Redskins rerun: Loss to Rams evokes ’09 memories

This looked like Jim Zorn all over again – from the botched

inactive list turned in before kickoff to the baffling game plan

that produced 1 yard rushing in the second half.

The Washington Redskins under Mike Shanahan have converted only

six third downs all season and have the worst defense in the NFL –

and their loss to the St. Louis on Sunday was all too reminiscent

of Zorn’s loss to Detroit one year earlier.

The message is clear: Hiring a coach with two Super Bowl rings

doesn’t guarantee instant success.

”We didn’t come into this saying ‘Hey, we’re going to jump out

here with a new head coach, new offense, new quarterback and we’re

going to roll through this season like it ain’t nothing,”’

receiver Santana Moss said Monday. ”It’s not going to be

easy.”

The 30-16 loss to the Rams created doubts on many fronts. Does

the 3-4 scheme really suit this defense? What is Clinton Portis’

role going to be? What’s the deal with the offensive line?

Last year’s Redskins essentially knew they were done when the

lost in Week 3 to a Lions team that had dropped 19 straight. Now in

this year’s Week 3 they have a loss to a Rams team that had won one

out of its previous 28.

If the problems don’t get sorted out soon, the Redskins (1-2)

will be staring at 1-6. They are unlikely to be favored in their

next four games: Philadelphia (away), Green Bay (home),

Indianapolis (home) and Chicago (away).

The Redskins are allowing a staggering 424 yards per game, and

several players look out of place in the 3-4 alignment. Albert

Haynesworth got substantial playing time for the first time this

season and didn’t register a single tackle. They’ve given up 30

points in back-to-back losses to Houston and St. Louis.

”To give up that many points and give up the yards we are

giving up, that’s pretty sad for a defense of this caliber,”

defensive end Phillip Daniels said. ”We’ve got the same players

pretty much. To give up the yards that we are giving up, it ain’t

good.”

Shanahan said he felt the Redskins have the personnel to run the

3-4, but that it’s going to take some time to get it right.

”I think we’re making some strides,” he said.

On offense, the running game is averaging just 74 yards per

game, 28th in the NFL. Portis on Sunday split time with Ryan

Torain, who had just been called up from the practice squad.

Shanahan said Portis was limited by a wrist injury – in fact,

Shanahan said Portis went down intentionally at the end of a

26-yard run in the first half to protect the ball rather than have

it stripped by a tackler.

Nevertheless, Shanahan made it sound as if Portis is no longer

the unquestioned No. 1 back.

”We’ll change it up week by week,” the coach said. ”We have a

plan each week relative to how many carries we’d like to have each

running back have, and sometimes one guy will be in a passing

situation other times it will be in a running situation.”

After running the ball well in the first half against the Rams,

the Redskins had only five rushes in the second half. Shanahan

chalked up the lack of runs to a variety of circumstances: a

three-and-out series late in the third quarter, a first-down

holding call on the next drive and the need to play catch-up down

the stretch.

The Redskins also are still trying to settle on an offensive

line. Kory Litchtensteiger got the start Sunday over Derrick

Dockery at left guard. Left tackle Trent Williams missed the game

with knee and toe injuries, and replacement Stephon Heyer proved to

be a significant downgrade.

For that matter, the Redskins had trouble deciding who was going

to suit up just hours before the game. They submitted an inactive

list, then tried to change it, then realized they had to stick with

the original. They ended up with only one backup offensive lineman

on the active roster.

Such a gaffe is out of character for Shanahan, who prides

himself on meticulous planning and organizational control. When

asked to explain what happened, he wouldn’t touch the subject.

Note: P Josh Bidwell will have an MRI on his hip, which he

injured during pregame warmups. K Graham Gano took over the

punting, and Shanahan said that the team will bring in a couple of

punters for tryouts on Tuesday, though a decision on whether to

sign one may not be made before Friday.