- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. —The season isn't over for the Redskins, but it certainly felt like it yesterday. Every loss takes a toll on a team, but this one 19-17 to the Giants, in the muck and mire of the Meadowlands seemed to drain all the color from their faces, all the hopefulness from their voices. Oh, they said all the right things, but their body language, the look in their eyes, told a quite different tale.
And now Steve Spurrier is thinking about changing quarterbacks again.
As if that's going to solve anything.
As the locker room was emptying out, Darrell Green weighed in with some of the more insightful words of this infuriating season. Asked to put his 42-year-old finger on the reason for the Redskins' struggles, he said, "It comes down to taking command of a game, owning a game. We make plays here and there, but we never take over a game. We never own a field. And when you don't do that, you usually don't win."
That was certainly the case against the Giants. The Redskins led 7-3, then 10-3 and then 17-10, but there was never any sense that they had things under control the way the Redskins of Green's youth would have had things under control. It's hard to take command of a game when your offense is going three-and-out half the time, your special teams are having weekly breakdowns and your defense can't keep a rookie tight end from catching 11 passes.
Jeremy Shockey is a terrific talent and could well make the Pro Bowl this season, but that doesn't mean the Redskins shouldn't have done a better job defending him. The Giants are a team, after all, that practically advertised in the newspaper for a wideout last week; their situation was that desperate. Yet the Redskins failed to shut down either Shockey or Amani Toomer (eight receptions, including a 35-yard touchdown), even though Kerry Collins had practically no one else to throw to and even though Marvin Lewis had a couple of Pro Bowlers, LaVar Arrington and Jeremiah Trotter, chasing the young tight end around.
No, unlike their other defeats, this was a game the Redskins definitely let get away. The Giants helped them all they could with turnovers (three) and penalties, but the Snydermen couldn't close the deal because they never, as Green would put it, staked their claim to the soggy field. In fact, had they not been handed the ball at New York's 21- (taunting infraction), 12- (interception) and 11-yard lines (fumble), they might not have scored at all.
Shane Matthews once again missed more passes than he hit (35 attempts, 20 incompletions) and looks, after four rocky weeks as the starter, to be ready for another "rest." He's been good at avoiding sacks and got dropped only twice by the Giants but that's about all he's been good at. You're not going to win too many games in the NFL with 166 yards of offense and 23 minutes of possession time. Heck, you're not going to win too many games in Pop Warner with stats like those.
Spurrier didn't exactly distinguish himself, either. The Giants offense has as many problems as his own, and yet Jim Fassel's unit managed to gain 299 yards nearly twice as many as the Redskins. But then, Fassel has a lot more experience with raw, wet weather, something that isn't often encountered at the University of Florida.
In that sense, yesterday was kind of Spurrier's NFC East baptism. (And it should be even cozier in Philadelphia on Dec. 15.) The rain in the second half was relentless, and there were so many empty seats that the proceedings had almost a high-school-playoff feel. In the previous nine games, the Ball Coach had ideal conditions for Funnin' 'n' Gunnin', but this game was more a case of Sinkin' or Swimmin'.
With Stephen Davis back in the lineup, Spurrier tried to run the ball and it was absolutely the kind of day to do it. But he wasn't satisfied with the results (3.1 yards a pop for Stephen) and surprise, surprise wound up calling 35 passes and only 21 runs.
"We run a little bit," he said, "and then we don't run. We're just kind of struggling right now." But it's not like the passing offense is working any better. Even he admitted, "We didn't throw it and catch it very well. We'll look at anything [that might turn things around, including Quarterback Change No. 4]. We've got to do something to give some excitement to this offense."
Excitement? How about just effectiveness? Redskins fans, I suspect, would happily settle for that right now.
We'll give Chris Samuels the last word. "When I was a rookie," the big tackle said, "we went 8-8. Last year 8-8 again. And right now we're in a tough situation [at 4-6] and pretty much have to win out. I want to make the playoffs and see how it feels."
Unless Danny Wuerffel turns out to be another Tommy Maddox and he's given us no indication of that Samuels is going to gave to wait 'til next year. If not longer.


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