The sea of blue and red was discouraging. The “Tom Brady!” chants were dispiriting. The New England Patriots’ fans took over FedEx Field on Sunday afternoon and it reinforced once again just how hard it is to be a Redskins fan.
That message hasn’t quite resonated with the Washington front office. Despite an announced attendance of 76,483, the stands were filled with fans wearing jerseys of Brady and wide receiver Julian Edelman and former star tight end Rob Gronkowski, among other Patriots legends.
If that bothered Redskins team president Bruce Allen, he didn’t really let on during a wide-ranging news conference at Redskins Park on Monday just hours after he and owner Dan Snyder fired head coach Jay Gruden following an 0-5 start to the 2019 season. To Allen, it was just a product of a winning team visiting one that has struggled.
“I appreciate the fact that the Patriots have a great fanbase,” Allen said. “They've had tremendous success, and Bill Belichick is probably the best coach in NFL history, so I'm sure many of our fans put their tickets on the [secondary] market and made some money on it selling it to people from the Northeast.”
The parking lots at FedEx Field were filled hours before kickoff with excited New England fans happy to see their team in a city the Patriots rarely visit. They last played the Redskins in Landover, Md. in 2011. They streamed out of Metro’s Morgan Boulevard station about a mile walk from the stadium. A rough estimate was that 75 percent of the crowd was rooting for the opposition.
The Patriots broke open a close game in the second half for a 33-7 victory. In the end that was enough to seal Gruden’s fate. Allen and Snyder made that decision around 8 p.m. on Sunday night and carried out the firing during a brief 5 a.m. meeting in Ashburn at the team's headquarters.
The sheer number of Patriots fans were overwhelming - Brady called it "ridiculous" - but not a total novelty. In recent years NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia and New York regularly bring huge contingents of fans that overwhelm Redskins supporters. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers have had memorable takeovers during the Snyder era dating back to 1999. It’s even happened with teams as random as the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins in recent years. As the losses mount, the trend shows no signs of slowing.
“All we can do is try to improve our product. These games, we weren't close in,” Allen said. “We've lost five games and we didn't lose them in the last second. We lost these games decisively. And we have to change that. And our fans deserve that. And this market deserves that. We're in the nation's capital, and it deserves better than that, and we have to get it done.”
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