Coach Monte Clark of Detroit was asked if he said anything to console rookie cornerback Bruce McNorton, who had been beaten twice on identical and embarrassing touchdown passes.
"No, I didn't," Clark said. "He should say something to console me."
There was nothing consoling about the way Detroit's secondary played pass defense against the Washington Redskins in the playoff game at RFK Stadium yesterday. Three rookies--Bobby Watkins, William Graham and McNorton--played most of the afternoon. And got burned most of the afternoon.
"We played a whole new secondary (because of injuries)," Clark said. "That made it pretty tough to be effective, which we weren't. They didn't even know enough to play for the run at the end of the game instead of playing the pass. We were hollering at them to come up and play the run."
Watkins, the left cornerback, was more succinct in his evaluation of the Redskins' 31-7 victory: "We got schooled," he said.
Class began three minutes into the second quarter when 5-foot-7 receiver Alvin Garrett, substituting for the injured Art Monk, ran a "fade" pattern into the left corner of the end zone, catching the timed lob-pass over the head of McNorton, who stands 5-11. McNorton had no help from the safeties since the Lions were blitzing.
"I hit him with the ball out of frustration," McNorton said. "I should have made the play."
Ten minutes later, Joe Theismann threw the same pass, the same 21 yards, and the same receiver, Garrett, beat the same cornerback, McNorton. And the Lions had called blitz again.
Clark called the passes "those instant replay touchdowns."
"The second was even more frustrating," McNorton said, "because I expected them to try it. It was a perfect pass though. I tried to take away the inside route. But he turned back, and suddenly the ball was in the air. I knew exactly what I needed to do--close the gap and get my head around. But before I could get my head around, he (Theismann) had laid the ball in there."
Graham said, "it wasn't all Bruce's fault. Each time, we ran blitzes and left him out there by himself."
Garrett's third touchdown--a 27-yard reception early in the third quarter--found Watkins trying to cover by himself.
"It was a blown coverage," Watkins said. "Usually, we have two guys back, but somebody slipped and I couldn't stop (Garrett)."
It was clinched after that last touchdown pass, and the rookie defensive backs, as McNorton would say later, were trying to find "some positive learning experience" out of an afternoon of misadventure.
"You can always say, 'Well, I'm young and I don't know anything yet,' but we made mistakes," Graham said. "And the Redskins took advantage of them. With their motion, they caught us out of position a few times. A few times we may have misread some of their motion. We'd react to the tight end instead of the wide receiver. Or we'd come up short for being on the wrong side of the formation."
Watkins said, "Sometimes, we just didn't know what to expect."
"It's an experience thing," McNorton said.
Graham was asked if the Detroit defense expected the Redkins passing game to be less effective with the absence of Monk, Washington's leading pass catcher.
"No, we realized Charlie Brown had a great season and Garrett was good. Monk's absence didn't alter the way we approached pass defense."
Doug English, the veteran defensive tackle, didn't like the fact that the cornerbacks were taking so much blame for the loss, Detroit's first playoff game since 1957.
"Those young guys have given us a lot of good play this season," English said. "I'm not ashamed of them. We made the crucial mistakes today."
Watkins, asked if the rookies tried to console each other at the end of the game, said, No, we just looked at each other and said, 'Next year.' "