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Mistakes Prove Costly in Redskins’ Season Opener

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Were it not for a couple of critical mistakes at critical times for the Washington Redskins on Sunday, they might have endured a better fate than the 17-6 loss that they suffered to the Houston Texans. But as someone really old and wise that I know used to say, “If ifs were skiffs, we’d all be at sea.” Vital fumbles in the Red Zone on a handoff from Robert Griffin III to Alfred Morris, and a Niles Paul drop, proved to be wasted opportunities that Washington simply could not overcome.

“Inexcusable to have turnovers in the Red Zone,” said coach Jay Gruden in the post-game press conference. Gruden was obviously disappointed to see his first game as an NFL head coach, end in a loss. He’s absolutely right though. Paul especially should have to sew a football to his hand for the week to learn the importance of holding on to it. But hey coach, it’s inexcusable to not utilize a running attack that was gashing the Texans all day long too, so I understand your chagrin. Just saying.

To be fair, it wasn’t just Gruden’s play selection, and the two lost opportunities that cost Washington the game. The special teams did a Jekkyl and Hyde act in the first half, and the defense gave up a turrible long touchdown.

After a very dull first quarter that saw 7 punts, Darrel Young finally punched in the Redskins’ first points of the game, from one yard out. It looked promising for the Redskins with just under seven minutes to go in a lackluster half, but it was short-lived. Very short-lived. Houston blocked the point-after-try to keep the score at 6-0 and more importantly, ruined the momentum that Washington had just gained with the touchdown. It took zero time flat for the Texans to realize the rewards of that swing.

DeAndre Hopkins hauled in a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass, and ran 76 yards to pay dirt on just the fourth play of the next drive. Baccari Rambo took an angle that was comical at best; tragic and touchdown-costing at worst. The play immediately erased the momentum that Washington had gained with their touchdown the previous drive, and swung it in Houston’s favor for the remainder of the half – arguably even the game.

On Washington’s next drive, they went 3-and-out. Redskin rookie punter Tress Way boomed a couple of his first NFL punts, but the next one would prove… problematic. It was blocked by rookie Alfred Blue, who also returned it the remaining 5 yards to the house for a touchdown. Blue was barely touched coming across the line of scrimmage and got to Tress quickly – it wasn’t really the rookie kicker’s fault – it was just an awful special teams blunder. Suddenly, the Texans had a two-score lead, and would go into the break that way.

The Redskins had deferred possession until the second half with the coin toss, and looked poised to make that look like a good decision. They marched their first drive all the way down to the Houston 7-yard line on 11 plays, and appeared ready to get back into the game when disaster struck. Center Kory Lichtensteiger stood on RGIII’s foot as he was back-pedaling, and Robert couldn’t get the ball out of his hands cleanly to Morris. The ball got away, Houston recovered, and the Redskins had squandered an important Red Zone opportunity and come away with absolutely nothing.

Still, the defense hung tough and won the ball back quickly. Again the offense started moving the ball, all the way out to their 43-yard line. Then RGIII hit Paul over the middle and Paul had a path to the end zone; unfortunately, he forgot to bring the ball with him. From the replays I’m not sure the ball was knocked out or stripped as commentators seemed to opine, it looked to me like the defender swiped his other arm, and Paul straight dropped it as he was going to the ground inside the Texans 10-yard line. That proved to be the last chance for the Redskins to get into the end zone.

The game fizzled after that. Houston would add a field goal in the final two minutes to go up 17-6, and put the game officially out of reach.

With the win, the Texans ended their 14-game losing streak (from last season). The Redskins’ losing streak moved to nine.

It was a painful loss for both the Redskins and their fans. It’s the first game of the season, and you want to come away with a win and feeling good about the season ahead. Instead, social networks were rife with “Here we go again” Chicken Little, sky-is-falling type conjecture. How incredibly fickle fandom can be.

It’s funny but after an offseason, you forget how much “fun” it is to write about a loss, especially freshly on the heels of that loss. It’s like re-opening a wound that only just finished closing.

This wound felt deep because its a game that the Redskins could have easily won with just a few less mistakes.

But it’s a wound that should heal quickly, because it is just one game, and the first game under a new coaching regime.

Try on a little patience for size, if you don’t feel the same way.

Hail to the Redskins.

More By Mark Solway

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