Reporting David Elfin
A month ago today, the Redskins completed a surprisingly strong first quarter of the season by whipping the Rams in St. Louis to move to 3-1.
After three straight finishes in the division basement, Washington was alone atop the NFC East. Only a narrow late loss at Dallas kept the season from being perfect. All 22 of coach Mike Shanahan’s starters were healthy enough to have opened and finished the game.
But what a difference a month has made for the Redskins. Since that afternoon in St. Louis, Washington is winless and has fallen two games behind the front-running New York Giants in the division. If Philadelphia beats Chicago at home on Sunday and Dallas does the same against Seattle while the Redskins lose to red-hot San Francisco to close the first half of the season, they’ll be alone in the NFC East basement again.
As the Redskins have been losing games to the Eagles, Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills, they’ve been losing players: left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, tight end Chris Cooley and running back Tim Hightower for the season; receiver Santana Moss for about a month; left tackle Trent Williams, who might return against the 49ers; and free safety Oshimogho Atgowe, who sat out the loss to the Panthers.
“We’re 3-1 and you guys are asking us about playoffs and now we’re (3-4) and the (bleep’s) hitting the fan,” said center turned left guard Will Montgomery after he and the rest of the offense allowed the most sacks in 33 years, nine, in last Sunday’s 23-0 shutout by the Bills.
Only Arizona (1-6) and winless Indianapolis and Miami have gone longer without celebrating a victory than Washington.
As nose tackle Barry Cofield said, “Sadly it can get worse.”
If the Eagles and Cowboys pass the Redskins in the standings on Sunday, the Dolphins, Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings will be the only opponents during the final eight weeks who will have worse records than the burgundy and gold.
The “gales of November” that Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot sang about in his surprise hit “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” way back in 1976 have not been pleasant winds of late for the Redskins.
Washington started last November at 4-4 but never saw .500 again after the month’s first game, a humiliating rout by the visiting Eagles on “Monday Night Football.”
Former coach Jim Zorn went 1-3 in each of his Novembers. Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs’ second tour of duty in Washington included three 1-3 Novembers, the exception, oddly, being 2006 when the Redskins were 2-2 in November but 3-9 otherwise for the worst season of the coach’s 16-year career. Steve Spurrier was 1-4 and 2-3 in his extended Novembers in Washington.
All told, that’s 11-26 for the Redskins in November since Marty Schottenheimer went 3-0 in 2001.
So to summarize, Washington has a three-game losing streak, a punchless, injury-riddled offense, a defense that has begun to sag and 6-1 San Francisco coming to town.
Welcome to November.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.