(photo by Brian Murphy)
1. “Betterman” by Pearl Jam
One play summarized the night for the Washington Redskins. On the first play of the fourth quarter, defensive end Andre Carter beat his man cleanly and drilled Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich. The ball popped out, but landed squarely in the hands of backup running back Mewelde Moore, who turned upfield for a 25-yard gain. A couple of benchwarmers getting together to ensure the hometown team goes home unhappy. That’s when you know it’s not your night.
How many ‘Skins fans would have jumped at the chance to take on the Steelers without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? And yet, Leftwich steps in and immediately burnt cornerback Fred Smoot for a 50-yard bomb to wide out Nate Washington. That’s the exact moment the game was officially over. Both teams were hit with adversity. One team was able to respond. On this night, the better team won.
2. “Breakdown” by Seether
Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked seven times. It’s safe to say, if you can’t keep your quarterback upright, you’re not going to win many football games. Tackle Chris Samuels, back from a knee injury after missing the Detroit Lions game one week earlier, was called for three penalties. Seriously, when the last time the five-time Pro Bowler was called for three penalties in a game? Samuels was clearly not 100 percent and the Steelers were able to take advantage of the situation. When your best offensive lineman is having that kind of trouble, you can guess what was going on with the rest of the line.
On the other side of the line, tackle Jon Jansen looked overmatched for most of the night. At this point, it’s impossible to say who between Jansen and backup tackle Stephon Heyer is the best man for the job. In addition to getting guys like Samuels healthy, the coaching staff should take a long, hard look at the Jansen-Heyer battle and figure out once and for all who gives the Redskins the best chance for victory. Either way, if the Redskins don’t get better production from that tackle position, it’s going to be a rough second half of the season.
3. “Moment of Clarity” by Jay-Z
Steelers punter Mitch Berger punted eight times and averaged just over 36 yards per punt. Unfortunately, Redskins punt returner Antwaan Randle El is utterly incapable of doing anything remotely productive. The former Steeler returned just three of the punts and six yards per return. But we can’t even be disappointed with Randle El against Pittsburgh. He’s averaging 6.3 yards per punt return for the season. To expect anything more from him at this point would be foolish.
We agree that having Santana Moss return punts full time isn’t an option. The risk of injury is too great and Moss is too important in the passing game. But the Redskins absolutely need to invest a draft pick in a Joshua Cribbs kind of player this offseason. Watching Randle El take one step to the left, one step to the right and fall forward every time he fields a punt has become painful.
In his other role, Randle El didn’t fare any better, hauling in three catches for 22 yards. This season, Randle El has yet to have a 100 yard game. In fact, he’s only had more than 75 yards once all season (against St. Louis). It’s unreasonable to expect either of the rookie receivers — Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas — to magically flip a switch and start bringing something to the table this season, but it’d help everyone else enormously if one of the two of them made a big step forward in time for next season.
For our money though, the game turned once and for all when defensive back Carlos Rogers failed to reel in that interception in the first quarter. Much like the 2005 playoff game in Seattle, Rogers jumped the route, got both hands on the ball with a clear path to the endzone and somehow botched it. Instead of leading 13-3 at home, the Redskins continued to struggle in all facets of the game and just a few plays later watched a blocked punt turn the game once and for all. Momentum snowballed in the Steelers favor from that point on. One play might not win or lose a game, but this one definitely turns out differently if Rogers takes care of business on that play.
Let’s go ahead and curb the “Carlos Rogers is an elite lock-down cornerback” talk until he learns how to intercept a pass consistently. Please and thank you.
4. “Cheating On You” by Franz Ferdinand
At least there weren’t very many Redskins fans in attendance. I mean, otherwise they might have gotten their feelings hurt being letdown by the team’s showing Monday night. It’s a good thing so many of them sold their tickets to Steelers fans … oh wait … no, that’s never a good thing. Seriously, Redskins fans should take it personally that so many other “fans” opted to sell their tickets to Steelers fans. The fact that the home team had to go to a silent count at FedEx Field is utterly embarrassing. If you know someone who sold their ticket to a Steelers fan Monday night please do us all a favor and kick them square in the beanbag. This game was basically a slap in the face to real Redskins fans.
5. “Put It On Me” by Ben Harper
Monday night was a night of streaks coming to a halt. Clinton Portis had rushed for at least 125 yards in five straight games. Not anymore. Jason Campbell hadn’t thrown an interception in 11 months. So much for that. About the only streak left in tact is the presidential election being decided by the ‘Skins final home game. Obama fans such as Phillip Daniels and Fred Smoot could sleep easy knowing that their favorite candidate was a lock for the White House after the Steelers win.
Here’s hoping that the bye week does this tired Redskins team some good. Maybe getting back cornerback Shawn Springs, defensive end Jason Taylor and running back Ladell Betts, plus giving Portis, Santana Moss and friends a breather will help recharge this team and get them back on track in time to take on a flawed Dallas Cowboys team in two weeks.