When the Chicago Bears' Willie Gault hightailed it 99 yards for a game-turning touchdown in the Bears' 45-10 victory over the Redskins today, it wasn't the first time this season the Redskins' kickoff coverage team looked defenseless.
The Eagles busted open a 35-yard return last week. Houston pulled off a 52-yarder and a 50-yarder two weeks ago. The average Redskins' yield on 10 kickoffs is 37.3 yards and that's not the kind of number that gets a team to the playoffs.
"(Kick coverage) has been something we've been pretty good at in the past," said Wayne Sevier, Redskins special teams coach. "We were inadequate on it today."
Sevier wouldn't elaborate, but safety Curtis Jordan would: "Our kick coverage has got to straighten out. It's there. It's not something to make excuses about or to hide. It's a problem."
The punt team had a few problems today, too. They started when Jeff Hayes suffered a partial tear to his quadriceps (thigh) muscle on a second-quarter kickoff.
"Soon as I hit the ball," Hayes said, "it snapped. I heard it pop; then I felt it pop."
That left quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Jay Schroeder to do the punting.
After Theismann botched a one-yard punt in the second quarter, Schroeder entered and shanked a 22-yarder. Both led to Bears touchdowns. In fact, the Bears' three touchdown drives in the second quarter measured only 14, 22 and 36 yards.
It's called "capitalizing on your opponent's mistakes" and it's a trait that makes a team's record improve to 4-0, as the Bears' has.
When Schroeder came out to the field before his teammates near the end of the halftime break, he practiced punting on the sidelines. Two of his first four punts went into the stands.
"At least I didn't wipe out any cheerleaders," Schroeder deadpanned.
He said he most recently kicked in a game during his junior year in high school. Schroeder said he was most concerned with getting the ball downfield, past the 10 Chicago players rushing hard from the line of scrimmage.
Schroeder steadied to make punts of 44, 39 and 27 yards in the second half. Each time he lined up to punt, the fans at Soldier Field buzzed, preparing for the worst.
Poor Hayes. He said that he tried in vain to make the tackle on Gault even though he knew that there was something drastically wrong with his thigh. "I tried to get him near the sideline (near the Redskins 45)," Hayes said. "I know I probably looked real (bad) trying to do it."