Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Clinton Portis wasn’t injured and wasn’t fatigued, which made him available for the Washington Redskins’ final two offensive snaps Sunday against the New York Giants.

Photo Gallery: Redskins fall to Giants

But with Portis watching from the sideline, Ladell Betts was stopped for no gain and tackled for a 2-yard loss on two runs from the New York 1-yard line in the final 45 seconds, allowing the Giants to hold on for a 24-17 victory.

“I was fine,” Portis said yesterday at Redskin Park. “They gave Ladell an opportunity, and as a team, we didn’t get in. If Ladell scores the touchdown, then there’s not a problem. Because we didn’t score, now it’s, ‘Oh, why wasn’t Clinton in?’ Who’s to say I would have scored?”

Portis didn’t touch the ball in the final five minutes, which spanned the Redskins’ last 17 plays. He carried 14 times for 60 yards and caught six passes for 37 yards.

“There wasn’t an argument on the sidelines like why I’m not in,” he said. “They called the play, Ladell was in the game, and I’m like, ‘Please save this game for us. Please give us an opportunity to stay undefeated.’ ”

Coach Joe Gibbs spent most of his day-after press conference detailing the final four plays — a spike and incompletion by Jason Campbell and two runs by Betts — and why Portis wasn’t on the field.

On the decision to have Campbell kill the clock with 52 seconds remaining, Gibbs said, “The thinking was that the package we were in was three wide receivers. We felt the best thing to do was spike it on first down and get in the package [three tight ends] we wanted to get into and then have a chance with three plays that we felt would get us in the end zone.”

After Campbell’s incompletion, he was given instructions to call the same play twice — a run to the left side that worked in the first half on Portis’ 1-yard touchdown.

This time Portis was merely watching.

“We think they’re interchangeable — we don’t think there’s any play in our offense that we’re worried about one or the other not handling,” Gibbs said. “[Running backs coach Earnest Byner] works with them, and they come in and out quite often.

“On the final drive, it started with Clinton in the game. There came a play where Earnest felt like it was to our advantage to have Ladell in there because it was a play Clinton had run earlier in the game. Ladell stayed in for the rest of the drive.”

Gibbs defended Betts on the final two runs. On third down, Betts thought he had a crease, but Giants linebacker Kawika Mitchell stormed into the gap to make the solo tackle. On fourth down, the left side of the Redskins’ line was pushed back into fullback Mike Sellers, who lost his balance and tripped Betts.

“On the goal-line running plays, it definitely wasn’t the runner [at fault],” Gibbs said.

Gibbs added that Sellers, while an option in short-yardage outside the 20-yard line, wasn’t used because he’s the Redskins’ best lead blocker. In a rare move for him, Sellers declined to talk with reporters yesterday.

Despite a worrisome second-half defensive performance (21 points, 206 yards and seven third-down conversions allowed), the inability of the offense to do anything in the second half and its three failed attempts to punch it in from the 1-yard line were the main topics as the players watched film and were then told by Gibbs they would be off until Monday.

In the first half, the Redskins ran 33 plays, gained 179 yards, held possession for 16 minutes, 41 seconds and led 17-3.

In the second half, the Redskins ran 30 plays (including only six in the third quarter), gained 81 yards, held possession for only 10:21 and were outscored 21-0.

The lack of first-down rushing production in the second half forced the Redskins’ hand. Before the Giants took the lead, the Redskins’ three first-down rushes totaled 6 yards. Once they fell behind, the Redskins had to pass; they had only 10 second-half runs for 17 yards. Their six second-half possessions ended punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt and lost on downs.

“We lacked the intensity we had in the first half,” Campbell said. “That’s the one thing we had been doing very well — coming out in the third quarter and producing. This was a little setback because we didn’t produce and we got out of rhythm and tempo as an offense.”

Said Gibbs: “We were trying to run in the second half. We just weren’t successful. That’s not us. That’s how you can lose football games, and we know that.”

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