Can you decline an invitation to host “Monday Night Football”? Maybe explain that it’s a work day in a city that really needs to stay late at the office? And gosh, that weekday Beltway traffic is brutal. Plus, this town should never host a sporting event on the day the Electoral College votes, right? Can’t FedEx Field be the reverse Chick-fil-A: only open on Sundays?
Because something about the start of the work week just does not agree with the Redskins. This week offered the perfect chance to end one of the stupidest stats in Washington sports. The Redskins entered their stadium with a 1-15 record in their past 16 Monday night games here, a mark that would embarrass the Browns. Their opponent was a downtrodden Carolina team lugging a 1-5 road record; seven-point underdogs with a path-to-the-playoffs scenario that required at least one Flux Capacitor.
Well, make Washington’s Monday night home record 1-16 since 1998. And yeah, this one was plenty embarrassing.
Some of the unforgettable moments from a 26-15 loss: A hobbled Jordan Reed doing what doctors couldn’t, sending himself to the showers, but only after earning a 15-yard penalty and disqualification for throwing a jab. A missed extra point. A second-half kickoff inexplicably taken out of the end zone from three yards deep, leading directly to a sack-fumble on Washington’s first snap of the half. A season-high five three-and-outs, from an offense that had been averaging barely more than one a game.
Dropped passes from DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Chris Thompson and Vernon Davis. A dropped interception from Josh Norman. A sure tackle-for-loss that instead turned into an 11-yard run. A Kirk Cousins interception on yet another misread zone coverage. Cousins not seeing one wide-open receiver after another in the end zone. Two third-down conversions, on 12 attempts.
(And … breathe.)
Injuries up and down the roster: to Houston Bates, to Quinton Dunbar, to Ryan Kerrigan, to Greg Toler. Six punts from a guy who had punted six times in Washington’s previous three games. Jonathan Stewart running for 100 yards for the first time in more than a year — since the last time he faced the Redskins! Boos all night from a home crowd that would have had more fun watching “2 Broke Girls” or “Gotham.”
And most importantly, a performance that showed all the urgency of a drugged snail.
“Does this look like a team that’s playing for the damn playoffs?” Brian Mitchell asked on Twitter. “This has been a terrible display of professional football!!”
“Poise, none,” Joe Theismann remarked.
“We were out-coached today, there’s no question about that,” Coach Jay Gruden said.
This was, of course, a failing effort from the 2016 Redskins: from a quarterback still playing for a contract, from a coach whose team has now fallen behind four straight weeks, from an offense that twice turned first-and-goal opportunities into field goals, from a running game that was more like a crawling game (13 carries for 29 yards), from whomever is responsible for assembling a defense that still can’t cover a tight end or stop the run. With a chance to win their last three games and stroll into the playoffs, the Redskins instead jumped into a mud pit, and now need out-of-town help to crawl their way out.
This was Washington’s only true stinker since its season-opening blunder against the Steelers. And hey, whaddya know, that game also fell on Monday night.
Which is why, for everyone older than FedEx Field, this game was also about more than the 2016 team’s specific shortcomings. If you stepped back, it all felt so familiar, like that brown stain on your living room carpet you try to hide under the couch. Make a list of Washington’s most agonizing, ridiculous, blood-vessel-popping losses over the last 20 years; how many of them came at home, on Monday night?
There was Jackson’s absurd punt-return fumble against the Cowboys last year, in a game capped off by a long Dallas kickoff return and a game-winning field goal. There was the 2014 loss to the Seahawks, in which Seattle held the ball for almost 11 minutes in the fourth quarter. “Phenomenal effort; we almost had it,” Brian Orakpo said, humiliatingly, after a 10-point loss.
There was the 2013 thrashing against the 49ers, when the Redskins managed 190 total yards. The season-opening disaster against the Eagles that same year, which was the beginning of the end for Robert Griffin III. The “Monday Night Massacre” in 2010, when the Eagles dropped 59 points on Washington. The “Swinging Gate” degradation in 2009. The Terrible Towel game in 2008, when Steelers fans took over the stadium, a night that still ranks as one of the saddest D.C. sports moments I’ve seen.
There was the season-opening loss to the Vikings in 2006, deflating all the momentum from 2005’s playoff run. The 30-point loss to the Eagles in 2002. The 81-yard Samari Rolle interception return at the end of the first half in a 2000 loss to the Titans. I watched that one from the stadium’s 400-level, the first time I had ever been to FedEx Field. I should have learned a lesson right then: Imagine the worst-case Monday night scenario, and then coat it with a thin veneer of vomit.
This result might not have been as embarrassing, until you consider the stakes. The Redskins haven’t had back-to-back playoff seasons in 24 years. This is the time of year when contenders can separate from teams going nowhere, as Washington did a year ago. Favored teams were 12-3 this week, entering Washington’s game. And the Redskins — favored this week and likely to be favored next week in Chicago — might have locked up a second straight postseason berth by winning both those games.
They showed no interest in that scenario. Instead, they’ll be scrambling again, with two must-win games and plenty of scoreboard watching. There are real problems with this roster, things that have nothing to do with Rolle running sideline to sideline in 2002. But fair or not, we’re all going to file this result on that gloomiest of lists, with all the other home Monday night meltdowns. The Browns — the league’s next-worst Monday night home team since ’98 — would need to lose 13 straight to equal Washington’s 1-16 mark of shame.
So please, Dan and Bruce, just turn down the invitation next fall. Mondays are for “WWE Raw,” or “Jane the Virgin,” or soulful meditation. Keep the FedEx Field home dates for Sundays.
This piece originally misidentified Samari Rolle. It has been updated.
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