Redskins’ comeback thwarted by blown coverage, then fumble

Cruz’s 77-yard TD with 1:13 left the difference

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Robert Griffin III trudged off the field alone late Sunday afternoon. All but one of his Washington Redskins teammates had disappeared into the locker room after the New York Giants ripped out their collective heart in the cruelest fashion. Griffin lagged behind, and as a handful of photographers captured his walk, he contemplated the latest painful lesson of his rookie season.

Leave it to Rex Grossman, that steadfast source of veteran-quarterbacking wisdom, to crystallize it for him. Life in the NFL, Grossman told him, includes wins when you should have lost and losses in games you believe you should have won.

“This,” Griffin said, “is a game that we should have won.”

What else could Griffin have thought after New York escaped with a 27-23 victory following a frenetic series of punches and counterpunches in the fourth quarter?

His brilliant 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss put the Redskins ahead with 1:32 remaining. But only 19 seconds later, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, owner of two Super Bowl rings because of moments just like this, upstaged him with a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz.

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) fumbles the ball in fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

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Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) fumbles the ball in fourth ... more >

Victory for the Redskins became defeat. First place in the NFC East became last place. And they headed home wondering, again, how breakdowns in the secondary continue to outweigh how Griffin has galvanized their offense.

“Right now,” Griffin said, “it’s kind of hard to know what to think.”

This would have been an incredible win. The Redskins were one blown coverage away from beating the defending Super Bowl champs in their stadium, from overcoming Griffin’s two second-half turnovers, a lost fumble by running back Alfred Morris and the season-ending left Achilles tendon tear tight end Fred Davis suffered in the first quarter.

Instead, they’re 3-4 and in last place. What transpired in the final moments was a microcosm of their season. Griffin and the offense made enough plays to win, and the defense couldn’t hold the lead.

“That was a tough one,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

The final 17 minutes of play were an up-and-down thrill ride with Griffin at the controls. The Giants broke a 13-13 tie early in the fourth quarter on Ahmad Bradshaw’s 1-yard touchdown plunge. They needed seven plays to score after Griffin threw an interception on a pass intended for tight end Logan Paulsen over the middle. Quarterback and receiver said it was a miscommunication, perhaps a consequence of Davis’ injury.

Griffin then lost a fumble on the next possession. He didn’t secure the ball after faking an inside handoff, and Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul jarred it loose. The Redskins‘ Superman apparently was stuck somewhere in a phone booth.

But, oh, did he arrive just in time.

The Redskins were down to their last breath, trailing 20-16 with 2:07 to play. On fourth and 10 from their 23, Griffin extended the play by rolling left. Pierre-Paul chased him, but Griffin juked free. And as he stood dangerously close to crossing the line of scrimmage, he zipped a 19-yard completion to Paulsen.

As soon as the play was over, you knew it was one of those iconic RG3 moments, a special display of his poise and athleticism.

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