- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. James Tuthill knew his kick wasn't going anywhere as soon as he began his approach to the ball.
The Washington Redskins trailed the New York Giants 19-17 in the fourth quarter in a soaking rain yesterday at Giants Stadium, and only 4:04 remained on the clock. Tuthill lined up for a 42-yard field goal attempt that, if good, very well could win the game for the Redskins.
Then, disaster struck: Tuthill slipped, and his low kick was blocked by the Giants' Lance Legree in the middle of the line.
"As soon as I took a step, I knew I was going for a ride," Tuthill said. "It wasn't the rain that was so bad, but this was definitely the worst field I've ever kicked on. Any time something happens outside of your control and the result is a missed kick, it's really frustrating. I know I would've made it if my plant foot hadn't slipped.
"But I still feel like I let my teammates down. I'll make it next time."
Asked if he had slipped on a divot in the field, Tuthill said, "You mean the divot that is the field?"
Coach Steve Spurrier blamed snapper Ethan Albright for not requesting a dry ball from the officials before the critical kick, but holder Bryan Barker said Albright's snap was perfect. Spurrier then learned from Tuthill what had happened.
Albright blamed himself.
"With a long field goal in that situation, I probably should have asked for a dry ball," said Albright, who hasn't had a bad snap this season.

Davis frustrated
After missing two games because of a sprained right knee, Pro Bowl halfback Stephen Davis returned to the Redskins lineup. Davis said the knee felt fine, which is more than he could say for his spirits after the Redskins ran the ball on just 21 of their 58 plays on offense.
"What do we do best?" Davis responded when asked where the offense has gone. "Run the ball. We've got to do more of it. If we had stayed with it, we could've gotten something going. If you don't get in a rhythm, it's hard to get back going. We passed the ball when we had an opportunity to [run]. It's very frustrating."
Davis' frustration likely peaked just after the Giants went ahead 19-17 early in the fourth quarter. On the first play of that series, Davis broke tackles en route to a 14-yard run, his best of a mediocre 19-carry, 59-yard day. The Redskins had a first down at their own 44 and could've been rolling toward the go-ahead score. Instead, quarterback Shane Matthews threw three straight passes, completing just one for 4 yards.
The 37-21 pass-run ratio actually was an improvement on the whopping 53-16 differential in last Sunday's 26-7 loss in Jacksonville. The Redskins are 2-1 when they run more than they pass, 2-5 when they pass more than they run.

Armstead's return
It was an emotional day for Redskins linebacker Jessie Armstead, who made five Pro Bowls in the previous nine seasons with the Giants and unabashedly loves the New York area. Armstead made six tackles and knocked down a pass, but his new team fell short.
"It was a great feeling coming back," Armstead said. "The crowd welcomed me, and I was thankful for that. It's always going to be a special feeling to walk on that field. I have so many memories out there. Like I told the guys in the locker room [beforehand], I wanted this game. It just didn't work out.
"[His former teammates] told me, 'We miss you.' It's not like I have any enemies on that team. We were at peace when I left. I was at peace with the fans. We had one quarrel and that was with the organization, giving me the respect of calling me in when you're going to release me. I could've handled the release part, but don't say anything negative about me when I leave when I've given my whole life to you."
Armstead wore bright yellow cleats for the first time but said he wasn't trying to draw more attention to himself.
"Those are something Nike sent me, and they're [one of] our team colors," Armstead said. "Even if I had on a coat and was hiding in the corner, everybody would've found me."

Champ goes one-on-one
Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey thrived in then-coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer's system last season while covering the opposition's top receiver every week. But this year's defensive coordinator, Marvin Lewis, usually has employed his two-time Pro Bowl pick in the slot. Bailey hasn't publicly complained about the role, but he was glad for the chance to be locked onto the Giants' No. 1 wideout, Amani Toomer, for most of yesterday's game.
"They had only one proven wideout, so they put me on him," Bailey said. "Anytime I can get on the best guy, I get pumped. It was effective for the most part."
Indeed, Toomer caught just three of the 11 passes that quarterback Kerry Collins threw to him with Bailey covering him. Bailey jarred one ball loose, a pass that free safety David Terrell intercepted to set up the touchdown that put Washington ahead 17-10 in the third quarter. Toomer caught each of the other four passes thrown his way, beating Terrell for a 35-yard touchdown that made it 10-10 with 1:47 left in the first half; cornerback Fred Smoot for 9 yards; strong safety Ifeanyi Ohalaete for 13; and nickel corner Darrell Green for 12. Toomer also snared an 11-yard pass that deflected off nickel safety Andre Lott.

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan enjoyed another multiple-sack performance in his high-profile matchup against Redskins offensive tackle Jon Jansen, though Jansen generally did a solid job keeping the star pass rusher out of the backfield.
Strahan's first sack came on third-and-9 in the second quarter. The Redskins lost no yards on the play; Strahan simply turned and caught Shane Matthews as the quarterback tried to scramble from the pocket.
The second sack occurred on Washington's second-to-last offensive play. Strahan muscled Jansen back with a bull rush and was close enough to Matthews to complete the sack. On the next play, a fourth-and-17, Matthews threw incomplete to Rod Gardner to end the Redskins' chances of winning.
Jansen, who declined to comment on Strahan throughout the week, exited the locker room again without comment.
The battle is one of the premier ones on that side of the line, where the rushers and blockers don't get as much publicity as on the side of Chris Samuels and Bruce Smith. Strahan went sackless in his first four games against Washington after Jansen was drafted in 1999, but he recorded 3 last season en route to an NFL-record 22.

Special teams progress
Washington made progress but wasn't perfect in the two areas of special teams that hurt it in last week's loss at Jacksonville: punting and punt returns.
Punter Bryan Barker rebounded for a fairly solid day at Giants Stadium after hitting the low point in his erratic season against the Jaguars. He had one punt downed at the 9 early in the fourth quarter but also was victimized for a 28-yard return (that led to a field goal) in the third. His 31.4-yard net average was somewhat better than the NFL-worst 29.7-yard figure with which he entered.
"I kicked a few pretty good under the circumstances the field, the weather," Barker said. "It wasn't exactly a kicking exhibition by anybody out there."
On punt returns, cornerback Champ Bailey fumbled his first punt and let yet another punt bounce that he should have fielded. However, he immediately recovered the former and got a do-over on the latter when Giants defensive end Bob Jones was called for holding. Bailey then slipped on a 5-yard return.
"My confidence has always been there. It's just being comfortable. That always helps," said Bailey, who got the job full time when Jacquez Green was cut last week. "I was comfortable, but I hated that it was raining and windy and all that. The last one I let bounce, I was so [angry] at myself."

Willie worked in
Wide receiver Willie Jackson caught five passes for 36 yards with a 6-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. It was his first significant contribution since being signed Oct.31, two days after he was cut by Atlanta.
"I'm comfortable with [the offense]," said Jackson, who played at Florida under coach Steve Spurrier. "I played in it for some years, and then watched it for a long time. So I'm comfortable with everything pretty much."

Long delay
Play was stopped for about 11 minutes during a complicated sequence of challenges in the fourth quarter.
Giants running back Tiki Barber appeared to convert a key third-and-3 on a sweep right but fumbled as he stretched out along the sideline. Washington challenged the ruling of no fumble, but replay ruled that Barber stepped out of bounds before the ball came loose.
The Redskins then challenged the ruling of a first down. The initial spot was overturned based on where the ball was when Barber stepped out of bounds, and New York was forced to punt.
The challenge victory was coach Steve Spurrier's first in four tries this season. The delay contributed to a marathon game of more than 3 hours.

Can't touch them
It seemed as if Washington's defense had forced Giants' rookie kicker, Matt Bryant, into a 37-yard field goal attempt which would have given New York the lead as the fourth quarter began. However, the officials called middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter for roughing quarterback Kerry Collins. The penalty gave New York first-and-goal at the 10 and set up Bryant's 19-yard chip shot, which would prove to be the game-winner.
"I thought I hit [Collins] as his arm was going forward," Trotter said. "Refs are human. They make mistakes. But you hate to see that call in that critical situation."

Good hands man
Rod Gardner was again the standout in what passes for the Redskins' passing game. Gardner caught five passes for 47 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown on which he cut between cornerbacks Will Allen and Will Peterson and in front of safety Shaun Williams, who was waiting to intercept the ball at the back of the end zone.
"A play needed to be made and I went and made it," said Gardner, who easily leads the Redskins with 44 catches for 608 yards (13.8-yard average) and five touchdowns.
Gardner made a similar play to set up Tuthill's late field goal attempt, breaking free on the sideline in front of the Washington bench for a 13-yard grab on third-and-10 from the New York 46.

Safety Sam Shade (neck), guard Brenden Stai (knee), offensive lineman Kipp Vickers, wide receivers Justin Skaggs and Darnerien McCants and defensive ends Otis Leverette and Greg Scott were inactive. Rookie Patrick Ramsey, for the first time since Week 3, was listed as the third quarterback behind Danny Wuerffel.
David Elfin and Jody Foldesy

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