- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

They honored their late teammate, Sean Taylor, before the game. They received more inspiration from the presence of linebacker London Fletcher and defensive end Andre Carter, neither of whom practiced all week because of foot injuries.

None of that mattered. Although Fletcher made a game-high 14 tackles and Carter recorded a sack, the Washington Redskins‘ defense was overmatched, overrun and picked apart by the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Sunday’s 23-7 loss at FedEx Field.

The Redskins hadn’t allowed a 300-yard passer all season, but New York’s Eli Manning topped that total by the end of the third quarter. And that came without the services of veteran receiver Plaxico Burress, who would have missed the game with a hamstring injury even if he hadn’t shot himself in the leg Friday night.

“We don’t convert a third down [on the offense’s first series], and we allow them to convert two third downs, and they march and get a score,” Fletcher said. “That really set the tone. Plaxico’s a big part of what they do, but they got a bunch of good receivers over there, a lot of guys who can make plays.”

Veteran receiver Amani Toomer, youngsters Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss, tight end Kevin Boss and running back Derrick Ward all had first-down catches as Manning completed 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

“They had an answer for everything,” said cornerback Carlos Rogers, whose Pro Bowl hopes might have been hurt when he was beaten for catches of 13 and 15 yards by Hixon on New York’s first two third-down plays. “They moved the ball up and down the field. That’s the first time that a team passed so much on us. It was our toughest day.”

Manning followed the second third-down hookup with Hixon by connecting with Toomer for a gorgeous 40-yard touchdown against the defense of Fred Smoot.

“I felt like I was all over him,” Smoot said. “Great play, great catch - [but] I still should’ve broke it up.”

The Redskins might have broken through if Springs hadn’t collided with fellow defensive back DeAngelo Hall on a bomb to Hixon on the third play of the third quarter. Either Redskins player could have made the interception. Instead, neither did.

“[Shawn] was coming from the middle of the field,” said Hall, who picked off Manning at the Washington 23 in the second quarter. “I was covering one of the outside players. My man ran a dig. Eli overthrew the dig route. I thought it was a free ball. I didn’t see [Shawn] or feel him.”

After the game, Carter said his foot felt a little weak even though he played only on passing downs. Fletcher, who like Carter took a painkilling shot in order to play, said his foot felt pretty good until late in the game, when it got smashed on the bottom of a few piles.

After holding on to a wild card spot for more than two months and feeling like a playoff team for the third time in four years, Washington’s record took a nose dive in November. The Redskins went 1-3 in the month, dropping from a solid 6-2 to 7-5. That left Washington sitting eighth in the NFC, two spots out of the playoffs.

“It’s good to be 7-5, so to speak,” Fletcher said. “But if we were 6-5 and won this game, everyone would be feeling a little different about the 7-5.”

The defense’s numbers are a bit more difficult to sugarcoat. Fletcher and Co. allowed a season-high 404 yards.

“We got hit in the mouth, hit in the mouth, hit in the mouth,” Hall said.

“As the game wore on, you’re in this hole, and it was kind of like quicksand,” Carter said. “You’ve got to find a way to dig out of it, and unfortunately we didn’t do that.”

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