By MARK F. GRAY
Ultimately what may be the downfall for this year’s road to the NFL Playoffs will be the Washington Washington Football Team inability to beat the bottom feeders of the NFC North. After laying an egg in Detroit it cracked at FedEx Field Sunday as they blew opportunities and slipped again at home to an inferior opponent falling to the Minnesota Vikings 17-13 which all but derailed their post season hopes.
The sad fact is that there is enough blame to go around. Despite the Herculean effort the Washington Football Team once again were their own worst enemy. On a day where they seemed to cure what ailed them on third down conversions, self induced mistakes thwarted their efforts against a team with an interim head coach that they had the chance to bury early. Washington was seven of 15 on third down conversion opportunities, a category they ranked dead last in coming into the weekend. However, they only mustered 216 yards total offense.
Not having Clinton Portis for the rest of the season will be a loss that can’t be understated. The Washington Football Team had no balance offensively and rushed for only 29 yards the entire game. Despite the dreadfully inconsistent offensive line, when Portis made his final brief appearance last week in Tennessee he hit the holes that were available quicker than all the other backs and was able to get around the corner on sweeps and on cutbacks. No matter who lined up in the backfield with Donovan McNabb they appeared to be running with cement shoes on.
For McNabb it must be a case his career going back to the future. As was the case in Philadelphia there is no balance with the Washington Football Team offense because the supporting cast isn’t stepping up around him. McNabb’s lone interception was a deflection that went through Santana Moss’ hands and ricocheted off his helmet and set up what amounted to be the Vikings game winning score. Combine that with the ineptitude running the football they were doomed after the stellar opening drive.
One of the staples of the coaches who fall from the Bill Walsh tree is the script of their first 15-20 plays and then they make the adjustments based on what the defense is giving them. The script worked to perfection as the Washington Football Team marched down the field on their opening drive which culminated in McNabb’s touchdown pass to Fred Davis. However, once Team Shanahan needed to break from their script the Vikings kept them under wraps with timely blitz packages and carefully disguised coverages that Washington was unable to decipher on the field, sideline, or from the booth.
Still despite all of that Brandon Banks appeared to have bailed them out with a 77 yard punt return for a touchdown. However, fellow rookie Perry Riley rendered that play meaningless with an illegal block in the back that took those points off the board which ultimately dropped them to 5-6 and off the NFC’s post season grid’s first page.
Mistakes and missed opportunities continue to define this season for the Washington Football Team and the greatest frustration is understanding what may have been. The loss to the Vikings is another of those games slipped through their finger tips like McNabb’s delivery to Moss.