Landover -- The killing of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor last week was a true tragedy. But the way the Washington Redskins lost yesterday's game at FedEx Field was still sad - because of how they lost and the day on which they lost.
Rian Lindell's 36-yard field goal with four seconds left gave the Buffalo Bills an improbable 17-16 victory in a game in which the Redskins had never trailed.
The most improbable part? Lindell's kick should have been from 51 yards, but it was moved 15 yards closer when Joe Gibbs, the Redskins' Hall of Fame coach, called two timeouts in a row to ice Lindell - against NFL rules and punishable by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
Lindell had already made a 51-yard attempt that didn't count because Gibbs called his first timeout just before the ball was snapped, so maybe the Bills kicker would have made the long kick on a second attempt.
If he had, the Redskins (5-7) could have singled out any number of plays all day as culprits - such as the 30-yard pass to Josh Reed that put the Bills (6-6) in field-goal range.
But because of one of the worst gaffes of Gibbs' career, no one will ever know.
Thus, one of the most emotion-drenched days in Redskins history will be forever linked to one of its most baffling defeats.
"To be quite truthful, I made a decision there at the end that very likely cost us the game. That's on me," Gibbs said after the game. "I told the players that."
Gibbs later seemed to implicate the official whom he asked, while Lindell lined up with eight seconds left, whether he could call both of his remaining timeouts.
"I felt like he said yes," Gibbs said.
Yet, he could not evade the fact that he should have known the rule and the consequences without having to ask.
If the players did blame him for the loss, they did not admit it.
"If I were Coach Gibbs, I wouldn't beat myself up. This has been a difficult week, and he made a mistake," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "Every man makes mistakes. One mistake didn't lose this game."
Redskins players, coaches and officials were to leave this morning for Miami for Taylor's funeral, then return tonight and play again Thursday night at home against the Chicago Bears.
The tributes to Taylor ran through every element of the game. Fans flocked to the memorial next to the stadium for hours beforehand. A five-minute video salute aired before kickoff. On the Bills' first offensive play, the Redskins sent 10 players out on defense - all but a free safety. (Strangely, they did this without Gibbs' prior knowledge, he said; fill-in Bills running back Fred Jackson ran for 22 yards on the play.)
When Clinton Portis - Taylor's teammate in the NFL and at the University of Miami, and the most eloquent spokesman on his behalf this week - scored the game's only touchdown late in the third quarter, he ran toward the stands and pulled up his jersey, revealing a T-shirt that read "In Memory of Sean Taylor."
Said Bills safety Donte Whitner: "If I was at home watching that football game, I probably would have been rooting for the Washington Redskins. If I wasn't part of the Buffalo Bills organization, I probably would have been rooting for the Redskins." firstname.lastname@example.org
Buffalo 0 2 6 9-17
Washington 3 6 7 0-16
First quarter Was-FG Suisham 27, 7:12.
Second quarter Was-FG Suisham 28, 14:37. Buf-Safety, Campbell sacked by Crowell in end zone, 8:19. Was-FG Suisham 33, :25.
Third quarter Buf-FG Lindell 38, 11:21. Was-Portis 3 run (Suisham kick), 5:42. Buf-FG Lindell 43, 1:09.
Fourth quarter Buf-FG Lindell 24, 11:14. Buf-FG Lindell 33, 6:33. Buf-FG Lindell 36, :04. A-85,831.
First downs 15 22
Total Net Yards 357 282
Rushes-yards 20-100 30-80
Passing 257 202
Punt Returns 2-37 0-0
Kickoff Returns 6-53 6-134
Interceptions Ret. 1-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 22-36-0 21-37-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 0-0 3-14
Punts 4-35.0 3-44.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-101 4-34
Time of Possession 27:04 32:56 Rushing-Buffalo, Jackson 16-82, Wright 2-14, Edwards 2-4. Washington, Portis 25-50, J.Campbell 4-19, Moss 1-11. Passing-Buffalo, Edwards 22-36-0-257. Washington, J.Campbell 21-37-1-216. Receiving-Buffalo, Reed 5-67, Jackson 4-69, Evans 4-51, Parrish 4-36, Royal 4-21, Gaines 1-13. Washington, Cooley 7-89, Moss 5-63, Caldwell 3-26, Betts 2-14, McCardell 2-14, Portis 2-10.