- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

Two plays to gain a yard and force overtime.

Two chances to erase an otherwise dreadful second half.

Two opportunities to keep hope alive for a 3-0 start.

But the Washington Redskins, running what their associate head coach-offense later labeled “our two best goal-line shots,” couldn’t execute against a New York Giants defense that underwent a season-saving transformation at halftime yesterday.

Ladell Betts was stopped for no gain on third-and-goal from the Giants 1 and then knocked backward for a 2-yard loss with 25 seconds remaining, allowing the Giants to escape with a 24-17 victory at FedEx Field.

“We didn’t get in, and you just got to live with it,” Betts said. “It’s probably going to be hard for me to go to sleep to night without thinking about it over and over.”

Instead of being undefeated entering their bye weekend and 2-0 in the NFC East, the Redskins now have some extra time to ponder how they could be so efficient in the first half but so ineffective in the second.

“It’s always hard going into the bye with a loss, but after tomorrow we have to look at the big picture,” left guard Pete Kendall said. “We let one get away today, and certainly everybody in here feels that way. But we’re 2-1. Nobody said it was going to be easy, because it’s a grind and a long season. There are a lot of other teams that would like to be 2-1.”

But there are even more that would like to be 3-0. And the Redskins appeared to be on their way to a perfect September when they led 17-3 in the first half, forced two Giants turnovers and held New York to 109 yards of offense.

In the second half, the Redskins didn’t get their initial first down until 4:22 remaining. By that time, they trailed by a touchdown after the Giants scored on two Rueben Droughns 1-yard runs and, the winner with 5:32 left, Eli Manning’s 33-yard pass to Plaxico Burress.

The Redskins had a chance to force overtime thanks to Antwaan Randle El’s 27-yard punt return, giving Washington possession at the Giants 35. Seven plays later, Campbell threw 20 yards to Randle El, setting up a first-and-goal from the 1 with 1:22 remaining. The Redskins were out of timeouts.

Cue the chaos.

First-and-goal: Campbell spikes the ball to stop the clock at 1:22.

“I looked to the sideline and they wanted me to spike it, so that’s what I did,” Campbell said. “At the same time, we still had three opportunities.”

Second-and-goal: Campbell has three options: throw to Chris Cooley in the back of the end zone, throw to Mike Sellers at the goal-line or scramble. On the move, he throws behind Sellers, who is unable to corral it. Sellers wasn’t even in the end zone, though. Fifty eight seconds remain.

“They did a great job of playing defense on that play,” Saunders said. “They defended Chris well so Jason threw it to the shorter guy.”

Said Campbell: “I was able to get outside [the pocket] and I figured the quickest way to get it to the end zone was to try and hit [Sellers] quick.”

Third-and-goal: The coaches give Campbell instructions to call the same running play — Betts around the left side — twice. The first time, he’s stuffed for no gain by a group that included Giants linebacker Kawika Mitchell.

“That’s our best goal-line play,” Saunders said. “We went to our left side, our strongest side and felt we could get it in.”

Gibbs defended having Betts instead of Clinton Portis in the game.

“We feel really comfortable with both of those guys, and we feel they’re both capable,” Gibbs said.

Fourth-and-goal: Even though there is nearly 30 seconds left, Campbell carries out his orders — Betts around the left side again. The Redskins conceivably have time to send in a different play if they choose. The call stays the same. And so does the result: strong safety James Butler flies in to send Betts back for a loss.

“We didn’t know how much time we would have, and we thought we could get it in on the first play,” Saunders said. “But if we didn’t get in, depending on how everybody got off the pile, we didn’t feel we had a chance to get into the huddle and call another play.”

It should have never come to a last-minute situation.

The Redskins built their two-touchdown lead with 17 unanswered points to finish the first half. Following a Manning fumble caused by Carter and recovered by London Fletcher at the Giants 6, Portis scored on a 1-yard run.

Two possessions later, the Redskins put together their only significant drive of the game, a seven-play, 72-yard march highlighted by Santana Moss’ spectacular, over-the-shoulder, 49-yard reception and capped by Campbell’s 8-yard throw to Cooley. Fletcher’s interception set up Shaun Suisham’s 47-yard field goal as the first half clock expired.

But the Giants, thanks to Manning (21 of 36 for 232 yards) and Derrick Ward (94 yards rushing) rallied to beat the Redskins for the third consecutive time.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide