LONDON — The absurdity would not end.
It was hard enough to untangle a twisted, 3-hour 56-minute draw on Sunday that both the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals could have won but should have lost. It was hard enough to fathom an overtime affair that ended with rampant buffoonery on the final three possessions: missed 34-yard field goal, lost fumble and Hail Mary pass under duress that landed out of bounds and 15 yards short of the end zone. It was hard enough to account for all the oddity in a game burdened by 22 penalties, missed opportunities best measured by the dozen and 961 yards of offense that resulted in only 27 points for each side.
And then, poor gluttons for foolishness, there was what happened after the public-address announcer informed 84,488 kind and patient folks at Wembley Stadium that this silly American football game had concluded like the football that they’re most familiar with: “This is the end of the game. The score remains tied.”
First, Washington Coach Jay Gruden implied that he didn’t know the game could end in a tie, which might have been a joke, but he delivered it so solemnly that it was difficult to be sure.
“I don’t know how to react,” Gruden said. “I didn’t think it was possible to tie. I know there was a tie last week in Arizona, but I was like, ‘How the heck did they tie?’ Now we know.”
And that wasn’t even the strangest thing said after the strangest game of Washington’s strange season.
That dishonor goes to Washington cornerback Josh Norman, who gave an impassioned defense of his place kicker, who missed the potential game-winning field goal with 2:09 left in overtime. The problem: Norman defended punter Tress Way, not kicker Dustin Hopkins.
“If anybody want to go at Tress for missing those field goals, I think you suck,” Norman said. “I think that everything about you knows nothing of football. He had the opportunity, but things come up short. They really do. So if you’re putting this game on him, you’re terrible for it. I just want you to know that.”
I mean . . .
I mean . . .
I’ve got nothing.
Laughter helps. I couldn’t even ask Norman a question because, if the microphone had come my way, I would’ve only been able to manage, between snorts, “Hahahahahahahaha.”
Norman spoke for six minutes. He only took one question. Yet he covered a variety of topics: The two interceptions he should have had, his disgust over flag-happy officiating that led him to commit five of Washington’s 15 penalties, a welcoming of Manchester United’s Paul Pogba to the stage and, of course, his fiery support for Tress or Dustin or maybe anyone who’s ever kicked anything. They’re all family, baby.
You have to take care of each other after a game like this. A German television reporter tried to interview Hopkins on the field. He asked one question before Tony Wyllie, Washington’s senior vice president of communications, stopped the interview. The video was found and posted on Deadspin. I’ll relay it only because it sure beats analyzing that weird game.
Reporter: “Dustin Hopkins, what went wrong with the kick?”
Hopkins: “First of all, I’m just disgusted that that happened for my guys.”
Wyllie: “Hey, hey! No! No! No! No interviews on the field.”
I mean . . .
I mean . . .
I’ve got nothing. Again.
For the record, at least Wyllie didn’t say “No means no” this time.
Washington traveled nearly 3,700 miles and wandered five time zones away to help the NFL sell its product to a pigskin-curious market. And then it partners with the Bengals to give not 60 but 75 minutes of a game displaying the very reasons why the sport is struggling this year. I told you in my last column that Washington, maven of mediocrity, would give British fans an accurate view of the average NFL team. The only thing more remarkable than its ability to play consistently uneven is this mystical power it has to make the opponent play the same way. It happened again against the Bengals.
“Daggum it, I just feel bad about it,” Norman said of the performance.
Washington dominated the first half and outgained Cincinnati 226-82 , but all it got out of it was a 10-7 lead. Of course, the Bengals came out of halftime and nearly doubled their first-half yardage in the third quarter alone, turned the game around and went ahead 20-10. And, naturally, that’s when a Washington offense that can’t score touchdowns in the red zone went berserk with explosive plays, resulting in two Kirk Cousins touchdown passes to reclaim the lead. And finally, with the game having gained intrigue, with both sides engaged in rugged competition in which several players competed admirably through injury, with the stadium bracing for a dramatic finish, it was as if someone decided to stand in a theater and obstruct your view by making shadow puppets.
The only outcome better than a tie would have been each team agreeing to take a loss.
But at least, with a tie, you don’t have to hear one team accepting victory by lauding its resilience. The puzzled looks were much more appropriate.
“Should I be upset or happy or whatever?” Gruden asked.
I’m intrigued by whatever.
“I really don’t know how to feel,” Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said.
“I think you definitely have to be disappointed because you come here to win,” inside linebacker Will Compton said. “You don’t come here for anything else but to win.”
In Compton’s words, you can create a new marketing slogan for Washington’s 2016 season:
Come for the possibility of a win. Stay for the absurdity of a tie.
Not every draw is bad. As Americans, we’re used to games ending with clarity. It’s much better that way. Still, a tie can be appreciated if the quality of play is sound, and the teams can’t separate because both played so well.
This game, though? It was a blooper reel of attrition.
A British reporter asked of Gruden’s comment about the tie: “Is he being serious?”
Who knows? Was anything about this day serious?
“He literally doesn’t know the rules of the game?” the reporter wondered.
Can’t answer that definitively.
But let me say this, and if anybody wants to doubt Gruden about the subject, you’re terrible for it: He does know his kicker from his punter.
So, there. At 4-3-1, Washington has at least one positive upon which it can build. And fortunately, after eight weeks of up-and-down, mind-contorting football, the mavens of mediocrity have arrived at a week that even they can’t possibly make polarizing, a week that they desperately need after so much repetitive absurdity.
Daggum it, everyone needs a break.
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