- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.Y. The Washington Redskins came to Giants Stadium still feeling good from their 52-17 thrashing of the 49ers and primed to grab undisputed possession of first place in the NFC East.

Mark Brunell and Santana Moss would carve up the NFL’s second-worst defense, and Gregg Williams’ defense would shut down Eli Manning and Co. as it did last December at the Big Ugly in Landover.

The Redskins instead found themselves playing an unexpected role: the victim in “The Massacre at the Meadowlands.” They were out of yesterday’s game from the moment Tiki Barber burst down the sideline for 57 yards on the first play from scrimmage.

The Redskins’ 36-0 defeat was the worst in the 14-year career of Hall-of-Fame coach Joe Gibbs and his first shutout since the 1986 NFC Championship game loss to the Giants here.

Q: Give it to me straight. How bad was it really?

A: So bad that the score was 19-0 at halftime even though Giants star Jeremy Shockey hadn’t even touched the ball and Manning posted an awful 30.7 passer rating.

Q: Anything else?

A: Maybe this will make you feel better: It could’ve been a lot worse. The Giants had seven possessions inside the Washington 35 on which they didn’t reach the end zone, instead settling for five field goals.

If those five field goals, the interception Manning threw in the end zone and a missed field goal had been touchdowns, it would’ve been the most lopsided game in NFL history.

Q: Thanks for trying to make me feel better. Where did the Redskins go wrong?

A: How about this litany of mistakes? Eight dropped passes. Four turnovers. Five sacks. Ten penalties. And, they surrendered 262 yards rushing.

Q: I know that. But why did all of that happen?

A: The Giants were inspired by a scintillating, fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Broncos last week; emotional middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who felt dissed when the Redskins wouldn’t match his contract offer in March; and the death of beloved owner Wellington Mara on Tuesday.

The Redskins probably were guilty of thinking they were better than they were after blowing out the lowly 49ers.

Q: What happened to Brunell? He was the NFC’s leading passer.

A: Drops by the receivers, which began with tight end Robert Royal on the Redskins’ first play, certainly were a factor. So was the consistent pressure from the New York pass rush.

But those weren’t the only reasons Brunell looked more like the unsure quarterback he was last season than the wonderful player he’s been the past five games. Maybe Giants coach Tom Coughlin, his boss in Jacksonville from 1995 to 2003, just knows him too well and transmitted that knowledge to the Giants defenders.

Q: What about Moss?

A: Even the best players have off days. Moss dropped two balls and was barely a factor, making just four catches for 34 yards. Instead of “Oye Como Va,” it was “Oy, Go Away” for Santana yesterday.

Q: I was glad to see LaVar Arrington get decent playing time for the second straight game. Is he back in the mix to stay?

A: Maybe. It was no accident that both of Barber’s big runs went to the right side of the Washington defense, where Arrington’s replacement, Warrick Holdman, is just another guy.

Arrington might freelance too much, but he also makes plenty of plays that Holdman can’t.

Q: How badly is Chris Samuels hurt?

A: Samuels said the medical staff told him there’s no ligament damage, but a sprained knee is never good news — especially for a blocker who relies more on agility than nastiness.

And no offense to Ray Brown, who’s a marvel for his age, but a soon-to-be 43-year-old lining up at left tackle with the Eagles and Bucs up next is not a promising development.

Q: How come didn’t we see John Hall?

A: Two reasons: Special teams coach Danny Smith had punter Derrick Frost kick off, and by the time the Redskins got in the red zone in the fourth quarter they were so far behind that Gibbs elected to go for it on fourth down rather than attempt a meaningless field goal.

Rookie Nick Novak still likely will be cut this week, and Hall will return to full-time duty on Sunday night against the Eagles.

Q: So amid all this depressing news, where does that leave the Redskins?

A: Not in good shape to face an Eagles team against which they’re 0-7 since November 2001. But if ailing quarterback Donovan McNabb can’t play for the Eagles, that radically changes the equation.

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