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Redskins Stuck In a Familiar Pattern

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"That was the worst. Until this."

Todd Yoder made an early appearance on Monday at Redskins Park and got dragged into the last discussion he wanted to have -- about heart-stopping, last-second defeats.

The wounds of the previous day, many self-inflicted, have yet to heal for this team after its 33-30 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. There are losses and bad losses and losses of overarching dimension that stick in the gut and never really vanish.

This was one. Yoder, the 10-year veteran tight end, well remembered another.

He was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, just a season after they had won the Super Bowl. They held a 35-14 lead over the Indianapolis Colts on a warm October night in front of a national TV audience and the home crowd marveled at this triumph in the making against Peyton Manning and his mates.

It was not to be.

In the final four minutes of regulation time, Manning led the Colts to three touchdowns, the last on a 1-yard run by Ricky Williams with 35 seconds left.

In overtime, Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed a 39-yard field goal but got another chance when Tampa's Simeon Rice was penalized for leaping and landing on one of his teammates in an attempt to block the kick.

That would have been Vanderjagt's first miss of the season after 13 consecutive successful tries. He converted from 25 yards on the next snap, even though the ball was tipped at the line and barely squeezed inside the right upright, and the Colts walked away with the most improbable of victories.

Eerie coincidences? Hmm. We've got a few. No Manning in this game, but where's he from? New Orleans.

Next, the odd penalty call. Not too unlike the instant-replay reversal that gave Mike Sellers' fumble to the Saints to set in motion their winning drive.

Third, that the winning team continued an unbeaten season. The Saints are now 12-0 and the Colts, with that victory, extended to 5-0.

Now, consider the kickers. Shaun Suisham missed from 23 yards in the final two minutes with a field-goal attempt that would not have won the game but would have built the Redskins' lead to 10 and put the Saints in an untenable position with no times-out left. Suisham and Vanderjagt are both Canadian.

The Bucs had a chance to win in regulation but Martin Gramatica came up just short on a 60-yard field goal try. New Orleans had a chance to win in overtime but Garrett Hartley was way short on a 58-yard try.

How about key receptions? Marvin Harrison's 52-yard reception set up the tying touchdown in Tampa. Robert Meachem's 53-yard reception became the tying score at FedExField.

So much for the oddities of history. Now back to reality.

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Comebacks happen. One team does more things right than another, one team fails to seal a victory and the other steals it. These are lessons the Redskins get taught on a weekly basis, starting with the 7-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys three weeks back, continuing through the 27-24 nipping by the Philadelphia Eagles and now this.

The Redskins gave up Dallas' only score with 2:41 left, then turned the ball over. They surrendered 11 points in less than six minutes of the fourth quarter in losing to the Eagles. The Saints scored the last 13 points of Sunday's almost-upset.

Painful as it was to watch Suisham's kick miss, that play did not defeat the Redskins. It was just part of the pattern.

The Saints still had to cover 80 yards and score a touchdown to tie. They did it, and they did it in 33 seconds.

The Redskins got the ball back with 1:19 left and needed only to maneuver into (dare we say it?) field goal range. That's when Jason Campbell threw his one interception of the day.

The Redskins won the coin toss in overtime, no small advantage in winning a sudden-victory game. They turned the ball over.

And then, again, they failed to stop the potent Saints from scoring.

"We lost the game, unfortunately, as a team," head coach Jim Zorn said Monday.

The game is 60 minutes (or longer) and it's not over until it's over. Players and coaches (and sometimes officials) decide the outcome. There's no curse involved, no evil spirit haunting the team, no cosmic thunder flinging lightning bolts at the Redskins. It's finish or be finished.

Despite what Drew Brees might think.

"I definitely believe in destiny and I believe in karma and what goes around comes around," the Saints quarterback said after the game. "We've been on the other side of this deal probably too many times. Maybe it's our time that we start catching some of the breaks and start being the team that wins them like this in the end."

Could be. In 1980, the Saints led the San Francisco 49ers 35-7 at halftime. They lost, 38-35. In overtime.

What goes around comes around. So Brees said. Maybe he can tell us one more thing.

When's it going to come around here?


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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