Cornerback Shawn Springs, whom Raiders Coach Norv Turner rarely chose to challenge, spent much of yesterday's game against Oakland as a bewildered spectator. He joined most of the 90,129 at FedEx Field in disbelief after the Raiders mounted a late drive for a winning field goal that sent the Redskins to their first home loss of the season, 16-13.
"I'm sitting there, playing the game, and I'm thinking, 'How? How did we get into this position?' " he said. "I've been in the league nine years, and I'm baffled as to why we can't win games. I honestly felt like, 'They're not doing much. We'll win.' "
The Redskins' hopes dissolved for good with 17 seconds left when on fourth and two from the Oakland 43, defensive end Derrick Burgess sacked Mark Brunell from the quarterback's blind side. Brunell had been looking for Santana Moss, and the hit jarred the ball loose. Burgess recovered, and the Raiders ran out the clock.
The sight of Brunell crumpled completed an afternoon in which the Redskins did not score an offensive touchdown against a Raiders club that entered 24th overall in total defense, yielding 24 points per game. Even where there appeared to be success, there was failure. Clinton Portis ran for 92 yards, had an encouraging 70 at the half, but committed two crucial fumbles.
Worse for the Redskins is that after scoring 35 points against Tampa Bay, the top-ranked defense in the league, they started to believe that if nothing else, the offense could move the football when necessary. That never happened yesterday, even with an offense that operated efficiently against the Buccaneers.
An offense that had been clicking late in the first half of the season has become plagued by inconsistency and turnovers. Now add injury to the list, particularly at wide receiver. Starter David Patten was lost for the season Thursday after knee surgery. Yesterday, Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs lost third wide receiver James Thrash to a hamstring injury.
That left Moss, who entered yesterday's game second in the league in receiving yards and tied for fourth in receptions. But without a veteran presence opposite him to provide balance, the Raiders smothered Moss, who was limited to 53 yards on four catches.
"They rolled me all day," said Moss, referring to the cover scheme in which a safety shadows his side of the field, essentially creating a double-team. "I've seen it all before, but every time I went anywhere, they put a guy on top. In the first half, I saw a lot of man [coverage]. In the second, I'd get past my man, and there'd be a safety there waiting."
In turn, Brunell never got into rhythm. He completed 14 of 32 passes and finished with a passer rating of 58.7, his worst since a season-low 32.4 Oct. 30 against the Giants. Brunell's fourth quarter was particularly nightmarish. He started the period nursing a 13-10 lead and misfired on his first seven passes, completing 2 of 11 passes for 32 yards in the quarter. Portis, once seemingly on the verge of a very productive day, finished the second half with 22 yards.
"We certainly did not help ourselves," Brunell said. "We didn't play our best football today. We played against a pretty good defensive football team. They showed up and outplayed us. It's very frustrating for us. Now is the time in the season when you have to play your best. We did not today."
Portis, meanwhile, did not make himself available to the media after the game.
Despite a woeful afternoon, the Redskins had a final chance after Sebastian Janikowski's 19-yard field goal provided the Raiders a three-point lead with 1 minute 8 seconds to play. Wide receiver Rich Parson, signed Friday and admittedly full of jitters facing the storied Raiders, returned the ensuing kickoff 24 yards to the Redskins 25. Brunell then completed his only two passes of the quarter. The first was a floater to Chris Cooley for 24 yards and the second an eight-yarder to Taylor Jacobs that moved Washington to the Oakland 43 before Burgess's sack snuffed out any comeback ideas.
"It's tough. You go through the week preparing for a team, and to come in and lay an egg on offense, you're not going to win games," said tackle Randy Thomas. "We just can't rely on the defense to come through for us. We've got to be the aggressors and be able to put points on the board."