LANDOVER, Md. -- The third down surge led to a celebration and a moment of hope. Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray tried to turn left end, met pressure and turned back around. It led to a nine-yard loss. All the Washington Redskins needed was one more stop. That’s been the hardest one for them to make.
This is the wrong season for the Redskins to give another team one more down. It’s the wrong season to expect the Redskins to make plays when they need to be made. There’s a reason the Redskins are now 3-12 and just about all those reasons were on display. As they have been for, oh, most of the season.
Sure enough, what happened next was somewhat predictable: Dallas quarterback Tony Romo bought time in the pocket, extended the play a little more, and tossed a dagger into the Redskins' bleeding hearts, a 10-yard toss to Murray. This 24-23 defeat was just one more in a string of bad days for Washington, not that it gets a whole lot easier.
The Redskins held a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost. They held a 14-point third-quarter lead at Denver and lost. They led Minnesota by 13 points and lost. Make a play and your season looks a little different. Those plays haven’t been made. They did stop San Diego at the goal line earlier this season to win, but finishing that game by making plays was the aberration, not the rule.
Thus, the Redskins enter their season finale at the New York Giants with a seven-game losing streak and many questions about their future. A win would have temporarily eased their pain. Fans have to be numb to the season but players are not. At least not all of them.
“This is pretty devastating, honestly,” Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said. “In some ways it’s worse because you’re playing Dallas and everyone knows what that means and to kind of play well. ... It’s just tough to go out like that. If anything you feel it’s gotten worse each week. I’ve been on teams where you haven’t been that competitive, like in college, and you’re like, whatever. But these, you feel them.”
When a season turns as sour as this one did for Washington, there’s never one area to blame. But there is one area that takes the fall: the coaches. Forget all the stuff with quarterback Robert Griffin III. It’s difficult to bring back a staff that has an overall record of 24-39 in four seasons. This isn't about continuity. It's about direction in a results-based league. It's not always fair and there will be good people let go. It's the sad reality of the NFL.
Regardless, Sunday was another trifecta of the Redskins' ills.
The special teams allowed a 62-yard punt return to Michael Spurlock, who was signed on Wednesday. Niles Paul missed a tackle and no one else had a good shot until he was pushed out of bounds. There was the offense that managed only 297 yards, and a paltry 4.6 yards per play, against a struggling defense. They settled for field goals on their first two trips in the red zone. They also managed one first down and 23 total yards on two fourth-quarter drives. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, praised a week ago, looked like a young quarterback Sunday in his second start in place of Griffin.
And the Redskins’ defense did a solid job at times, only to be burned by long plays at bad times. Of Dallas’ 309 total yards, 125 came on three plays And of their eight longest plays in the game, five occurred in the fourth quarter -- and they totaled 116 yards.
Welcome to the Redskins’ season in a nutshell.
“You’re always trying to seize the momentum,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “We felt we had it, but it can change quickly and obviously it did. That’s been the story of the season. A lot of times the negativity has spiraled out of control and we’ve had a tendency to let negative momentum drag us down as opposed to building on positive momentum. That’s why we are where we are.”
Yes it is.
“We knew it was our last home game of the season and we tried to give the fans something to remember us,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said.
What they did was remind the fans about everything that had gone wrong in 2013. And why they can’t wait for the season to end.