CINCINNATI (AP)—Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Washington Redskins are in a mess of trouble.
They lost for the fifth time in six games Sunday, unable to keep up with one of the NFL’s lowliest teams. Ryan Fitzpatrick ran for a touchdown and threw for another, leading the Cincinnati Bengals to a 20-13 victory that ended the Redskins’ week of grousing.
And, pretty much, their playoff chances, too.
“I’m speechless,” said fullback Mike Sellers, whose goal-line fumble became the final blow. “We’re having a hard time beating some of the worst teams.”
They looked like one of them in a game they had to win.
The main intrigue was how the Redskins (7-7) would react to injuries that decimated their offensive line and grumbling by running back Clinton Portis that rippled through the locker room. They held a players-only meeting at midweek after Portis derisively called coach Jim Zorn a “genius” for benching him the previous week.
Portis got plenty of work—25 carries for 77 yards—but also dropped a pass on Washington’s final drive. He knew where to put the blame for this one.
“It’s pretty tough,” Portis said. “We had an opportunity to come in here and keep our season alive, and we let it slip away. We didn’t execute. You can’t put that on the coaches. It was on us on the field.”
The Bengals (2-11-1) put the finishing touch on Washington’s week of acrimony and attrition.
An offensive line missing both tackles with injuries couldn’t open holes for Portis at the outset. Washington fell behind 17-0 against a team that considers it a big day when it gets even one touchdown.
“There’s so much frustration going on right now, I don’t know if I’m fit to even talk,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said.
Fitzpatrick shocked the Redskins’ hardscrabble defense by reviving an offense that hadn’t reached the end zone in 12 quarters. His 79-yard screen pass to Cedric Benson gave the Bengals their longest play of the season and set up one of the scores. He also scored from the 1-yard line on a bootleg, going in untouched.
“That’s a play that’s in the playbook that never gets called,” said Fitzpatrick, who was 16-of-29 for 209 yards. “You fake the handoff and turn around and hope you don’t get smacked in the jaw. I saw a lot of green grass in front of me. That was great to see.”
Down 17-0 before they managed even one first down, the Redskins had a chance to overcome their horrific start. Jason Campbell got the offense going by throwing the ball instead of handing it to Portis. Campbell threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Moss—the receiver was penalized for shining his shoes in celebration—and set up a field goal that cut it to 17-10 at halftime.
A shirttail tug and a timely swipe prevented the Redskins from pulling even in the third quarter.
On third-and-goal from a foot away, Sellers’ surge was stopped shy of the goal line, with safety Kyries Hebert tugging on his shirt tail to keep him out. Sellers stretched the ball toward the goal line and linebacker Corey Mays snatched it out of his hands, leaving the Redskins crestfallen.
“We worked so hard to get down there—it was like an 80-yard drive,” Campbell said. “To get down there and have that opportunity and not come away with any points, that was tough and it kind of deflated us after that.”
The Bengals appeared to put the final touches on a victory when Shayne Graham kicked a 45-yard field goal with 2:20 left. But for the Bengals, nothing comes easy. Rock Cartwright returned the kickoff 87 yards to the 13. From there, Portis ran for no gain, Campbell threw one away, and Portis dropped a third-down screen pass that hit him in the hands.
Shaun Suisham kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:43 to go, but his onside kick sailed out of bounds, giving Cincinnati a chance to run out the clock and celebrate for a change.
“How do you think I feel?” receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said. “Look at my face. I actually want to go out and go to the restaurant and eat and not have to worry about the questions.”
The Redskins talked in hushed tones, having a difficult time accepting that they’d lost again.
“It’d kind of frustrating—the penalties, the errors, the fumbles,” Zorn said. “Those are things that take their toll on you. I’m frustrated, and it’s heartfelt. I can sense the emotion welling up in me.”
Moss drew a 15-yard penalty for pulling the towel out of his waistband and shining his yellow-topped shoes after his TD catch. “I really don’t care,” he said. “We needed something to boost us.” … Ocho Cinco also drew a 15-yard taunting penalty for handing the ball to Portis on the Redskins bench after he ran out of bounds after making a catch. “I was just having fun,” Ocho Cinco said. “I didn’t think I did anything wrong. I’m not sure why they called it a penalty, but I should have known after they flagged Santana.”