"I knew there would be another chance," St. Louis kicker Neil O'Donoghue said twice. "I just knew it in my mind.
"Some people don't get the opportunity to miss three kicks," he said. Today, O'Donoghue got his opportunity and, after having missed field goal attempts from 34 and 40 yards and having shanked a fourth-quarter extra point off the left upright, he rammed his goat horns right through the heart of the Washington Redskins, kicking a 21-yard field goal with five seconds left to give the Cardinals a 26-24 victory and a share of first place.
O'Donoghue has suffered such miseries before. In an overtime game that finished in a 20-20 tie between the Cardinals and the New York Giants last season, O'Donoghue missed four field goals, including three in the extra period.
"The team came up to me on the sideline and said they were behind me. These guys worked so hard today. You have to give a lot of credit to the defense for getting the ball for us, and to the offense that gave me the opportunity to kick the winner," said O'Donoghue, who had converted nine of 15 kicks prior to today.
The Redskins had plenty of concerns of their own. With center Jeff Bostic likely to be sidelined for the remainder of the season with torn knee ligaments, the Redskins now have only only one reserve offensive lineman on the active roster, center/guard Rick Donnalley. (Tackle Morris Towns is still on the injured reserve list.)
Coach Joe Gibbs said that the Redskins will acquire at least one, possibly two offensive linemen sometime this week. He also said that the team will have to determine whether it will use Donnalley at center or move all-pro left guard Russ Grimm to his natural center position (which the team did in the fourth quarter today) and insert veteran Ken Huff in Grimm's left guard spot.
"I've been a little nervous carrying just seven offensive linemen (on the active roster)," said Gibbs, who feels more comfortable carrying eight. "We've kind of been living on the ragged edge there."
The Redskins' defense, which has been using substitutions en masse over the past few games, was left in an ugly situation early in the fourth quarter today. That's when Roy Green, St. Louis' dynamic receiver, caught a deep pass from quarterback Neil Lomax at the Washington 27 en route to an 83-yard touchdown that closed the Redskins' lead to 24-23.
There seemed to be an obvious mismatch on the play, with Green matched up against strong safety Tony Peters, who has been reduced to playing on running situations because a lower abdominal muscle pull has made it difficult for him to run.
Free safety Curtis Jordan explained that Peters was not in man-to-man coverage on the play, after all. "We had double coverage on Green, with Tony (Peters) and a cornerback," said Jordan.
"The corner was supposed to force Green to the outside, but he got inside of him, then he got inside of Tony, too."
Green finished with six catches for 163 yards. How devastating has Green been so far this season? He has had three games with more receiving yardage than he had today.
Green also caught a 38-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, splitting between Jordan and cornerback Darrell Green, who lunged for the ball, but missed. "I thought Darrell had it," Jordan said, noting that the Redskins had watched game films and had "seen Green do the same thing to other teams that he did to us."
One elation-filled locker room away, St. Louis defensive end Al (Bubba) Baker said, "I have got this to say about what I saw out there today. We had people like (safety) Lee Nelson who injured his back in the first quarter so bad that he could hardly walk, and he stayed out there.
"Roy Green got a shot in the first quarter (his hip injury will not force him to miss a game, according to team doctors) and still had a great day. O.J. (Anderson, running back) injured his back during the game and was still in there for us when it counted.
"To me, it means that they are able to separate their minds from their bodies. They were able to go out there and still give it all for the win. That's the mark of a good football team."
Quarterback Neil Lomax added, "I'm still learning, but I'm learning fast and everyone around me is picking things better and better."