Brian Orakpo: 'I lost the game for us'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The ball was where it needed to be, at least for a Washington Redskins defense that had not made a big play in, oh, a few games. This was a chance to bail out the offense, which had just turned it over. This was a chance to possibly do more than just catch a ball.

Maybe it would lead to points. Maybe it would lead to a win.

Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer threw a ball that was headed right at Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo. He’s been criticized for not making game-changing plays. This was a chance to answer critics.

And he dropped it.

The frustration was obvious as he clenched his fists and you could see a face in agony. Six days ago Orakpo was upbeat about his team’s effort in a loss to Seattle. On Sunday, he spoke softly -- for a guy with a deep voice, that is -- and sounded like a player who would be carrying more than just his bags to the plane.

“I should have made that pick,” Orakpo said. “It’s just frustrating. I should have made that pick. ... I feel like I lost the game for us.”

Orakpo didn’t lose the game for Washington, not when the offense turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter. There’s no way you can pin a defeat on a linebacker when the Redskins do so many things to hurt themselves. But the offense also makes plays. The defense does not. Its highest-paid player was in position to do something about that blemish.

Perhaps he doesn’t score on the play, but he had a lot of room to run. If nothing else, he keeps it a one-score game as the Cardinals led 20-13 at the time and already were in field goal range. Indeed, two plays later they kicked a field goal en route to a 30-20 win that dropped Washington to 1-5.

Here’s the thing: Orakpo is playing hurt, with a sprained left middle finger, an issue with his wrist and also with ankle problems. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. As he said it’s been a “[expletive] frustrating year.” Orakpo made some nice plays in this 30-20 loss so you can’t cherry-pick when you say the injuries bother a guy and when they don’t. So let’s not.

Orakpo acknowledged his hands.

“My hands are tore up, man,” he said. “I just couldn’t make that play.”

But he later said, when asked about his hands, “I just missed it. I just missed it.”

But here’s the other thing: He’s a guy who wants to be viewed a certain way and, after the season, paid accordingly. But in his five-plus seasons, Orakpo has intercepted one pass and forced six fumbles. That’s one or two seasons of work for guys in a certain pay range. Heck, this one wasn’t even about making a play where he had to do something heroic. No one knows this better than Orakpo. This was the sort of harsh glare he would be under this season, after receiving the franchise tag and knowing that the head coach desired more big plays before more big money flowed his way.

The Redskins have become an "almost" team. They almost sacked Palmer a few times. They almost got Russell Wilson down last Monday night. They almost beat the Eagles. They almost took a big step up as a franchise a year or so ago. Yet after six games they’re almost assuredly headed for a sixth last-place finish in seven years.

“We were close many, many times,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Sunday’s game, “but unfortunately close doesn’t get it.”

No, it doesn’t. Orakpo was close to the sort of play he needs to make. And he didn’t get it. No, he did not cost the Redskins a win. But it’s hard not to wonder what it will cost him in the end.