TK Posted December 15, 2003 Share Posted December 15, 2003 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A143-2003Dec14.html The Truth Hurts By Thomas Boswell Monday, December 15, 2003; Page D01 Some games give you hope. Others just tell you the truth. Yesterday at FedEx Field, the utterly opposite truth about the Cowboys and Redskins was on display in a crushing 27-0 Dallas victory -- Washington's worst home shutout defeat since 1951. Under Bill Parcells, Dallas is improving spectacularly and swiftly, heading to the playoffs just one year after a 5-11 season. The Redskins under Steve Spurrier are steadily regressing, perhaps even collapsing, as their record falls to 5-9. With two games left against teams in the playoff picture, a 5-11 season is now a real probability. Or, as cornerback Fred Smoot put it, "We stunk the place up." Many a Parcells team has given its rivals a harsh meeting with NFL reality. But few foes ever got a more bitter taste of their true diminished circumstances than these overmatched Redskins. Two simple numbers told the tale. Troy Hambrick rushed for 189 yards, tromping over and through a Redskins defensive line that barely offered more resistance than the evening's raw, dank drizzle. The Redskins knew long before this season ever began that the D-line was their weakness. Nothing sufficient was done. Now, the whole league knows it and exploits it. Meanwhile, Tim Hasselbeck had a 0.0 quarterback rating, tying a record that can never be broken. It's not like the SAT. You don't get points for signing your name. The Redskins under Spurrier have never had a coherent plan for their backup quarterbacks. Hasselbeck, game but raw, was the victim this time. Against one of the best defenses in the NFL, he threw four interceptions. Those picks were returned for about half as much yardage (25) as Hasselbeck gained with all of his 26 throws (56). The best that can be said for the Redskins is that they were playing without their starting quarterback and their two top running backs. That's the sum total of excuses. Forgive according to your tastes. Certainly owner Dan Snyder will have to measure out his mercy. This past week, he said Spurrier would "absolutely" be back next year. If the Redskins finish with two more losses this ugly, any owner might be tempted to add "not" to that evaluation. Since 1981, when Joe Gibbs arrived, Washington had only been shut out at home once in 22 seasons. This, however, was more than a shutout. It was a complete eradication of the Spurrier offense, which only drove inside the Dallas 44-yard line once, and then only for three brief plays. The Redskins committed six turnovers. Star wide receiver Laveranues Coles caught fewer passes (0) than defensive back Ifeanyi Ohalete, who had a three-yard reception on a trick play from punt formation. For those who want to make the case that Spurrier is many miles away from becoming an elite NFL coach, then this game can serve as their Exhibit A. The Redskins prepared for the same blitz-crazed defense that the Cowboys used to beat them, 21-14, in Dallas in November. "We prepared for them to come after us a lot. We felt we had a lot of answers for that," Hasselbeck said. "But they played us differently than they did last time." What a shock. Parcells's team switched tactics. The Redskins prepared, primarily, for the last war. Indeed, the Cowboys almost never blitzed. "They have Bill Parcells, so they are very well-prepared," Coles said. "It seems that they are anticipating what you are going to do. When you run a route, it seems like they are waiting for you." Perhaps the worst omen for the Redskins was when Parcells said publicly, early in the week, that this was "a very, very, very, very important game for us." Four "verys" from the Tuna should send shivers down any back. "The best team won. . . . They outplayed us in every area, just about. I think we punted the ball pretty well," said Spurrier, straight-faced, but perhaps with a touch of sarcasm under his words. "They kicked our tails pretty good. . . . We had a lot of individual players that played their hearts out, but overall, as a team, we weren't good enough to beat these guys." Or even come remotely close. On their home field. A year ago, the Redskins were two games better than the Cowboys in the NFC East. Now, they're four games worse. The most conspicuous difference? The Cowboys added Parcells. The Redskins added Coles, kicker John Hall, kick returner Chad Morton and guard Randy Thomas, all standouts on the Jets' playoff team last season. But they also had another year under Spurrier. Just the facts, ma'am. "People are going to talk about the coaches this week and whatever," said a disgusted Smoot. "But between the Wilsons and the clocks, the game is about the players, not the coaches. . . . We didn't play today. . . . Half the guys did, half the guys didn't. . . . You've got to have a different passion for this [rivalry]. That's Dallas, dawg. I hate 'em." The Wilsons would, probably, be the Wilson footballs used by the NFL. The clocks would, perhaps, be the scoreboard that keeps the time. Thus, when the Wilsons are put in play and the clocks are started, the players decide the game far more than the coaches. That, at least, is one translation. Smootisms should not be dismissed lightly; eventually, they may be all that is worth remembering from this season. In recent weeks, the Redskins have had a couple of credible wins and a few competitive defeats against playoff-bound teams. But numbers don't lie. It's a long, long fall from 3-1 to 5-9, especially when at-the-Bears and home-against-the-Eagles is what remains of a brutal schedule. "They killed us, killed us. It's a disgrace. I would never have expected it," wide receiver Rod Gardner said of a game that was a toss-up to Las Vegas types, especially since Dallas had gotten clobbered in its last two games. By the final minutes, only a few thousand fans were left at FedEx Field, many of them Cowboys fans, some of them throwing the occasional snowball at the Redskins' bench. "I'm not surprised," Gardner said of the bizarre scene. "If you were up 27-zip, which fans do you think would be left in the stands?" "I'm not very good at excuses," said Spurrier. "They played on the same field we did." But at a much higher level. Asked when he last coached a team that was shut out, Spurrier said, "At Duke when we played Rutgers at the Meadowlands." How long ago? "1987," said Spurrier, his grim mood momentarily broken by an involuntary smirk of disbelief. Yes, 1987 -- so long ago. Parcells was coaching the Giants then in their glory years. But it was the Redskins who won the Super Bowl. © 2003 The Washington Post Company Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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