- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A team that has thrived the last 10 months whenever its season has been on the line finds itself in a familiar position this morning.

Last year the Washington Redskins reeled off five consecutive victories to reach the playoffs when one loss would have meant elimination. The last two weeks, the Redskins posted season-saving wins over Houston and Jacksonville when one loss would have meant trouble.

“I don’t want to say that we need to be desperate to play great, but every time we’ve been in a situation where we’ve had to win, we’ve come up with the big win,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “We’re there again. It’s backs against the wall … again.”

“There” is below .500 and back in a situation in which another two-game losing streak will be lethal to the Redskins’ playoff hopes after a listless 19-3 loss to the desperate New York Giants yesterday at the Meadowlands. The Redskins dropped to 2-3 overall with a third straight road dud against the Giants.

“Since I’ve been here, it stinks to play the Giants [on the road],” Cooley said.

Blunt and accurate. Since Joe Gibbs returned to the Redskins, they have lost a 20-14 game low-lighted by seven turnovers and a 36-0 whitewashing. Yesterday’s setback wasn’t nearly as bad in terms of ugliness, but the defeat was just as thorough.

“You’re playing a game like that and you figure that somewhere somebody will make a play,” Gibbs said. “But today it didn’t happen for us.”

Again, blunt and accurate. The offense was held to a season-low 164 yards, and the defense returned to its mid-September habit of finding ways to stay on the field and continued its season-long ways of giving up big pass plays. The Giants had four pass plays that gained at least 20 yards.

A month into the season, the Redskins already have lost more NFC East games than they did all last season, 0-2 compared with 5-1. But at least the two defeats have been on the road.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s home or away. A division loss is always a disappointment,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “This was a must-have win just as much for us as it was them.”

That’s a stretch. The Redskins needed the win to get above .500 for the first time this season; the Giants needed it to avoid a 1-3 start and keep their season from imploding. And New York, coming off a bye week, played like it. The Giants stayed away from the turnovers on offense and broken coverages on defense that plagued them in September.

Tiki Barber continued his home mastery of the Redskins, rushing 23 times for 123 yards. Quarterback Eli Manning avoided the big mistake and threw for 256 yards and one touchdown on 23-for-33 passing. The Giants even overcame three red zone trips on which they had to settle for field goals of 24, 34 and 32 yards by Jay Feely.

The Redskins’ only score was John Hall’s 39-yard field goal that opened the scoring with 2:59 left in the first quarter. Their final six drives ended with four punts, a missed field goal and a failed fourth-down conversion. An offense that had rolled up 495 and 481 yards the last two weeks was held in check by the Giants. The troubles that plagued them in the first two games reared up again — shoddy third-down play (3-for-11) and no big plays (the longest was 17 yards).

“I can’t really explained what happened — that just wasn’t us out there,” center Casey Rabach said. “We expected to do what we had the last two weeks every week. Anytime you go out there and flop around and not produce, it’s tough.”

Flop around is an apt description for every aspect of the Redskins’ play. Just when the offense would get a first down, a penalty or failed running play would push them back.

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