Skins Couldn't Capitalize on Chances

When the Redskins recovered the fumble, just after pulling within a touchdown, the sideline erupted. They knew what was about to happen, because it had so many times throughout the six-game winning streak. They'd produce points out of another team's mistake.

But that didn't happen. Instead, the Redskins exit the season knowing they got every break they wanted, but they weren't good enough to capitalize.

And now starts the questions of, Are they just one-hit wonders? That's hard to say, though major decisions remain, starting at quarterback. Mark Brunell did not play great down the stretch. Can they squeeze another year out of his beaten-up 35-year-old body?

There are cap issues to deal with; a couple free agent signings and then the draft. Oh, and that little matter of possible jail time for Sean Taylor.

Those are topics for other days. Though Washington failed to advance, it gave the city and its fans quite a ride with its six-game winning streak.

There's nothing that can energize this town like the Redskins. There's nothing that ever will. Everywhere you went, the Redskins were Topic A. It was a return to the old days thanks to Joe Gibbs and his staff. More than anything they assembled the right kind of people together, an overlooked component by many.

The Redskins had nothing to be ashamed of when the game ended. It'll be interesting to see if this is the start of something, or just a one-game aberration. 

The difference: Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He was patient and did not lead his receivers into constant poundings, unlike his counterpart who threw passes that directly led receivers into major collisions on a few occasions. But that's not all. Hasselbeck showed a second gear when running around the end for his six-yard touchdown run in the third. Whenever Mark Brunell tried to run, he was easily caught from behind. Brunell did a nice job leading the Redskins to the playoffs, but he was clearly worn down by season's end. His passes weren't accurate and lacked much zip. Whether that was because of his knee sprain or age we'll know next summer.

Big plays: The Redskins' defense allowed four plays that totaled 129 yards, more than a third of Seattle's total offense. Three were passes and one was a Mack Strong run leading to the game-clinching field goal in the fourth. Walt Harris was beaten badly on one; Carlos Rogers was burned badly on another and the receiver made a great adjustment on the third.

Oh-so-close: Carlos Rogers could have changed the game with an interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. He had the ball and free space ahead. But, for whatever reason, he couldn't hang on and a potential 10-0 lead remained 3-0. Seattle's drive was capped by a touchdown. Sometimes, it's those little plays early on that aren't made that make the biggest difference. 

Tough day: Right tackle Jon Jansen appeared to take the loss even harder than the others, getting showered and heading for the bus almost immediately. His dream was to play in the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit.

Retirement talk: Guard Ray Brown played his last game in the NFL, ending a 20-year career. Before he left, tackle Chris Samuels told him, "I've enjoyed playing with you." Brown is a classy guy and will be missed. He was always a great quote and very, very professional. Next up on the retirement watch is defensive tackle Brandon Noble. It would be a major shock if he continued playing.

Bad sight: The passing game struggled because Brunell was off-target. There's no doubt that's true. But on numerous occasions two of the three receivers on the field were Taylor Jacobs and Jimmy Farris. That's not the twosome a team needs to advance past the second round. It's why a No. 2 receiver should be high on the list of offseason priorities. Otherwise, teams will inch closer to the line-- provided they have a speed front-- as Tampa and Seattle did the past two games.

Rivalry: Maybe it's an Alabama-Auburn thing, but linebacker Marcus Washington apparently took some shots at Shaun Alexander after the game, talking about how he could have returned, etc. Washington is from Auburn, Alexander from 'Bama. By the way, did you notice Washington on Alexander's injury? The reason Alexander had to cut where he did was because Washington had driven left tackle Walter Jones backwards, forcing Alexander to cut. It was an excellent job.

Returning?: Linebacker LaVar Arrington wants to return and sources close to him say he'd probably do whatever he had to to come back. Arrington has warmed very much to Gregg Williams and, because of that, is willing to endure Dale Lindsey's coaching. But that $12 million cap figure will make it tough for him to stay, at least at that price. He's said he would not restructure his deal again, but if he wants to stay, that's what he'll have to do.

Winning formula: The Redskins recovered three fumbles and knocked out the MVP running back, Shaun Alexander. That should have spelled upset, but it was only good enough to get them a 10-point loss. If their offense had done anything, the game could have been different.

Offseason priorities: Get the cap straightened out. The Redskins have 11 players who will count $4 million or more against the cap, compared to three such players this season.


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