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For Redskins, It's the Same Old Story

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CHARLOTTE – Maybe this is who they are and what they do.

Five games are gone, 11 remain, and those who expect the Redskins offense to explode like Class B fireworks should understand they are looking at a dud.

The 20-17 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers marks the third of a type for the Redskins. The defense might have been able to win it for them if the offense and special teams didn't submarine them.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a blowout. Or crossing that magical threshold of 30 points. The Redskins look and feel like a team that will always be in close games and with any luck they will win some of them, unless it finds a way to lose them. Place your bets.

"I don't think we're jinxed," coach Jim Zorn said. "You play the game the way it falls."

Look out below.

Not a single opponent of the Redskins has come up against them with a victory in its pocket. The Panthers even lost all of their preseason games. The early part of the Washington schedule looked like a picnic but this team insists on bringing ants and rain to its party.

The Redskins blew a 17-2 lead essentially forged by their defense and it was their offense and special teams that sabotaged the effort.

The defense set up both touchdowns and they were short-range affairs. Three sacks, two takeaways. Did the defense fail down the stretch? It did. The Panthers got the ball back with 5:16 on the clock and the Redskins could not force a punt.

They had no times-out left, got the Panthers into a third-and-8 at their own 25 and then fell for Jake Delhomme's naked bootleg of nine yards around the right side.

End of story.

The same old story.

Forget about the hiring of offensive consultant Sherm Lewis for a "fresh set of eyes." Get ready for a fresh set of excuses.

The defense, in that first half, produced a turnover on the first play, with Albert Haynesworth crashing into the backfield to disrupt activities and Kedric Golston knocking the ball loose. Haynesworth recovered at the Carolina 13-yard line. Jason Campbell flipped a 10-yard scoring pass to Portis.

Left tackle Chris Samuels suffered a neck stinger away from the action on that touchdown and never returned. Neither did the offense. With D'Anthony Batiste replacing Samuels and Mike Williams making his first start at right guard, the Redskins could not keep the Panthers off Campbell. Nor could Campbell rouse himself enough to throw passes away. He was sacked three times in the first half.

The line, no strong point to this date, weakened and crumpled. Right tackle Stephon Heyer got knocked on his heels by Julius Peppers, allowing linebacker Thomas Davis to drop Portis in the end zone for a safety.

"Stephon got pushed back a little bit. Clinton had no chance," Zorn said.

A little bit? Peppers bounced him backwards far enough that a play beginning at the 3-yard line died in the end zone. Any further and he'd have needed a visa.

Batiste incurred a holding penalty that was declined just before Shaun Suisham's 38-yard field goal and committed another crucial mistake later, lining up improperly and drawing a flag that nullified a 12-yard gain on a third-and-11. Ultimately the Redskins failed on a fourth-down try.

The defense tried to do its part. DeAngelo Hall intercepted a tipped pass and ran it back to the 1-yard line, his vain stretch for the end zone almost resulting in a fumble on Carolina's first possession of the third quarter.

The 1-yard line hasn't exactly been a safe harbor for the Redskins so the klutzy Panthers – and boy, reasons abound that these cats are 1-3 and should be 0-4 – committed a neutral zone infraction that moved the ball half a yard closer. From there, Portis leaped into the end zone like a salmon heading upstream and the Redskins led 17-2.

The defense surrendered a touchdown on the ensuing possession but place some of the blame on the special teams, which allowed Kenneth Moore to haul the kickoff back to the Redskins 40. Then the Panthers got tight end Jeff King matched up on rookie outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and the lead shrank to 17-9.

Would the Redskins respond? More to the point, or lack of points, could they? They did … sort of. Batiste undid them by lining up wrong. The Redskins wound up going for it on fourth down and being stopped when Davis batted away Campbell's pass.

No punt? Could Glenn Pakulak, the new guy filling in for Hunter Smith not drop one inside the 10? Even a blast into the end zone would have been OK. It would have put the Panthers at the 20 instead of the 37 and not added to their momentum.

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Instead, the Panthers defense strolled off with a stop to its credit and Delhomme pushed his resilient, if relatively inept, band down the field. John Kasay kicked a 43-yard field goal and the Panthers were within five just 45 seconds into the fourth quarter.

The special teams ruined the defense again not long after. The 'd' came up with a stop and forced a punt but Byron Westbrook inexplicably ran back downfield to within inches of Antwaan Randle El and was throw into him by the Panthers.

The punt hit Westbrook's foot and became property of the Panthers when Dante Wesley covered it. Jonathan Stewart scored from the 8 two plays later and Delhomme hit Steve Smith for the two-point conversion and suddenly the Panthers led 20-17.

The Redskins saw the ball once after Carolina took the lead. They drove from their 20 to midfield, punted and never saw it again.

Now they're 2-3.

They walk out of the Queen City knowing their offense put together touchdown drives of 13 yards and about two feet. The Panthers allowed 5.4 yards a rush in their three losses; the Redskins averaged 3.1 and they did not have a rush longer than eight yards. Total offensive output: 198 yards. At least they were balanced: 98 in the first half and 100 in the second.

"Not sustaining drives put a lot of pressure on us," Zorn said.

Throw out the two teeny scoring drives and the Redskins had eight other possessions. Five punts, a safety, a stop on downs and a field goal goes well beyond not sustaining and approaches not existing.

As Delhomme described himself as "great, wonderful, spectacular" with a first win in his pocket, the Redskins prepared themselves for another week of hectoring and hammering from their ever-growing pack of critics. The sound and fury promise to be withering, just as this team is.

Next up: The winless Kansas City Chiefs. Losers of five in a row, latest in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


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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