Take the Monday night game two years ago, when many thousands of Pittsburgh Steelers fans waving Terrible Towels ruled the roost in the lower bowl of FedEx Field to root their team to a 23-6 victory. Redskins owner Dan Snyder was so humiliated that he ordered 50,000 "Redskins Rally Rags" to be distributed at the next home game in an effort to restore the home-field advantage.
Or last year, when soon-to-be-fired coach Jim Zorn tried one of the silliest Monday night plays ever, the high school fake-field goal play known as the "swinging gate" or "picket fence" or "wash bucket." It had a new name -- "failure" -- after the New York Giants intercepted the trick pass on the way to a 45-12 rout.
The Redskins might have topped them all this week. Their return to the Monday night spotlight turned in a 59-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a game that was 35-0 early in the second quarter and sent booing fans home by halftime. It spoiled the news, announced a few hours before kickoff, that Donovan McNabb had signed a contract extension, and an ugly pregame skirmish only served to fire up the Eagles even more.
"I'm repulsed by the way we played," tight end Chris Cooley said on 106.7 The Fan.
And on and on.
Shanahan said after the game that his team was "outplayed and outcoached in every area." He blamed himself for not having his players better prepared.
Players pointed out that the loss doesn't totally derail their playoff hopes. The Redskins (4-5) are two games behind the Eagles and the New York Giants in the NFC East, and they have two games against the Giants. What was left unsaid was whether the team has used up the supply of good fortune that helped it win four close games in September and October despite glaring deficiencies on both sides of the ball.
The defense is again last in the NFL in yards allowed at 415.3 per game. The bend-but-don't-break philosophy is starting to falter, with the Redskins 26th in points allowed at 25.4 per game. The struggles continue for an offensive line that has allowed 25 sacks and for a thin receiving corps, with wideouts accounting for only seven catches Monday night. Washington has converted 22 percent of third downs this season, by far the worst percentage in the NFL.
McNabb tied a career-high with three interceptions, and even his five-year, $78 million contract turns out not to be as ironclad as initially thought. His agent, Fletcher Smith, confirmed Tuesday that the Redskins could cut McNabb at the end of the season after having paid only $3.5 million of the new deal with no obligation to pay anything more.
As ugly as the score was, the words exchanged over the behavior of Redskins safety LaRon Landry were even uglier. The Eagles accused the player known as "Dirty 30" for stoking the pregame confrontation by making inappropriate trash-talk at Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson, who recently returned from a concussion.
Landry denied the spitting allegation and said his pregame talk with Jackson was nothing more than routine banter. He also defended himself on Twitter.
"To everyone who's truly redskin fan/fan of mine... Knows I never been a dirty player/never will!!!" Landry tweeted. "Supposedly I spit on the center if there's any truth to that I would have been flagged or the guy would have some sort of reaction!!! I just play hard and do anything to help the team win... As for as D. Jack that's my guy been home boys for awhile so to y'all who wanna read blogs/the Internet find out the truth to stories/not a writer trying to stir confusion!!!"
With this new set of distractions in place, the Redskins must now regroup quickly for Sunday's game at Tennessee.
"Can we continue to build? Can we get better? What is our real character? What's the character?" Cooley said. "If we have guys that care, we'll go to work tomorrow. You have to put it past you."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press