The Redskins completed their final contest of the year against the San Francisco 49ers in a similar heartbreaking fashion that mirrored the season as a whole. The Redskins had high hopes at the halfway point with a record of 6-2, while the hopes of a victory following their halftime lead against San Francisco dwindled as the game ended with a last second field goal, putting the finishing touches on a season that ended in an aura of disappointment.
The defeat was especially painful for defensive end Andre Carter, who made his return to San Francisco for the first time since he arrived in Washington in 2006. Having to lose on your old home turf does not make any athlete happy but it was not all bad for Carter, who received a warm welcome from the 49er faithful.
"A few fans gave me some love as I was warming up on the field. I heard a lot of 'Welcome Home Carter' throughout the whole game from the fans," said Carter, who logged two tackles against San Francisco to go with his fourth sack of the season.
"I honestly don't remember how I got the fourth sack. All I remember was that I was low and fast off the ball. It felt great getting a sack on my [former] home turf. It was a blessing," Carter said.
The Redskins, who were leading the 49ers 17-7 at halftime, squandered the lead and surrendered 17 more points to give the 49ers a seven point lead. Following Jason Campbell's last minute touchdown run to tie the game at 24, the 49ers still had time on the clock to get into range to kick the game winning field goal, which they did successfully.
"Nobody likes it when an opponent successfully drives the ball on our defense. The 49ers moved the ball well and were able to utilize the clock throughout the whole game," Carter said.
This past Sunday was another example of the Redskins not capitalizing off of momentum they had built during a game, a trend that had been repeated throughout the season.
Why have the Redskins been able to stay close in almost every game but fail to put the finishing touched on opponents?
"I am still asking that question. There is a difference between having the will the win and trying to win. We showed examples of both throughout the 2008 season," Carter said.
Now that the season is completed and the full 16 games are open to review by the players and coaches, differences in both halves of the season (6-2 in the first half and 2-6 in the second) can now be praised and scrutinized accuratley. So what exactly were those differences?
"We were healthy the first half of the season, for one. Second, we had a swagger about us. We were having fun and playing with a purpose. There was no presssure on us. The second half of the season, there were a lot of injuries. We were playing well in the first half and bad in the second half or vice versa. We were putting pressure on ourselves rather than going out and knowing we were going to win," Carter said.
"I feel we have an opportunity to become a dominant team. The hard part is doing it for 16 weeks. It's no easy task. We have a lot of talent, however, we need to play as one."
With fans hopes raised during the beginning of the season, players raised theirs as well. Andre evaluated whether he felt he met his goals and expectations for 2008.
"I had a lot of goals this year. Unfortunately it wasn't the year I expected, however, from a developemental standpoint as a player, I was at my best. I am positive that next year will be my year. It's all God's timing," Carter said.
Now that the long 2008 season is over, it is time for players to spend their free time however they wish. In most cases, it won't involve much football.
"The majority of my teammates do a lot of travelling, hunting, fishing, etc. Anything to get their minds off of football," Carter said.
Andre is not looking to do anything extravagent, just enjoy being around what's most important to him.
"The off season is definitely a time to spend with family. During the season, it feels like our job is 24/7. Now, I can sit back, relax and enjoy the time with my kids and my wife [while I] recharge my batteries," Carter said.
Under The Helmet:
THN: What were your best moments of 2008?
AC: My best moments of '08 were watching my son turn one year old, watching the world record for medals held by a single Olympian being broken, watching [Usain] Bolt break the 100 meter world record and the election.
THN: What do you want to accomplish in 2009? Any New Years resolutions?
AC: Continue to help others, read more books and learn how to speak Korean.