'Skins let lead, Titans get away

Washington can't dent worst rushing defense, finish off winless team

Titans 25 Redskins 22

October 16, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins thought things could not have been worse than their 0-4 preseason, until they started the regular season 0-2. The Redskins believed they couldn't have played any worse than they did last week at Giants Stadium, until what happened yesterday at FedEx Field.

After scoring on their first two possessions against the previously winless Tennessee Titans, the Redskins self-destructed amid dropped passes and botched handoffs, a blocked punt and continued defensive lapses that all added up to an embarrassing 25-22 defeat.

The Redskins watched their early 14-3 lead turn into a 22-14 deficit after Derrick Frost's punt was blocked into a safety for the Titans. Washington tied the score at 22 but couldn't stop running back Travis Henry on a drive that led to a game-winning 30-yard field goal by Rob Bironas with 5:11 left.

Veteran cornerback Shawn Springs, playing in his first game since undergoing abdominal surgery in August, put it bluntly when asked why the Redskins blew the early lead to lose their second straight and for second time in three home games this season.

"People not wanting to choke the life out of a team that we should have," Springs said. "People say, `Oh yeah, it's the NFL, anything can happen.' We're supposed to beat that team at home if we want to be the team we want to be. When more people get that attitude -- we should have whupped them -- then we'll start winning."

Though the season is not yet half over, yesterday's defeat put a significant dent into whatever realistic playoff chances the Redskins might still hold. Washington (2-4) must now play on the road against the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts (5-0) before its bye week.

"Obviously this is a huge, bitter disappointment for us," said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, whose team was booed as it left the field after the game. "It's all of us together, and that certainly starts with me. It's a matter of all of us sticking together ... and that's the way we're going to fix it."

Said veteran guard Jon Jansen: "It's really hard for me to say how frustrating it is right now. We have so many good players and so many good guys, and for whatever reason, we haven't been putting it together. We've got to learn how to make plays. We've got to learn how to finish teams when we have them down."

Against the NFL's worst rushing defense, the Redskins could muster only 125 yards on 26 attempts. Conversely, Henry took advantage of Washington's playing rookie defensive tackles Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery in place of injured veterans Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a, pounding the Redskins for a career-high 178 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries.

Still, the Redskins had two chances to send the game into overtime, or win it in regulation, after the field goal by Bironas. But Washington quarterback Mark Brunell threw three straight incompletions on one possession, then was intercepted by Titans safety Lamont Thompson with less than a minute remaining.

The victory was not only the first for Tennessee (1-5) this season, but the first for rookie quarterback Vince Young. Last season's Heisman Trophy winner played his most efficient game in three starts, finishing 13 of 25 for 161 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.

"I knew it was coming because of the progress of the team," said Young, who finished the game on a sprained left ankle that required being heavily taped on the sideline in the fourth quarter. "It's huge for us. It was so frustrating to lose the games we did."

Said Springs: "I think Vince ... is going to be a phenomenal player in this league, but not yet."

After Tennessee opened with Young mostly passing on an 11-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by Bironas, Washington scored on its first two possessions -- a 10-yard run by Clinton Portis (58 yards on 14 carries) and a 24-yard pass from Brunell to tight end Chris Cooley to start the second quarter.

They were the last points for the Redskins until a 52-yard pass from Brunell to little-used receiver Brandon Lloyd set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Portis with 10:57 remaining. A two-point conversion pass from Brunell to Santana Moss (five catches, 50 yards) tied the score at 22.

"I really felt we were in control of the game," said Brunell, who finished 16 of 30 for 180 yards. "In the second half we started to struggle to move the ball. I'm not going to take anything away from the Titans, they played tough. They outplayed us today and at the same time, we made a lot of mistakes."

Leave it to the outspoken Springs to put his teammates on notice.

"We're an average team; people are running through us," said Springs, who played mostly on third down. "We haven't done anything to make people fear us ..."

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