When the Washington Redskins arrived in St. Louis to face the Rams, losers of 42 games over the last three years, they probably didn't expect to leave losers. No team expects to lose, but for the second time in as many years the Redskins offered up a win to a rebuilding franchise with a rookie quarterback.
But this is the new look, new attitude Mike Shanahan-coached Redskins, not the insufferable, lazy, quitter-laden Jim Zorn Redskins. How can such a thing be allowed to transpire?
Every Washington fan is asking that same question or some variation of it and there is no real answer. This wasn't a case of a few bad bounces going the other team's way. this was a hungrier team taking it to the Redskins.
This wasn't a case of the Redskins letting one slip away. The Rams came out from the opening snap and took that victory.
It was just last week that fans were excited about the offensive display put on by the Redskins. Now they're left questioning the heart of this team, and when or if they'll be able to put an entire game together.
After an ugly, grind-out win against Dallas, the Redskins came out swinging for the fences against Houston, but ultimately stalled on offense and couldn't stop the Texans on defense.
Against the Rams, they gave up 14 points in the first eight minutes after a long touchdown run from Steven Jackson and a touchdown pass from Sam Bradford, set up by a Santana Moss fumble.
The Redskins have another week of missed opportunities to look back on as they prepare for Donovan McNabb's return trip to Philadelphia.
Perhaps it is the abundance of experience that puts the Redskins at a disadvantage. Many of the new names, and even some of the old names, are used to some level of success. It doesn't come as natural to have to fight quite so hard for it. The Rams are loaded with young, talented players, itching to make names for themselves and their team. The Redskins don't have that same fire across the board.
You have passionate players like London Fletcher putting his body on the line for every tackle, every yard, every down. Then you have LaRon Landry who, despite a great showing so far this season, is still getting riled up over every tackle he makes.
Here's an idea: stop the ball-carrier from picking up 15 yards and a first down, then we'll talk about celebrating.
Numbers rarely express the true nature of things, but prior to the game against St. Louis, the Redskins were ranked last in the NFL in total defense and 12th in total offense. Despite the average to above-average ranking the offense pulled, it's only converting 21.7 percent of third downs. Only one team is worse in that category, but that team (Pittsburgh) also has the sixth ranked defense.
Mistakes by opponents helped the Redskins win against Dallas, but their own cost them the game against St. Louis.
As mentioned before, it was just last year that the Jim Zorn-led Redskins went to Detroit and gave the Lions their first win in 20 games. With the hiring of Shanahan, the players went on and on about the different attitude, the feel of the locker room, the leadership and the experience.
Don't get me wrong, this is not my way of saying the season is over, or the Redskins are destined to repeat history. This is serving as notice to fans who would jump off the bandwagon after so eagerly leaping back on after the Dallas win.
The Redskins are far from Super Bowl contenders right now. The season is still young and while there are signs of chemistry in all facets of the game, they are far from perfect or perfectly comfortable with one another.
This is a metaphorical "Mind Our Dust" sign. They aren't rebuilding, but the Redskins are doing enough tinkering and tweaking to be considered renovating.
I believe the Redskins can win the division if they can bring everything together. There is no clear front-runner between the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys, but the Redskins can't allow teams like St. Louis to walk over them, or teams like Houston to sneak away with close wins. The great teams in the NFL win when they're supposed to and don't take weeks off.
This was an off week for Washington. Perhaps it is best that it came before it faces the Eagles, Packers, Colts and Bears over the next five weeks.