could make it too late for the team to salvage "something out of this season."
That is why Pardee's biggest test this week won't be as a coach, but as a motivator. He asked his players for a supreme effort Monday night in Denver, and it still wasn't good enoughto win. Now he is faced with the e task of somehow maintaining their confidence as they approach a four-week stretch of games, three straight at home, against .500 or worse opponents.
He is well aware that how the Redskins do on these four Sundays will determine whether they wind up with a horrible record or break even. They have the talent to stay with the likes of St. Louis, New Orleans, Minnesota and Chicago, but have the h eartbreaks of the past six weeks left them with anything to regroup?
"I sure don't like our record, any better than the next person," Pardee said. "We need a win very, very badly. That could straighten out everything.
"Confidence doesn't have to be destroyed. If we have been blown out by everyone, that's one thing. But we haven't. They saw how close we came against Denver. We proved we can do it, but we have to prove we can win.
"I just hope it isn't too late to make something out of this season.I'm going to ask each player to dig down and come back. It's tough to do, but it has to be done. We aren't going to try to win 10 in a row this week (against St. Louis) but just one. We have to start from somewhere."
Perhaps the fact the Redskins have not been overwhelmed in any contest this season makes their four-game losing streak so much harder to accept. They have come close, but penalities, interceptions, missed field goals and defensive letdowns have cut them off.
Take the loss to Denver for example. The Redskins would have won except their defense couldn't stop the Broncos from marching 79 yards for the go-ahead touchdown after Washington had taken a 17-13 lead. They would have driven deep into Denver territory in the final two minutes except for two penalties that wiped out substantial gains. And they would have at least sent the game into overtime except Mark Moseley just missed a 52-yard field goal with 13 seconds to go.
Even though his team played what Pardee called "our best overall game of the season," it still wasn't good enough. Pardee said the loss was "one of the toughest Ive had because of the way we played. You can see us getting better as we get healthier. Our offense moved the ball, we made things happen, but we still fell short."
In analyzing this bitter defeat, Pardee said:
"There was no real contact" when Bobby Hamnmond was called for clipping, nullifying Joe Theismann's pass to tight end Don Warren that would have put the ball on the Denver 28 in the final minute.
"Clipping isn't supposed to be called unless you (the official) see the whole thing," said Pardee, who added he would not criticize the officials because he didn't want to be fined. "It's becoming such a push and shove game, you see that kind of contact all the time. What Bobby Hammond did was a push and they called him. But it's hard to criticize the officials. The Denver guy did a good job of acting and it was in front of their bench."
Asked about George Starke's holding penalty on the previous play that nullified Theismann's pass to Clarence Harmon that put the ball at the 32, Pardee shrugged his shoulders and said, "I couldn't see it, but it's a judgment call."
He still has as much confidence as ever in Moseley "and we are going to stick with him. He'll come out of it. He's hitting the ball much better now. He's the best and he'll show it." Moseley has made three of 12 field goal kicks this season, including a 23-yarder against the Broncos.
There is no simple answer to why opponents have been able consistently to mount long drives for fourth quarter touchdowns and pull off big gainers against the Redskins this season.
"We don't come up with the big plays and they (opponents) execute well and we get some bad breaks; there are lots of reasons for it," Pardee said. "We just didn't get sacks on (quarterback) Craig Morton when we needed them. We gave him too much time.
"Their winning pass (32 yards to Rick Upchurch) was defensed well for a while but Morton could stand back there and wait for Upchurch to break his pattern and run upfield."
Pardee was generally pleased with the play of strong safety Tony Peters, who started for Ken Houston, but admitted he was still "searching for the right combination of players. Tony didn't have a perfect game, but no one did."
Receiver Art Monk will continue to be involved more in the offense as he gets more experience. "With the return of Ike Forte, we could take Art off some of the special teams and he was fresher. It showed." Monk caught six passes, his high as a pro. No other wide reciever had a reception.
The Redskins were left with one timeout after Theismann went to the sideline twice in the second half to discuss play calls.
"I'd rather have Joe call a timeout than run a bad play," Pardee said. "That's what we tell him."
The Redskins hope to have fullback Rickey Claitt, who did not play because of an ankle sprain, back for St. Louis. Harmon (ankle) and center Bob Kuziel (elbow) were the only players to have been injured in denver.