So much for the defense being great on third down. So much for the offense being able to run the ball consistently regardless of the circumstances. So much for beating a winless team on the brink of seeing its season fall apart before October.
The Washington Redskins — so high after a 2-0 start — came crashing back to earth yesterday, and the Monday Morning Quarterback was surprised just like everybody wearing burgundy and gold.
Up 17-3 at halftime, the offense stopped moving the ball, the defense stopped doing anything and the result was a 24-17 loss that makes the Redskins feel like the Eagles did a week ago.
Q: On a list of Joe Gibbs” worst defeats since his return to the Redskins in 2004, this one has to rank up there, right?
A: Absolutely. Sure, there was the Baltimore loss in 2004 and the Oakland loss in 2005. But this one stinks the most because it’s a division home game. Everybody saw how much Philadelphia’s fans panicked last week when the Eagles lost at the Linc to the Redskins. A team absolutely has to hold serve at home in the division to think about the playoffs. This means the Redskins have to steal another road game somewhere along the way.
Q: The lead was 14 points at halftime, but wasn’t that misleading considering the Redskins got a takeaway late in the second quarter and only kicked a field goal?
A: Absolutely misleading. The Redskins scored 10 points off two takeaways, but they had only one solid drive — a 72-yard possession that included a 49-yard pass to Santana Moss. The first TD drive was 6 yards, and the third scoring drive was four plays and 5 yards. Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the Redskins in the second half.
Q: The Giants proved in Weeks 1 and 2 they couldn’t cover a tight end, even with 32 guys on the field. They also ranked last in pass defense. Why couldn’t the Redskins exploit it?
A: Tight end Chris Cooley had only three catches for 19 yards and Moss three catches for 82 yards. The Giants adjusted their coverage to make sure a safety always was patrolling the deep middle, which limited Cooley. And Moss simply wasn’t able to win that many one-on-one battles with Sam Madison. But a key reason Jason Campbell threw for only 190 yards is that the play-calling became conservative in the second half. The guess here is that Gibbs mentioned to Al Saunders that … the Redskins were leading 17-3 … Campbell was starting his 10th game … the defense had held its own in the first half. So play it close to the vest.
Q: I saw a statistic on TV that said the Giants converted their first seven third-down chances in the second half. Weren’t the Redskins being lauded for their third-down defensive work against Miami and Philadelphia?
A: Yes, they were and should have been. Teams had converted only eight of 29 third-downs against the Redskins in Weeks 1 and 2, but the Giants were 9-for-16. Eli Manning was particularly effective because he had a bunch of time to throw. The Redskins’ secondary and linebackers can’t cover their guys forever, so eventually they would bust open, and Manning would find them.
Q: OK, I’ve waited until now to ask the obvious question — what happened on the Redskins’ final drive?
A: Where do you want to start? The Redskins got the ball at the New York 35 with 2:19 remaining. Through all of the chaos, the Redskins ended up with a first-and-goal from the 1 with 58 seconds to go. Campbell spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock. On second down, he looked for Cooley in the end zone but threw incomplete to Sellers, who wasn’t even in the end zone.
Then came the interesting stuff. The same running play, behind the left side, was called twice. Ladell Betts was stopped for no gain on third down and lost 2 yards on fourth down.
Q: No knock against Betts, but where was Portis?
A: That’s a question for today’s aftermath at Redskin Park. Al Saunders couldn’t answer that question afterward, and Gibbs gave the same song-and-dance about how they have just as much confidence in Betts as they do Portis. But Portis is the team’s best running back, and he should have been in the game if healthy.
Q: So the 3-0 start that everybody was predicting is now 2-1. What do the Redskins have to correct between now and their Detroit game in two weeks.
A: The two minute drill. It’s been like an elementary fire drill the last two weeks. Although Detroit’s awful defense should play right into the Redskins’ hands, Campbell will need to execute the hurry-up offense better because with this team there won’t be any blowout wins.