- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The first drive said it all.

Needing to establish some semblance of defensive authority against a New York Giants offense that has eaten them alive over multiple seasons, the Washington Redskins instead allowed their division rivals to march right down FedEx Field from the opening gun Monday night.

By the time it was over, some 9:13 later, the Redskins had been steamrolled for 80 yards on 16 plays, having allowed four third-down conversions, all of it resulting in a Giants touchdown that more than set the tone for a lopsided 45-12 loss in front of a national television audience.

“Whatever we did, they had a plan for it,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “We just had to find a way to get off the field, and we couldn’t do it.”

There were plenty more marches from the New York offense before the miserable night ended, with five long touchdown drives averaging 68 yards. But the opener was the longest, the most painful - and perhaps the most predictable.

The Giants have made a habit out of exhausting Washington’s defense over the last three seasons. In their four most recent victories over the Redskins, they’ve produced 12 drives of at least 10 plays while converting an astounding 54 percent (40-for-74) of their third-down attempts.

Was it any surprise Monday’s opening drive prolonged that trend?

With flawless precision, Eli Manning led his troops straight down the field, chewing up clock and leaving Washington’s defense exasperated. Only two plays went for more than 10 yards, but only three plays failed to gain yards.

“They were methodical,” safety Reed Doughty said. “We’d get them in third-and-3, and they’d convert the first down. The fact is we never really made any plays.”

And when it came to third down, the Giants simply put the ball in Ahmad Bradshaw’s hands and let the big, shifty running back wreak havoc on the Redskins’ defense.

Third-and-2? Bradshaw ran for 4 yards around the left edge. Third-and-6? Bradshaw went for 14 yards on a screen pass. Third-and-3? Bradshaw for 7 yards on another screen pass. Third-and-goal from the 3? Bradshaw off-tackle into the end zone.

“Whatever we did, they had a plan for it,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “We just had to find a way to get off the field, and we couldn’t do it.”

It was the longest drive (in terms of time elapsed) surrendered by Washington this season, and it was only the opening act to a night full of defensive inadequacy. By the time the first half ended, the Giants had scored 24 points, racked up 16 first downs and converted eight of 10 third-down attempts.

“We were very flat from the beginning,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “The Giants were a step ahead of us, it seemed like, the whole game. Before you know it, it’s 24-0, and you’re wondering: ‘Man, what just happened?’ It was just extremely embarrassing to happen like that.”

How did it come to this? How did the league’s seventh-ranked defense and fourth-ranked pass defense get shredded to pieces?

The Redskins certainly weren’t bolstered by a pair of returning starters: tackle Albert Haynesworth (who missed three of the last four games with a sprained ankle) and cornerback DeAngelo Hall (who missed the last three games with a sprained knee).

The only notable moment for either player came during a fourth-quarter skirmish with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs that left Haynesworth charged with a personal foul and Hall having to be restrained by teammates.

By then, the game’s outcome had long since been sealed. If only the Redskins’ defense had risen to the challenge much earlier when there was still a glimmer of hope, perhaps the fourth quarter would have held some significance and perhaps the stands at FedEx would have included more than a few thousand remaining Giants fans who happily celebrated their squad’s biggest offensive showing on the road since 1954.

“I’m just disappointed and embarrassed,” Doughty said. “They just kind of did what they wanted against us on defense. That hasn’t been us this whole season. I really don’t know what happened.”