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Redskins Break Down In the Motor City

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DETROIT – No brains, no heart, no courage. The game tape to be reviewed on Monday comes straight from "The Wizard of Oz."

The Redskins showed a painful paucity of those traits in their stunning, inept and awful loss to the Detroit Lions. The Lions. The NFL's reigning laughingstock, with their 19-game skein of defeats dating to 2007.

Hand that crown over, boys. There's a new bunch of Munchkins in town.

Yes, the Redskins. The last time the Lions had won was Dec. 23, 2007. That's also the last time the Redskins scored 30 points in a game. Now, even the paltry production of games past, the field goals that we once loathed, look like handsome achievements.

At the half, 13-0. And it wasn't that close. The Lions battered the Redskins, bullied them, pushed them around. Gashed them. Mashed them. Trashed them. The Lions 19, the Redskins 14.

"Coming out without a win is very difficult for me to deal with," coach Jim Zorn said.

As it should be.

The Redskins, if you can believe this, gagged on a fourth-and-1 run from the Lions 1-yard line in the first quarter and might just as well have gone home then. The red zone nightmare deflated the entire team, which simply stopped thinking, tackling and playing as if it mattered.

"I didn't believe, from my standpoint, that three points was going to lose the game for us," Zorn said.

It would take 45 players and a coaching staff to accomplish that.

Blitz a rookie quarterback? Nah. Let him sit in the pocket and read, read, read. Tackle much? No, that would be rude in the other guy's stadium. Score? Please. At halftime, the Redskins had gone 91 minutes and 30 seconds of NFL play without scoring a touchdown.

Pick a flaw, any flaw. There it was. A four-man rush that couldn't rush Matthew Stafford. A running game that couldn't run at all (no yards net in the first half). No intensity, no fire, no purpose. Too much time spent on the mellow brick road.

The Lions had the football for 22 minutes of the first half, driving up and down the field as it were the interstate. A 99-yard drive for a touchdown. A 74-yard drive for a field goal. An 86-yard drive for a field goal. They piled up 274 yards of total offense in the first half to Washington's 94.

While the Redskins could not convert a third down (0-3), the Lions turned the trick on nine of 12. Nine of 12? That included third-and-10 and third-and-14 on the first scoring drive, third-and-two and third-and-seven on the second, third-and-five, third-and-four, third-and-eight and third-and-10 on the next.

"They believed," said Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache. "We did enough things to keep feeding that belief, not getting off the field on third down."

Stafford threw 24 passes in the first half. Rarely pressured, he was sacked only twice on the day. Nor did the Redskins create a turnover. Sore points, just like the red zone inefficiency. Sad to say, maybe this is really what the Redskins are. Like the yellow brick road, they go on and on and you can just about the ding-dongs in the background.

A glimmer of hope appeared at the start of the second half when Jason Campbell connected with Santana Moss for a 57-yard touchdown that cut Detroit's lead to six. Here it was, a big play, a score from outside of the dreaded red zone, and perhaps the lift the fellas needed.

Nah. Lions safety Ko Simpson's interception -- the Lions blitzed linebacker Jordan Dizon and he had a hand in Campbell's face -- cut short the next drive.

Did we mention the Lions blitzed on a third down to get pressure and force a mistake? Did we get that in with enough emphasis?

Pressure causes mistakes. Like the Campbell pick. And his fumbles. Looking out for where the blitz might come, where the pocket may crumble, that adds to the quarterback's load. Some day the Redskins should try it. When they do, they will realize they tried it too late. Not blitzing a rookie quarterback is a sin for which there is no forgiveness.

Playing some kind of aggressive defense might also be a concept the Redskins consider. After giving up one long drive after another in the first half, they did it again late in the fourth quarter when the game was still there to be won.

The Lions went 85 yards, aided crucially by a 47-yard pass interference penalty against safety Chris Horton. The Redskins broke up the attempt at a two-point conversion in an effort that belongs on the highlight reel, as there's so little else to choose from.

When Campbell sailed a 4-yard pass into Rock Cartwright's midsection with 2:36 left, the Redskins had finally snapped their red-zone funk. That pulled them within five and left them with the choice of an onside kick or kicking away and using their three times-out in an effort to get the ball back again. They kicked it away, for a touchback.

What could happen now? How about a tight end named Will Heller running away from Brian Orakpo and making a 24-yard catch? How about the Lions rolling Stafford to the left and having enough time to make a sandwich and a phone call before delivering to Heller? That put a crimp in the strategy of calling timeout and the clock unwound to 2:00 with the Lions in third-and-11 at their own 44.

When the Lions finally punted, the Redskins got the ball back at their own 22 with 1:12 left. Too far to go, too little time, too few playmakers, too little hope.

All the questions of a week ago now reappear here in the haunted forest. The unthinkable has happened and everyone and everything about this team becomes red meat. Jim Zorn's future, Campbell's future, nothing is sacred any longer, if it ever was.

This was defeat, pure and raw, in front of 40,896, not remotely enough ticket buyers to televise this game in Detroit. This was the end of the streak for the Lions and maybe the end of the Redskins.

"Give their staff credit," Blache said. "They knew were our strengths were and where our weaknesses were. If you looked at the tape, you understood this football team is very capable."

He meant the Lions, of course.

Given a schedule so soft it could be mistaken for a goose-down pillow, the Redskins barely managed to beat the St. Louis Rams, now winless in their last 13 games and proud scorer of three touchdowns this season. They lost to the Lions, who no longer have to hear about 0-19. Next they will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losers of seven straight. It doesn't get any easier than this and yet it seems almost impossible.

They should be skipping down the yellow brick road. Enjoying the delights of Oz. Parading through Munchkinland.

Not these scarecrows, these tinmen, these cowardly lions. They're not off to see the wizard. They're just off.


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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