GIANTS 9, REDSKINS 7
History’s most expensive, and perhaps most hyped, team officially reached the brink of disaster.
The Washington Redskins suffered a critical 9-7 loss to the New York Giants yesterday, getting an awful offensive performance with quarterback Brad Johnson in the game and too little, too late after inserting backup Jeff George. Kicker Eddie Murray iced the loss by missing two field goals, including a potential game-winner from 49 yards with 50 seconds left, on a frigid afternoon before 83,485 at FedEx Field.
The seven-year tenure of Redskins coach Norv Turner is expected to end today when he is fired by second-year owner Dan Snyder, who spent nearly $100 million in salaries and bonuses for this team.
The Redskins (7-6) lost their second straight and fourth in the past five games, and dropped into eighth place in the NFC, fighting for one of six playoff berths. Even victories in their final three games might not secure a playoff spot.
“Winning doesn’t just happen,” fullback Larry Centers said, echoing a theme he has repeated all season. “You don’t go out onto the field and it just happens. I don’t care what names you’ve got on the roster. I don’t care who the head coach is, who the owner is. It doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to make it happen.”
Gone is a chance to successfully defend the NFC East title, which will go to either the Giants (9-4) or the Philadelphia Eagles (9-5), who each won here the past two weeks. New York has a fairly firm hold on the division, thanks to a sweep of Philadelphia, and is in line for a first-round bye. The Giants also took satisfaction in upsetting the once-feared team that beat them 16-6 at the Meadowlands on Sept. 24.
“To come in and beat this team that everybody said was going to the Super Bowl makes it even sweeter,” Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said.
The Redskins gained just 147 yards with Johnson running the offense for more than three quarters. Johnson, returning from a sprained knee that sidelined him for three games, missed many throws but blitzes and poor blocking also had him on the run.
Johnson (14-for-29, 126 yards, two interceptions) guided six possessions that went three-and-out, and just two of his 11 drives went more than 10 yards. He was booed increasingly as the game went on. Late in the third quarter, on what would be his second-to-last series, he was booed as he jogged onto the field.
George played Washington’s final two possessions. The first drive went 97 yards for a touchdown; the second ended in Murray’s missed 49-yarder. Afterward Turner said he expected George (10-for-18, 143 yards, one touchdown) to start next week at Dallas.
“If that’s [Turner’s decision] that’s fine,” George said. “You come in and just try to do your best. Guys made plays [for me]… . Guys were just determined to move the ball.”
Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis, returning from a one-game absence because of a fractured forearm, netted just 29 yards on 12 carries, his lowest output since assuming the starting job at the beginning of last season. The Redskins finished with 290 total yards.
“That’s as poorly as we performed offensively in as long as I can remember,” Turner said. “We weren’t able to block people. Whether it was physical or mental, we struggled to execute some pretty basic things.”
Murray’s second miss was on target but several yards short. The Redskins’ fourth place-kicker of the season also missed a potential game-tying field goal in the Nov. 26 loss to Philadelphia; that one was wide right and perhaps a bit short from 44 yards.
After that game Turner said 44 yards was Murray’s limit. However, Turner yesterday did not consider using kickoff specialist Scott Bentley for the 49-yarder.
“Eddie’s very, very accurate,” Turner said. “That’s the range Eddie had made in pregame warmup. Scott’s not very accurate, hasn’t kicked that accurately from that distance.”
Moments earlier it appeared Murray’s game-winning attempt would be much shorter.
Wide receiver James Thrash appeared to catch a 16-yard pass with 1:22 left that would have set up Washington at the Giants’ 19 (for a 36-yard field goal). But officials, after reviewing their initial call, ruled that Thrash trapped the ball. George then hit Albert Connell for 5 yards on second down but missed Irving Fryar deep on third-and-5, setting up Murray’s miss.
A perfect punt by the Giants’ Brad Maynard with 8:02 remaining pinned the Redskins at their 3. Trailing 9-0, George got some breathing room on an offside by Keith Hamilton, then marched Washington down the field with 12 straight pass plays. A 5-yard scoring reception by Fryar cut the Giants’ lead to 9-7.
The 97-yard drive included a 16-yard pass to Centers, on which Centers recovered his own fumble, and a 45-yarder to Thrash over safety Shaun Williams. Fryar’s touchdown catch came on third-and-goal, and video replays showed that the play clock appeared to expire a moment before the ball was snapped.
Linebacker Derek Smith forced Giants tight end Dan Campbell to fumble 1:37 into the fourth quarter, setting up the Redskins at New York’s 31. But Johnson threw his second interception three plays later, triggering his benching. The pass, intended for Thrash in the end zone, was picked off by cornerback Emmanuel McDaniel.
New York took a 9-0 lead with 6:18 left in the third quarter, on Brad Daluiso’s third field goal. An interception by Johnson to safety Sam Garnes set up the Giants at Washington’s 32, and New York’s offense needed just 21 yards to set up the 28-yard field goal.
Two second-quarter field goals gave the Giants a 6-0 edge at halftime. Both kicks capped short drives set up when the Redskins failed to move the ball and Tommy Barnhardt’s punts produced little. Daluiso’s first kick was 46 yards with 3:32 left in the first half, after an 18-yard drive; his second 27 yards with four seconds left, following a 44-yard drive.
The Redskins generated just 4 yards in the second quarter, going three-and-out on all three bonafide possessions (Johnson kneeled once to end the half). In fact, Washington went three-and-out on two third-quarter possessions and Johnson threw an interception on another, meaning the Redskins went nearly two quarters without a first down.
Both teams blew scoring opportunities in the second quarter. Murray struck the left upright on a 39-yard field goal attempt on the period’s second play capping a 64-yard drive, Johnson’s longest while the Giants’ Ron Dayne failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at Washington’s 34 on the following possession.