In a silent St. Louis locker room, the despondent Cardinal offensive linemen sat quietly, trying to block out the fresh and stinging memories of a disastrous afternoon in which they allowed veteran passer Jim Hart to be sacked six times and could open only enough holes for star runner Ottis Anderson to gain 43 yards.
If the Cardinal linemen have as much trouble blocking out yesterday's miserable performance as they did blocking the Redskin defense, they will be pained by the experience for weeks. In the 23-0 loss at RFK, the once-proud but now patchwork St. Louis line spent the afternoon reaching down to help the 36-year-old Hart scrape himself off the ground or watching officials toss yellow flags (five) in their direction for holding penalties.
"There's just no way to describe how it feels to come in here and be humiliated like this and let the hell get beat out of our quarterback," said 10-year veteran right tackle Dan Dierdorf. He was the only veteran starting lineman who played yesterday and one of those principally responsible for Hart throwing for more than 30,000 yards in his 15-year career.
But injuries the past two weeks have made a shambles of the Cardinal passing protection, as guards Terry Stieve and Joe Bostic, center Tom Banks and tackle Keith Wortman all were sidelined.
As a result, green substitutes Ron Coder, Barney Cotton, George Collins and Brad Oates had to play against a hungry Redskin defensive line and linebackers who descended on Hart and Anderson with blitzes and stunts like a school of sharks out for blood. The Redskins got those six sacks for 53 yards.
"It's the toughest physical pounding I've taken in the last couple of years. I really can't remember the last time I was hit so hard," said Hart, who emitted a grunt and groan every time he moved a different muscle to pull on his cowboy boots.
"We have the best quarterback in the league and we're not giving him any time. It's a shame," said center Tom Brahaney, an eight-year veteran but usually not a starter. "I'm pretty embarrassed about it. You can't let a guy like Jimmy take that many shots."
Coder, who left the game in the fourth quarter with yet another injury, an ankle sprain, said, "We were fighting and scratching and doing everything we could do. It wasn't enough. We didn't perform and they just kept coming and coming because (we) being behind by so much, they knew we were passing. We're supposed to be professionals but I don't know what we acted like today. Sacks shouldn't get us down."
The Cardinal offensive line had so many injuries that third-stringer Eric Cunningham, acquired from the New York Jets just four days ago, almost had to go into the lineup in the fourth quarter.
"I know the offense but I couldn't have helped much. I need a week or so of practice at least," Cunningham said. "I was hoping no one else went down so I wouldn't have to go in there."
Said Dierdorf, the most visibly upset of the Cardinals: "We didn't pick up the blitzes or the stunts. There are no adjustments to make, we just didn't execute. Sometimes we didn't have anyone near the blitzing linebacker. dIt's getting bad. I just don't know how long this losing can go on. I hope you don't find anybody in this locker room that will tell you that we're a better team than the Redskins. I feel humiliated."
When Hart wasn't being sacked he was feebly scurrying for his life and unloading passes that had no chance of being completed. Only 13 of his 32 passes were caught by St. Louis receivers and two were picked off by Redskin reserve left cornerback Jeris White.
"Jimmy should be able to drop back straight and throw. But today he just dropped back and got banged up," said Brahaney. "I thought last night watching the films that we were going to win the game. I really did."