Baffled, Bruised Redskins Limp into Bye at 6-3

Steelers fan threw off home team

The battered and bruised Washington Redskins filtered into the locker room Tuesday morning befuddled on multiple fronts.

When the red-eyed Redskins, operating on a few hours sleep, weren't dissecting the plays that went wrong in Monday night's 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they were shaking their heads over the hoard of visiting fans whose Terrible Towels and disruptive cheers turned the largest stadium in the NFL into Heinz Field South.

"It was definitely a strange environment," center Casey Rabach said. "We had to go silent count in third-down situations and shotgun situations. Having to do that at home, that's unbelievable. It's the first time we've had to go silent count in our home stadium."

From his luxury suite at the 50-yard line, Dan Snyder witnessed what had to be one of the most embarrassing scenes in his nine years as Redskins owner. Consider: The Redskins entered the game 6-2, one of the feel-good stories in the league. They had a coveted prime-time home game. Their fans -- often touted as "the greatest in the NFL" -- have sold out every home game since the 1960s.

Yet by the thousands they sold their prime, high-priced seats -- scattered not in one isolated section, but throughout the lower bowl -- to those of the opposite allegiance. It looked and sounded like one of those college bowl games in which the tickets were divvied 50-50.

"To see so many yellow towels, I'm thinking 'Where did they get all the tickets?"' coach Jim Zorn said. "That's a good following."

The Steelers defense, realizing what was happening, began urging the crowd to cheer louder on crucial third downs. Redskins players talked about it on the sideline.

"That's not the expectations I have of the fans here," guard Pete Kendall said. "But who am I to begrudge somebody for making a profit selling a ticket? I'm playing for money, and it's their right to do what they want with their ticket."

Zorn made it clear that he didn't think the noise or the silent snap counts affected the play of the offensive line. In a way, that's too bad for the coach -- because it would have been a convenient way to explain the fact that Jason Campbell was sacked seven times, the most allowed by a Redskins team since 2002.

The Steelers defense, ranked No. 1 in the league, magnified a trend that began to surface in recent weeks, when the Redskins were accumulating victories against lesser teams. Zorn's offense has trouble finishing drives and lacks sufficient firepower at receiver. When Clinton Portis is stopped -- Pittsburgh held the league's leading rusher to 51 yards -- the attack goes nowhere.

"The offense's job is to score points, and we're not doing that well enough," Kendall said. "When we cross midfield, we've got to find ways to kick extra points instead of field goals."

Zorn planned full evaluation meetings later Monday with his assistants, but the result will be tweaks and not an overhaul.

"We're not going to reinvent the offense. ... I think we're on a pretty good roll, although we lost," Zorn said. "We've got the guys working hard. I think we've just got to have them execute better."

The players, meanwhile, were given the rest of the week off and will reconvene on Monday. Portis and receiver Santana Moss are among many starters who have been playing through nagging injuries and could use the time to heal. Defensive end Jason Taylor and cornerback Shawn Springs, who sat out Sunday, are expected to return for the game in two weeks against Dallas.

Then there's the matter of perspective. It's hard to complain too much about a 6-3 record when the preseason consensus had the Redskins bringing up the rear in the NFC East.

"We're still at a good point," Moss said. "Yes, we would have liked to have gone into our bye with a win, but it doesn't always work that way. It's nothing for us to sit and be mad about. It still think we're sitting pretty good." 

Notes: Zorn said the burgundy-on-burgundy uniforms -- a combination worn for the first time in team history -- will surface again if the players request them, even though the look is 0-1. "I'm not superstitious," the coach said. ... Zorn was upset over an equipment malfunction that caused the coach-to-quarterback transmitter to fail for much of the fourth quarter. A similar problem occurred during a game a few weeks ago. "We have to have an answer," Zorn said. "It just can't happen."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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