- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

There was no positive spin on this one.

After past defeats, the Washington Redskins at least could find a bright spot or two. But not even the shrewdest politician could have spun anything upbeat out of Sunday’s 36-0 bludgeoning by the New York Giants.

Coach Joe Gibbs didn’t really try. He was reduced yesterday at Redskin Park to praising the hustle of coverage guys on special teams.

The rest of the Redskins didn’t try either.

“I’m embarrassed that we put that product out there to represent the Washington Redskins,” safety Ryan Clark said.

The catastrophe produced a seismic mood shift from last week after the Redskins demolished the San Francisco 49ers 52-17. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it had been 28 years since an NFL team suffered such a stunning reversal of fortune. The last team before the Redskins to follow a 35-point victory with a defeat of Sunday’s magnitude was the 1977 Seattle Seahawks, then in just their second NFL season.

The loss dropped the Redskins (4-3) from a tie for the NFC East lead into a tie for last place with the Philadelphia Eagles, the defending division champions whom the Redskins will face Sunday night at FedEx Field.

“That is the game that all coaches dread,” Gibbs said of Sunday’s performance. “I wouldn’t have guessed that we would play like that in a million years. I thought we had good preparation and knew what was at stake. That’s why I’m never confident going into a game.”

Simple bad luck played a part in Washington’s woes. The Redskins have demonstrated an uncanny inability to recover loose balls: 22 of 26 fumbles have wound up in their opponents’ hands. That has produced the second-worst turnover ratio in the NFC at minus-9.

More worrisome, however, is the slippage of the normally tough and steady defense.

The Redskins’ offense had a miserable day in the Meadowlands: nine dropped passes, five sacks, five penalties, 2.9 yards a carry. But that came on the heels of a month’s worth of strong showings.

The defense, ranked second against the run in 2004, already had slipped to 15th this season before Sunday’s awful performance dropped it to 25th.

Giants running back Tiki Barber burst through the right side for 57 yards on the first play, and he didn’t stop gashing holes in the Redskins defense until he scored with 1:24 left in the third quarter and had a career-high 206 yards. With the game well in hand for the Giants, Barber then took a seat.

“We gave up the big run, and after that there was no enthusiasm,” said right end Phillip Daniels. “It seemed like we were a bunch of deer in the headlights. Guys were wondering who was going to make a play instead of making the play themselves. We’re not playing very smart. We’re not doing the little things, and that’s killing us.”

Barber’s monster runs — he also had a 59-yarder early in the second quarter — were the fifth and sixth runs of at least 34 yards the Redskins have surrendered during the past four games.

“It’s the same old deal,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “Every game, a missed tackle always turns into a big run. It was horrible. I don’t remember a time when I felt this low during my NFL career.”

Safety Sean Taylor took the wrong approach on Barber’s first long run. Cornerback Walt Harris and linebacker Warrick Holdman were guilty parties on the second.

“A couple of times we made a mistake by being so aggressive,” Gibbs said. “We were right in place on the first one, but we went for a kill shot … and we missed the tackle. Does it concern us? Yeah. That’s one that hopefully we can fix.”

Safety Matt Bowen said the problem is not that hard to solve.

“Football is a game of tackling and angles,” he said. “If you don’t have a proper angle on a running back in this league, you’re not going to catch him and you won’t be in a good position to tackle him. That’s just proper technique. It starts when you’re young, but it stays the same as long as you keep playing.

“If we want to have the season that we want, it’s going to come down to stopping big plays.”

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