Redskins looking like a hit or myth

JOHN EISENBERG

November 02, 1992|By JOHN EISENBERG

WASHINGTON -- It was when the Giants' famously immobile offense started taking those first halting steps of life in the first quarter last night that you knew the Redskins were in trouble.

Actually, even before that, there was the sight of Mo Elewonibi trying to block Lawrence Taylor, which, no matter how old LT gets, sounds like a punch line out of David Letterman's guide to pro football.

OK, to be perfectly truthful here, even before the game started in the chill and drizzle at RFK Stadium, there wasn't much doubt that the Redskins were going to have to sweat out the last minutes -- yes, even against the depressing Giants.

It's just that the Redskins can't win any other way this year, not with the offensive line such a mess and Mark Rypien a mere rumor compared with last year and the entire team as vaguely incapable as it was seamless a year ago.

Then the Giants, who can't move the ball, started moving the ball . . . and never stopped. And the Redskins discovered that they hadn't come close to hitting bottom in that embarrassing loss to the Cardinals This was worse.

That was a fluke. This -- a 24-7 Giants win -- exposed the Redskins as the myth that they are this year.

Maybe it's true no team could win with an offensive line in such disrepair. But that does not explain last night's Seahawks-like performance by the Redskins defense, which had been among the league's best.

The Giants wrapped up the game with first-half touchdown drives of 65, 89 and 67 yards, each a neat blend of running and passing. There was nothing subtle about any of it. The Redskins defensive line got stuffed. Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler made the Redskins' smallish defensive backs look, well, too small.

Down two touchdowns at the half, the Redskins were history. Their offense couldn't make up that many points in a month, much less a half. Think that's a joke? Have you toted up how many touchdowns the offense has scored in the past three games? Here, let me make it easy: If you count to two, you're too high.

Yes, one touchdown in three weeks. From the same offense that was utterly unstoppable a year ago. What gives?

It all starts with the line, which has been the centerpiece of the Redskins' success for a decade. Only right guard Mark Schlereth is in place from the start of the season. Jim Lachey and Jeff Bostic are injured. Joe Jacoby is playing out of position. Ed Simmons has to start, and he is coming right off knee surgery. The result is that the running game is pretty much useless and Rypien is getting pounded.

Rypien was just about the NFL's best quarterback last year being protected by a top-shelf line. But he isn't a Marino or Elway who can carry a team. Not even close. He's just a talented deep-ball thrower who no longer has the time to throw deep balls.

That's not to absolve him entirely of blame in this. John Madden said on TV last week that Rypien's footwork was terrible and he was just slinging the ball with his arm instead of using his body. The talk is that he has never recovered from holding out, and while there's no way to know, something certainly is wrong.

Watching him now, it seems fair to suggest that perhaps he is just a reasonable quarterback who happened to have a career year. We'll see. (In fairness, last night Art Monk and Gary Clark each dropped a pass that could have turned the game around.)

The only good news for the Redskins is that, as the season begins to shake out, it would appear there is no team nearly as dominant as it was a year ago. It has been awhile since the Super Bowl was this wide open.

The Eagles, who thought they had the Super Bowl wrapped up after four games, have now lost three of four. The 49ers do not compare to their championship teams of the '80s -- and that was evident even before they lost at home to the Cardinals yesterday, which should be grounds for flunking the semester.

The Giants are old. The rejuvenated Vikings still couldn't beat these Redskins. The AFC -- do we even have to say it?

The best in football right now are the Cowboys, and they're the youngest team in the league, 28th of 28, so while they're clearly the NFL's coming power, you have to wonder if they're ready to hold up to the pressure this January.

Anyway, the Redskins can only hope they get all their injured linemen back together and make some sort of late run. But with tough road games left in Kansas City, New Orleans and Philadelphia, don't count on it. It looks as if last year was their year.

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