The New Orleans Saints screamed bloody murder after their eighth straight loss this season, a 22-14 defeat administered by the Redskins yesterday at RFK Stadium.
Various Saints complained that officials kept the game clock running after New Orleans ball carriers stepped out of bounds, that the 30-second clock malfunctioned (but only when New Orleans had the ball), and that officials botched a call when the Saints had fourth and inches to go for a first down or touchdown. The Saints claimed the call cost the team its only chance to take the lead.
But complaining has become an every Sunday occurrence for New Orleans, an 0-8 team that only a mother or Rodney Dangerfield could love.
The Saints began thinking of excuses right after they marched to the Redskin one-yard line in the second quarter with Washington leading only 6-0. rThe Saints not only couldn't score, but failed to gain a half-yard for a first down.
"It looked like we had the first down, and that's all we needed at that point," mourned New Orleans Coach Dick Nolan, appropriately dressed in all black. "We would have then had four tries for the touchdown from inside the one."
But when fullback Tony Galbreath was stacked up by a half-dozen Redskins on an off-tackle dive on fourth down and inches, the Saints turned over the ball, and for all practical purposes the game.
"Not scoring on that drive probably did hurt us," Galbreath understated. "But I thought I was in the end zone. We could have taken a 7-6 lead at that point."
They could have. But the officials determined Galbreath hadn't gained the two inches for the first down.
"I said in the huddle, 'Let's go for the touch,' because a yard and three quarters just isn't that much," said Saint quarterback Archie Manning, who was sacked five times. "I thought we scored a touchdown on that play myself, but apparently it was a question of where the officials wanted to spot the ball."
"That's the story of our whole season," another Saint said. "Fight like hell but still come up just short."
The Saints could move the ball whenever they wanted, until they got deep inside Redskin territory.But New Orleans' short yardage success was very unproductive.
"With 60 yards to go the Redskins played pretty loose defense," said running back Jimmy Rogers, "but with two yards to go near the goal line, they got tough. Real quick too. We could run on them whenever we wanted."
The Saint problems with the 30-second clock were "unbelieveable" for 10-year veteran Manning.
"I have a feel for that 30-second clock after all these years," he said, "but every time we broke the huddle I saw only six or seven seconds left to get the play off. I didn't have much time at the line of scrimmage to call audibles. We didn't have confusion in our huddle that many times. They (the officials) must have been starting the clock early.
"The officials weren't consistent with starting and stopping the clock," said Nolan.
Which one, the game clock or the play clock?
"Both," Nolan said.
Nolan did say that, for a change, " the effort was definitely there. Especially Jimmy Rogers."
Rogers, making his first NFL start at halfback, ran wild. In four years at Oklahoma he rarely started, spending most of his time as a caddy for big namers Billy Sims, Joe Washington, Horace Ivory, David Overstreet, Elvis Peacock and Kenny King.
"I still have hard feelings against (Oklahoma Coach) Barry Switzer," Rogers said. "He kept me from developing by sitting me on the bench for five years. He had favorites."