Redskins fall in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE--Jon Jansen sat at his locker, his left knee wrapped in ice, his head staring at the ground. It's a look he's worn the past three years, one that comes after games that could be turning points in a season. Especially ones that end in losses.

The game was billed as Steve Spurrier's homecoming. But afterward it could be called a crucial defeat. And Jansen's demeanor clearly suggested he understood what it meant.

''We've gotta take the next step as a team and as an organization,'' Jansen said. ''We can't keep going 8-8 or 9-7. We've got to get into the playoffs.''

Games like the 26-7 loss to Jacksonville make it difficult for anyone to dream about the postseason.

The loss dropped the Redskins to 4-5. They blew a golden opportunity to close within a game of first place in the NFC East as Philadelphia lost. Instead, the Redskins fall to third place, two games behind the Eagles and one behind New York.

''We needed this game,'' Redskins guard Tre Johnson said. ''It's a game we shouldn't have lost. If we played them again in a week it would be a different outcome. But we don't and now we have to beat the Giants.''

They did it with curious play-calling, horrific punting and a defense that eventually wore out on a humid evening. The Jaguars (4-5) snapped a four-game losing streak by letting Spurrier do what he wanted: try to pass. For a defense that hasn't stopped the run all season, that strategy was a welcomed one.

Even Spurrier admitted afterward that it wasn't wise. The statistics backed him up: Washington dropped back to pass 54 times compared to only 15 runs. Some of that stemmed from the Redskins trying to catch up late. But the Redskins were imbalanced early, too, as 22 of their first 31 plays were passes.

Quarterback Shane Matthews completed 27 of 50 passes for 256 yards, a touchdown and two intercpetions, including one on the second drive of the game in the end zone.

It appeared the Redskins forgot they were facing one of the NFL's worst run defenses.

''I guess I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field,'' Spurrier said. ''We had a little success [running] early and I got away from it. I called a lousy game as it turns out.''

Others said that wasn't why they lost.

''It shouldn't be a problem if we pass that much or not,'' Redskins tackle Chris Samuels said.

But it was. Once the Redskins established their game plan, the Jaguars adjusted. They often used their linebackers close to the line of scrimmage, taking away running lanes and daring Washington to succeed in the air. The Redskins couldn't.

Not that they did much of anything well after scoring a touchdown on their opening drive.

The Jaguars broke open the game with 13 third-quarter points, taking a 23-7 lead and all but ending the game a quarter early. The Redskins never threatened to make it a game thereafter.

A combination of futile offense and poor special teams led to Washington's downfall--in the third quarter and in the game.

A familiar pattern went like this: Washington would get pinned deep in its own territory, sometimes because of poor decision making on punt returns. The Redskins then would fail to move the ball. And a bad punt would lead to excellent field position for Jacksonville.

That formula produced the Jaguars' first 13 points, enough to win the game. A 12-yard Bryan Barker punt in the second quarter went out of bounds at his own 21, leading to a Jacksonville touchdown four plays later. Stacey Mack's two-yard run tied the game at 7.

''The most important part is dropping and catching the ball,'' Barker said. ''When I did drop it properly I kicked it well. This one slipped out of my hand and I was lucky to get any part of my foot on the ball. It killed me and it killed our team.''

The futility didn't end. Barker mishit another punt, hitting a 33-yarder out of bounds at his own 35 late in the first half. The Jaguars, again, capitalized, eventually settling for a 28-yard Tim Seder field goal with eight seconds remaining. Seder would make three more field goals on the day.

The field position battle left the Redskins' defense weary.

''It gets tough at times,'' Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said. ''But you've gotta make the best of it. It's like playing Blackjack. You never know what hand you're going to get dealt.''

''We've still got to make sure they don't score,'' Redskins tackle Daryl Gardener said. ''I don't care if they take over on the 1-yard line.''

Other problems ensued. Corner Champ Bailey, subbing for injured punt returner Jacquez Green (leg contusion), failed to field a punt at his own 25, letting it bounce. It rolled 20 more yards and the Redskins couldn't escape this hole.

Bailey has worked as a punt returner in practice, but has never been a regular in this role during games. It showed.

''I definitely should have caught that one,'' Bailey said. ''The ball shifted away from me, but I still have to catch it. But you can talk about my play all you want. There were a collection of plays that we could have made and didn't. They kicked our [butts].''

Jacksonville's Bobby Shaw returned the ensuing punt to the Washington 47, turning it into an eventual 43-yard Seder field goal and 13-7 lead.

Seder added a 27-yarder on the next drive, after James Tuthill missed a 49-yarder of his own, bouncing it off the crossbar. And Jaguars running back Fred Taylor ended the third-quarter scoring with a 12-yard touchdown run.

The Redskins won two straight games, largely built on their running game. But Washington largely abandoned the run in the first half, calling passing plays on 18  the final 20 plays in the opening 30 minutes.

It proved unwise as the Redskins failed to score after their first drive. Running back Kenny Watson rushed twice on the opening series for 24 yards, attacking Jaguars right end Rob Meier--a frequent victim of opponents. Those runs moved the ball to the Jaguars' 38.

From there, Matthews completed an 11-yard pass to fullback Bryan Johnson and a 12-yard screen to receiver Derrius Thompson. On third and 15 from the 20, Matthews hit receiver Rod Gardner on a flag pattern in the right corner of the end zone.

Gardner slipped behind the zone and the slot receiver, Derrius Thompson, occupied the safety long enough to keep him open.

But that was it, ending Spurrier's return to the city he had success in as Florida's coach. He created a buzz before the game. Also, many in this city had wanted Jacksonville to fire Tom Coughlin and hire Spurrier last winter.

''All the talk was abou

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