It wasn't the chaos that beat the Washington Redskins.
It wasn't the awful officiating, deafening crowd, persistent hits on quarterback Robert Griffin III or three injured defensive starters. And it wasn't the second blocked punt in two weeks.
It was Josh Morgan's foolish mistake.
The receiver's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing the ball at St. Louis' Cortland Finnegan forced Washington to try a 62-yard field goal that landed short and wide. Whether kicker Billy Cundiff could have converted a 47-yarder to force overtime is uncertain, but what isn't in doubt is Washington left St. Louis with a 31-28 loss on Sunday.
Morgan made the dumbest mistake by a Redskins player since 1997, when receiver Michael Westbrook removed his helmet to dispute a call. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty ultimately resulted in a 7-7 tie against the New York Giants. Washington finished 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs because it failed to win that game.
Washington isn't a playoff team yet. Losing early 14-3 and 21-6 leads shows it is a young team that needs to mature. Morgan was baited into a critical mistake in the final moments of a game teammates called "chippy." That's code for dirty.
Of course, the replacement referees were responsible for that. It was so bad that coach Mike Shanahan, who says nothing about everything, didn't care he would be writing a check to NFL when he said that "the game was a little bit out of control" and "I've never been in a game like this."
Shanahan probably will send a dozen or more plays to the league for review. He should just mail the whole game film. Officials made or missed too many calls. St. Louis wasn't given 15-yard penalties when Redskins tight end Fred Davis was leveled as a defenseless receiver or when Rams coach Jeff Fisher threw a challenge flag at the goal line when it wasn't permitted.
The NFL no longer can justify its disregard for the game's quality and player safety by using replacements for game officials locked out over a contract dispute. The game was just short of a 60-minute brawl, and that degrades the sport. Officials are supposed to keep it from becoming a tough guy contest.
Such lawlessness led to Morgan losing his composure and the Redskins falling to 1-1 in a season that suddenly looks so different than one week ago. Defensive end Adam Carriker is likely headed for knee surgery, while linebacker Brian Orakpo could miss time with the same kind of pectoral muscle injury he had last season. Cornerback Josh Wilson suffered a concussion that might cost him a game or two. With a defense that has allowed 63 points in two weeks, it's suddenly all falling on Griffin to win games.
Griffin ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, but he can't win games if his receivers lose their cool at critical times.
Washington needs to hold on to that anger all week, then release it in a productive manner against Cincinnati. It's the only way to survive another season.