- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. | As if to confirm his own math and possibly remind the coach of his inactivity in the passing game, Chris Cooley approached Jim Zorn in the Washington Redskins‘ locker room late Thursday night.

“He said to me he caught just one ball,” Zorn said after his Redskins debut ended with a 16-7 loss to the New York Giants. “We tried to get the ball to Chris Cooley more than once.”

But like just about everything the Redskins tried against the defending Super Bowl champions, the execution was lacking.

A lot was tried. Very little worked.

“My first game was very frustrating,” Zorn said. “I feel like we learned where we need to improve tonight. If anything’s positive, it’s that. We can see on video where we can improve. We saw where we’re at offensively, and if I was trying to look at the cup half full, that would be it. I don’t know if the cup has any water in it.”

The Redskins have nine days to fill up the cup before facing the New Orleans Saints. Among the things that need to be addressed:

How Cooley was the intended receiver only once in 27 passes by Jason Campbell.

Why the Redskins failed to convert more than three of their 13 third-down chances and were outgained 134-7 in the first quarter.

How Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot combined to drop three interceptions.

Why the Redskins were gashed by Brandon Jacobs (116 yards rushing) and slashed by Plaxico Burress (10 catches).

And most importantly for Zorn and his staff, how and why the Redskins were dominated in the first 28 minutes, falling into a 16-0 hole.

“The biggest thing is that we didn’t match their intensity in the first half,” defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery said. “We had one guy out of place on every play, and they exposed that.”

The offense wasn’t any better, failing to earn a first down until the final two minutes of the first half. Campbell threw for 133 yards, and Clinton Portis needed 23 attempts to gain 84 yards.

“They played outstanding football in the first quarter,” left guard Pete Kendall said. “They were very efficient offensively and executed well defensively. We obviously couldn’t get our way out of it as well as the defense played from midway through the second quarter on.”

The Redskins were somehow in the game at halftime, thanks to Campbell’s 12-yard pass to Santana Moss 13 seconds before halftime.

Neither team did much in the second half, but the Redskins’ best chance to make things interesting came midway through the third when Fred Smoot intercepted Eli Manning at the Washington 45.

But Washington was stymied by the Giants’ front seven. Portis gained 5 yards on two carries and a Campbell-to-Moss connection was 2 yards short of the first down.

“Anytime you get a turnover, you look at it as a chance to swing the momentum, and it felt like the momentum wanted to turn,” Kendall said. “To their credit, they wouldn’t let it turn.”

Too often the Redskins would get into a third-down situation with a manageable distance only to have a route cut short or a running back stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Losing the field-position battle throughout, Zorn had no options and sent Durant Brooks out for seven punts.

The Giants, meanwhile, converted seven of 14 third-down chances, allowing them to run 17 more plays than the Redskins and outgain them 354-209.

“We’ll probably see that we could have made a couple of those third downs with a [stretch] here or there,” Zorn said.

The first quarter was one of the more brutal in recent Redskins’ memory. New York marched 84 yards on 11 plays during its first drive, scoring on Eli Manning’s 1-yard run. Instantly, the Giants established that they would run right at Jason Taylor - who started 12 days after spraining his knee - with Jacobs and would throw to Burress whenever they deemed it necessary. On the opening drive, Burress caught passes of 30, 19 and 11 yards.

The Redskins lost 5 yards, gave up a sack and committed a penalty on their first drive.

“I don’t think that set the tone for the game, I think it set the tone for the first half,” Zorn said. “They were very methodical coming down and getting a score, and we sputtered around for too many minutes and too many plays in the first half.”

The Giants stalled twice in the red zone and settled for John Carney’s field goals of 24 and 25 yards (and later 47 yards) to build the 16-0 lead.

In the final two minutes of the first half, the Redskins showed a sign of offensive life. They earned their initial first down with 1:10 remaining - on Campbell’s first completion. Four plays later, on third-and-11 from the 12, Campbell hit Moss on a crossing route, and he scored with 13 seconds left.

Campbell looked composed on the throw, connecting with Moss in stride. Too often, though, he never got into a rhythm and completed only 15 of 27 passes.

“No question, we have to improve our passing game,” Zorn said. “We’re not good enough to have anybody make a mistake in the passing game.”

The Redskins, who started training camp July 20, will get consecutive days off this weekend before beginning a two-week home stretch against New Orleans and Arizona that precedes trips to Dallas and Philadelphia.

“We know where we need to be,” Portis said. “We kept fighting, and that was the great thing. We just couldn’t find a way to squeeze out more points.”

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