- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

The position they occupy in the NFC playoff race should be familiar to the Washington Redskins, along with the frustration of failing to win division home games, continuing to show an inability to score touchdowns against decent opponents and becoming mistake-prone against efficient offenses.

The Redskins, who fell to eighth place in the conference Sunday with their 23-7 loss to the New York Giants, need another memorable December after a promising 6-2 first half. With four games remaining, the Redskins trail Dallas and Atlanta by a game for the final wild card spot. The Redskins needed perfect Decembers in 2005 and 2007 to secure the sixth playoff spot. It might require a 4-0 finish this year.

“As bad as it got out there for me, we’re 7-5,” coach Jim Zorn said. “This is not like a season-ending game and we go home and see you next year. We’re still 7-5. That is bright.”

While the boss presented a glass-half-full outlook for the final month of the season, his players were more matter-of-fact.

“Obviously, you have to be concerned because we’ve only won one of our last four games, and the one we won was against a [2-10] Seattle team that we struggled to beat,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “We’re not playing great football in any facet of the game. Pick an area, we need to improve it.”

Said left guard Pete Kendall: “I don’t think you have to spend night and day studying the playoff picture to understand that a couple games over .500 in our conference is a pretty precarious perch. That being said, we still have four opportunities to win games.”

Maybe it’s good for the Redskins that three of those four chances come away from home, where they are a dismal 3-4. The Redskins have lost three consecutive home games for the sixth time since 2000 and have dropped six of their past seven NFC East home games.

It has been nearly two months since the Redskins played a solid game. The offense continues to be without a three-touchdown game and has only 43 points combined in the past four games. The defense allowed a season-high 403 yards, seven third-down conversions and three completions of at least 20 yards. And the special teams is in a funk: Shaun Suisham missed a field goal for the third straight week.

Before the game, the Redskins assembled on the field to recognize Sean Taylor’s induction to the team’s Ring of Fame. But whether it was a distraction or the Redskins were unable to cash in on the emotion, they quickly found themselves in a hole.

“We were emotionally charged before the game,” cornerback Fred Smoot said. “But they come out and get the quick score, and they never really looked back.”

The Giants threw a curveball at the Redskins in the first half. Despite missing Plaxico Burress - who was ruled out with a hamstring injury before accidentally shooting himself in the thigh late Friday - the league’s top rushing offense came out slinging. In staking his team to a 13-0 lead, quarterback Eli Manning was 9-for-13 for 184 yards on the first three possessions.

“They kept us on our heels and kept us guessing,” Smoot said.

New York scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer (who beat Smoot) and field goals of 31 and 38 yards by John Carney. In the same stretch, the Redskins went punt, punt, punt - leaving Zorn visibly agitated on the sideline.

“I started whining about everything,” he said. “I was on everybody. I was even on myself. It didn’t start out well.”

The Redskins appeared to be in decent position, though, when Devin Thomas scored his first career touchdown on a 27-yard reverse around the right side. It was the Redskins’ longest play from scrimmage.

“It was in [the game plan] for the first time,” Zorn said. “I was excited for Devin and for the execution, which was flawless.”

That was it from the Redskins’ offense, though. Two missed chances followed in the second quarter. The Redskins couldn’t capitalize on a DeAngelo Hall interception - the seventh time in 14 takeaways that they haven’t scored - and Suisham was wide right from 42 yards out on another possession. The six second-half possessions ended with two punts, two failed fourth downs, an interception and a fumble.

Clinton Portis was limited to 22 yards on 11 carries. That failure on the ground, combined with falling behind, forced Jason Campbell to throw 38 times.

“It won’t matter what we call if we don’t execute,” Zorn said. “I expect every call to be successful - that’s why I call the play. … You can’t have a group of errors by anybody, and that’s what we had. Was it one guy? Nope.”

The Giants tacked on to the lead with a Brandon Jacobs 1-yard touchdown run and a 39-yard Carney field goal in the second half.

Zorn likes to divide the season into quarters. The first two were both 3-1. This quarter ended 1-3, creating the Redskins’ predicament.

“We have to start seizing the moment,” Smoot said. “Can we play with these elite teams? Yes, we can. Nobody is going to blow us out, home or away.

“We have to put it all together and make it count.”

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