Redskins skidding as Zorn revisits Seattle

For a team with so much talent and chemistry, the Redskins sure have a knack for coming up limp when the sun goes down.

On Sunday at FedEx Field, for the third time since September, the ‘Skins had a chance to make a statement in a nationally televised night game. And for the third time, this is what rookie coach Jim Zorn’s team told the football-watching world: Our defense is good enough to keep us in any game, but our offense isn’t ready for prime time.

As with previous clunkers against the Giants and Steelers, Washington’s 14-10 loss to the Cowboys exposed a collective tightness under the lights, a disturbing trend for a team that looked so bold and assertive earlier this season in consecutive road victories against the Cowboys and Eagles.

“We’re so wishy-washy, and it’s very frustrating,” veteran defensive end Andre Carter said after Sunday’s game as he dressed in a near-deserted locker room. “This team is so blessed in so many ways, and we’ve come so far as a group.

“We have it – it’s so there – we just need to fix a couple of things. The main thing I think we need to do is just tone it down. Sometimes you’ve just got to slow your heart rate down, clear your head and say, ‘Let’s go.’ ”

Now would be that time. The Redskins (6-4), who once fashioned themselves as contenders for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, have slipped three games behind the Giants in the NFC East and are now part of what is shaping up as a nine-team scrum for two wild-card spots.

Can Zorn’s offense, which has produced just six touchdowns in the ‘Skins’ past five games (and 23 points in those three prime-time games), get it together when he returns to Seattle this Sunday? And sustain that momentum down the stretch? Will Washington shrink up again the next time it plays a night game – which, barring an NBC schedule change, wouldn’t come until the playoffs, when the lights are the brightest?

Hey, I’m not a psychic; I just play one on the Internet. As always, however, I’m relentlessly inquisitive, seeking answers in a best-to-worst-team kind of way:

1. Tennessee Titans: Who let Justin Gage out of his cage?

2. New York Giants: If the Ravens can’t stop their running game, can anyone?

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: After he made that awesome diving interception in the first quarter, didn’t Troy Polamalu deserve that last-second (and incorrectly overturned) touchdown?

4. Carolina Panthers: Is Jon Beason always around the ball, or does it just seem that way?

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Now that Jeff Garcia is leading the Bucs toward the playoffs again, doesn’t it seem even weirder that Jon Gruden benched him after the team’s season opener?

6. Dallas Cowboys: Is this team talented enough to overcome its habitual sloppiness?

7. Washington Redskins: By failing to subdue the Cowboys, did they just recreate a monster?

8. New York Jets: Is Thomas Jones the most underrated running back of the decade?

9. Arizona Cardinals: Will Kurt Warner have a little somethin’-somethin’ for the coach who discarded him, Tom Coughlin, on Sunday?

10. Indianapolis Colts: After the way their last two games ended, is it fair to say they’re No. 10 with a Bullitt?

11. Green Bay Packers: When Ryan Grant gets going like he did Sunday, can this offense be stopped?

12. Minnesota Vikings: I know they only ran seven plays, but how can Adrian Peterson not touch the ball in the fourth quarter of a competitive game?

13. New England Patriots: If someone had told you in August that the Pats would open as one-point favorites over the Dolphins in a mid-November revenge game, would you have fitted him/her for a straightjacket before or after delivering the Thorazine shot?

14. Denver Broncos: Is Jay Cutler back in the MVP conversation?

15. Atlanta Falcons: Did you see the massive hole on Michael Turner’s 28-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Broncos, and was it further confirmation that this is the NFL’s most improved offensive line?

16. Baltimore Ravens: How impressive is Matt Stover’s NFL record for consecutive extra points – and, to put it in perspective, what are the odds that you could do anything (take a bite of food without spilling; park the car downtown without tapping someone’s bumper; put the trash out for collection day) successfully 372 times in a row?

17. Chicago Bears: Did Brian Urlacher bait Aaron Rodgers into throwing that interception while covering Donald Driver deep, and is there another over-30 middle linebacker who could possibly get away with that?

18. Miami Dolphins: Did you see Chad Pennington firing up the Dolphins’ defenders after he engineered that go-ahead-field-goal drive – and is there any doubt that he’s the leader of this team?

19.Philadelphia Eagles: Did Donovan McNabb at least know that a tie is like kissing one’s sister (and, in this case, is it fair to say that Philly’s sister is pretty damned far from Angelina Jolie)?

20. New Orleans Saints: Is .500 as good as it gets, or can this team outscore the Packers and make a run?

21.Cleveland Browns: How many beers did Brady Quinn buy Phil Dawson Monday night?

22. Buffalo Bills: Which Dick was more paranoid and conservative – Nixon during his presidency, or Jauron on the Bills’ final drive Monday night?

23. San Diego Chargers: Should I read anything into the fact that my preseason Super Bowl picks are a combined 9-11?

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Instead of giving his team the ol’ David and Goliath speech, perhaps Jack Del Rio should’ve copped Jules Winfield’s classic Ezekiel 25:17 speech from “Pulp Fiction”?

25. Houston Texans: As disappointing as this season has been, is it fair to say that Steve Slaton was a nice little third-round draft pick?

26. Seattle Seahawks: When Matt Hasselbeck is 3 yards shy of being your leading rusher in a November game, is it fair to say you’re running in place?

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Even though they keep losing … and losing … and losing … don’t you get the feeling this team could be pretty good in ’09?

28. Cincinnati Bengals: Given his pedigree as a youth soccer ball wizard, was Chad Ocho Cinco hoping that Sunday’s game against the Eagles would go to PKs?

29. San Francisco 49ers: With a 35-3 lead after two quarters Sunday, did Mike Singletary consider pulling down Jim Haslett’s pants at halftime?

30. St. Louis Rams: Is Steven Jackson coming back soon, and will it even matter?

31. Oakland Raiders: When your two stars are a punter (Shane Lechler) and a punt returner (Johnnie Lee Higgins), are you officially unwatchable?

32. Detroit Lions: If I screamed out “Quarterback draw!” before Daunte Culpepper received the two-point conversion snap while trailing 24-22 late in their game at Carolina, what do you think the odds are that the Panthers’ defenders were thinking the same thing?

Michael Silver covers the NFL for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Mogotxt, Twitter and Facebook. Also check out ridewithsilver.com. Send Michael a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008