- The Washington Times
Sunday, December 10, 2017

CARSON, Calif. — That constant booming Sunday was the sound of the Chargers blasting apart what was left of the Redskins’ playoff chances this season.

The Redskins picked up loss No. 8 on the same day the Carolina Panthers won. They are one more loss or one more Seattle win from being eliminated from the playoffs.

Math suggests anything is possible.

Pragmatism indicates this injury-filled year came to a close on a lovely southern California day when the Los Angeles Chargers rode a first-half walloping of the Redskins to a 30-13 win in front of a sellout crowd of 25,393 in fun-size StubHub Center, the Chargers’ temporary home.

No element of the afternoon went well for the Redskins. They allowed long and short touchdowns. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an interception and produced a wart-filled 68.6 passer rating. With 11:11 to play in the game, Los Angeles took quarterback Philip Rivers off the field and inserted backup Kellen Clemens. They felt the Redskins were not a threat. They were right.

“We have not gotten better on defense, offense or special teams right now,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “I’ve regressed. I have not gotten this team ready to play, so it’s on me.”

Two home games and a regular-season closing trip to New York remain for Washington. The three opponents in each game are among the league’s dregs, though that often doesn’t matter in the week-to-week world of the NFL. The best the Redskins can hope for is an 8-8 record and a flood of help.

“We’re here now,” Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said. “We played good in the past, so there’s no excuse why we’re playing like this. We played good in the past. You could say injuries, but next man up should prepare just like the starters. There’s no excuses, this, that or the other. You’ve got to prepare before you step out on the field Sunday or you’re going to get embarrassed.”

In the southeast of the quaint StubHub Center is “cannon corner.” The cannon had a specific handler in San Diego for four decades before the Chargers were moved up I-5 North to Los Angeles. The handler would stay behind. At first, the fate of the cannon was unknown. It had been used since the franchise debuted in 1961. Eventually, it too would be relocated, taking its spot in the middle of four signs, prepared to be fired after every Chargers score or victory.

The cannon was busy Sunday.

After an opening Chargers drive produced a Travis Coons 33-yard field goal: Boom!

An 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hunter Henry: Boom!

Another Coons field goal: Boom!

Following Tyrell Williams running past Josh Norman for a 75-yard touchdown: Boom!

A third field goal from Coons: Boom!

By halftime, the cannon had been fired a nerve-rattling five times. Los Angeles stormed through the Redskins’ defense for 354 yards and 23 points in the first two quarters. The yardage allowed by a now-careening Redskins defense was more than 11 teams gained in their games this week.

“Disappointing effort,” Cousins said of the game overall.

The Redskins’ offense produced a touchdown to Vernon Davis, but little else. Cousins was intercepted once and threw one other pass that should have been picked off. Running back Samaje Perine gained just 21 yards in his first 10 carries. Meanwhile, the Chargers threw it, ran it and generally moved it with ease. They did not punt in the first half.

“They were moving the ball at will,” Gruden said. “Running the ball, throwing the ball, quick-game for third-down conversions. …We had some opportunities to make some opportunities to make some plays on the ball and didn’t make them, they did. Kind of the story of the last couple weeks. It’s about the team that makes play and we didn’t make many.”

The cannon cooled for half of the third quarter before a flea-flicker and 1-yard run set it off again. For the second time Sunday, Norman was beaten deep. The first time produced the 75-yard touchdown. This time resulted in a 51-yard gain that moved the Chargers to the Redskins’ 1-yard line and prompted Norman to clap his hands together when he stood up after the tackle. Melvin Gordon ran the ball in on the next play. Chargers led, 30-6. Boom!

Bashaud Breeland’s interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter was strictly a stat-padding event.

“It’s tough to stomach,” Gruden said of the team’s minimal playoff chances. “When you’re a competitor and you want to win championships, go to the playoffs and you want the best for your players, you want the best for your team, you want the best for your city. Right now, we’ve obviously let our fans down. Players are disappointed. We’re disappointed. We still have three games to go. We will fight and claw our way back to try to get 8-8.”

The cannon was fired a final time once the game ended. It signaled a close to the afternoon. It also all but noted the end of Washington’s playoff chances with one final boom.

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