This loss hurts. It really hurts.
Not all losses are created equal. Most level-headed football fans can take a tough loss on the chin. They can reasonably and pragmatically understand that in this day and age, unless there is a significant difference in talent levels between two sides that parity, luck and pure randomness all play a big part in the outcome of a game. More often than not, either side could win on “their day”.
This isn’t one of those losses.
For three-and-a-half quarters last night, the Redskins marched up and down the field on offense, and stood steadfast and stubbornly in the way of one of the leagues best units on defense. They lead 31-16 on the road against a 7-2 team. They looked every bit a “good” team, perhaps better than that. They looked comfortable.
What happened next was an improbable series of events that saw the Redskins conspire to throw away a 15 point lead in less than six minutes. That’s not just snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; that’s punching yourself in the stomach so hard you vomit the victory back up.
This loss hurts. This loss is one of the most painful in recent Redskins history. This loss is like a wound that will take some time to scab-over, and recalling each individual play that could and should have gone differently and altered the outcome is like poking the wound and recoiling in horror from the physical pain it causes each time. It’s a game the Redskins really should have won.
But let’s not confuse “should have” with “deserved to”. A Saints fan said to me after the game “you didn’t deserve to lose that”. No? Maybe it was just my outright anger or maybe I was too upset with the team, but from where I was standing as I watched them slide slowly and helplessly down a slope of despair, I find it very difficult to say they deserved to win either. Yes, the Saints needed a few favors from Lady Luck, what team doesn’t when they have to come back from 15 with under six minutes remaining? But make no mistake; the Redskins were entirely complicit in their own demise, gift wrapping the win on a black and gold platter with a series of head-scratching play calls on both sides of the ball.
And what a profound difference six minutes can have on the outlook of a season. With six minutes remaining, the team were 5-5, ready to begin their journey down the stretch where a favorable slate had been laid on for them. Nine wins seemed more than achievable, with the most optimistic fans dreaming of 10. Six minutes later the season was effectively over. No, this team is not officially dead. But it is on life support, and a loss as painful as this one, in addition to the team losing its best skill player on offense for the season, has many fans ready to pull the plug.
With each game comes a greater confidence of exactly what this team is. Despite this horrific defeat they definitely aren’t a bad team, that much is clear. Through 11 weeks I feel relatively confident in labeling them a “good team that continually find creative ways to lose”.
Until the latter is fixed, the hurting won’t stop any time soon.