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Back From Detroit, Redskins Searching For Answers

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Go back to the beginning of Sunday's game. Before the Redskins got stopped on fourth down at the 1-yard line. Before the kickoff. Before the coin toss.

Go back to the national anthem. Look at the two teams. There are the Detroit Lions, in neat formation along their sidelines, helmets held under their arms. Across that expanse of fake greenery stand the Redskins, all scraggly and in general disorder.

The eyes do not lie. They do not deceive.

Keep that image from Ford Field in mind. Let it nest for a moment. One straight line, one squiggly mess. One team dressed for success, the other an unmade bed.

So it is in the Redskins' locker room. Three weeks into the season and there are 53 individuals in varying conditions of disarray, all on their personal searches for meaning. There doesn't seem to be a lot of commonality in that pursuit.

Somebody in that locker room doesn't care. That's a thought constantly in the air. But it's never the guy speaking to the microphones and notebooks. He cares. Somebody else doesn't, not that we point fingers. The buck stops … where? Here? There? Everywhere? Nowhere.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall remains outspoken on this front. He talked about it after the 19-14 embarrassment that ended Detroit's 19-game losing streak and again on Monday morning as the D.C. area bellyached and bemoaned its forlorn football team.

After joining the Redskins in midseason in 2008, Hall found himself impressed that the team "responded" in tough situations. Now?

"You just don't see the same fight, the same determination," he said. "We didn't change that much in the locker room. You feel like it's still there. I don't know. I still feel like we can right the ship. But we haven't showed it yet."

On the other side of the room, Hall's backfield partner faced a blitz -- more about that later -- of questions about defensive breakdowns and failures.

By mixing together a lethal brew of missed tackles, coverage schemes with gaping holes and no pressure on a rookie passer, the Redskins managed to surrender scoring drives of 99, 74 and 86 yards. And that was in the first half, when they allowed the Lions to convert nine of 12 third downs. The second half was much better -- one measly 85-yard drive, 47 yards of which were covered on a pass interference penalty.

"I blame myself," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. Sense a 'but' coming?

"But it's not just me," he continued. "There's a lot more people. Until we get it together …"

What, exactly, will that take? Anyone got a schedule? Year two of Jim Zorn's tenure. All of those off-season workouts, minicamps, passing camps, training camp. Four preseason games, three regular-season games and these guys act like strangers.

"We're not a great team," linebacker London Fletcher said.

"Right now, we're just not a good team," defensive end Phillip Daniels said.

Would anyone care to bid lower? We have a winner!

"I don't know what we want to be offensively. I don't know what we want to be defensively," Rogers said.

No, it is not easy to find answers. Not at 1-2. Not when a team has played against two of the NFL's poorer collections of talent, both headed by new coaches, and defeated one, the St. Louis Rams, without scoring a touchdown, while losing to the other.

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These were not the Lions of Bobby Layne and Lou Creekmur, of Barry Sanders and Herman Moore and Chris Spielman. These are the Lions built of spare parts -- former Seattle tight end Will Heller, former every-team-in-the-league defensive tackle Grady Jackson, journeyman receiver Bryant Johnson, along with No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford at quarterback.

Those are the Lions who beat the Redskins. It's okay if the Redskins accept the loss. They cannot accept losing and might need a loud reminder. There's a school of thought that says it should come from Zorn, that he needs to bring more fire and anger to his interactions with the talent.

School's out. Dismissed.

"I don't need to yell at a bunch of men," Zorn said.

What he said he sees is a conflict between high expectations and actual performance. Not that the team isn't talented, well-coached, well-mannered and excellent company at social events, but the results of the games generate a cognitive dissonance, a duel between what the players think they should be and what they really are.

"Losing creates thoughts. It can create thoughts," Zorn said.

Here are some other thoughts to ponder:

Since last year's 6-2 start, the Redskins are 3-8. They have not scored 30 points in a game since late in the 2007 season. They're 24th in the league in rushing, 21st in run defense.

The NFL ranks teams in 17 offensive categories and the Redskins lead in one -- field goal percentage. Sure, that's where they get most of their practice. They're in the top 10 in two others -- yards per play and net passing yards per play. They're in the lower half in six. They've scored three points in the first quarter.

Defensive rankings also include special teams' statistics among the 19 graded areas. The Redskins lead in one, opponent's kickoff return average. They rank 15th or lower in 12, last in third-down defense.

They have three takeaways, which ties them for 16th, and four sacks, though no individual has more than one. That puts them on pace for about 26, not much of an improvement over last year's piddly 24. No pressure on the passer means plenty of pressure on the secondary.

They're 1-2 and have not yet played a team that had previously won a game. Nor will they play a team that has won a game this Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit. The Bucs are 0-3, with a seven-game losing streak trailing like a noxious mist.

Expect to hear the usual stuff about them. That the Bucs are "a quality team" and "dangerous" and "capable." It might be a good idea to reserve the salutations for teams that actually are "quality" and "dangerous" and "capable." The Indianapolis Colts come to mind. The Minnesota Vikings. The New York Giants.

Ban the adjectives. They're verbal confetti. Easily flung around, but lightweight.

You know in Tampa they'll be saying the same things about the Redskins. Who should we believe? Them, or our eyes?


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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