- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2011

Brandon Banks launched all 5-foot-7, 155 pounds of his body up and barely over the wall behind the end zone at the east end of FedEx Field late Sunday afternoon. The Washington Redskins sparkplug receiver partially disappeared in a sea of delirious fans who joined him in celebrating his game-tying 59-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Back near the line of scrimmage, though, a yellow penalty flag stopped the party. The call was holding on fullback Darrel Young. The touchdown was negated, and quarterback Rex Grossman threw an interception on the next play.

The Redskins‘ 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings got away from them on that gutting twist, but similar mistakes plagued them all game. After playing several weeks of inspired, focused football near the end of this lost season, the Redskins finally played as sloppily as their 5-10 record indicates.

They committed eight penalties for 64 yards, turned the ball over twice and surrendered 241 rushing yards to a Minnesota team that won for just the third time this season.

“You go back and say, ‘Hey, that’s the difference in winning and losing games,’” coach Mike Shanahan said. “You’ve got to work as a football team to eliminate those things. At times we’ve been good not having penalties. Other times we’ve lost our concentration. Today, I was disappointed that we had as many penalties as we did in some crucial situations.”

A Christmas Eve crowd of 68,370 — the lowest FedEx Field attendance in 10 years — saw the Redskins secure their fourth consecutive last-place finish in the NFC East. They have lost 10 games for the third straight season and finished with a 2-6 home record.

The causes of those dreadful realities were obvious Sunday.

“It wears on you in the season,” safety Reed Doughty said. “You just have to keep focusing, attention to detail, and you have to finish games. It’s a team effort in this loss.”

In other words, there’s enough blame to go around. On offense, it was turnovers. Grossman extended the team’s turnover streak to 29 games by losing a fumble in the first quarter and throwing an interception in the fourth. The Vikings turned each of those into field goals.

On the fumble, tight end Mike Sellers missed a block on Vikings defensive end Brian Robison, who converted the sack. On the interception, Grossman’s throw sailed over Santana Moss’ head and into safety Mistral Raymond’s hands.

“It was high,” Grossman said. “I could elaborate, but it’s pretty simple.”

Meanwhile, the defense had no answers for a pair of Vikings backups. Running back Adrian Peterson (knee) and quarterback Christian Ponder (concussion) were injured on consecutive plays on the first series of the third quarter. Quarterback Joe Webb and backup running back Toby Gerhart proceeded to rip apart Washington’s defense.

Webb’s ability to run the option and zone-read rushes kept the Redskins‘ off balance. Gerhart had 109 yards on only 11 carries, including a 67-yarder.

“It was kind of overwhelming, and we couldn’t adjust very quickly,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “It’s very unacceptable. That’s just not us.”

Players downplayed the impact a short week and the holiday had on the quality of their play.

“I don’t think this was our best week of practice, but at the same time, you can’t account for a running back, quarterback going down,” nose tackle Barry Cofield. “They bring in Webb; we had prepared for him a little bit, but it just brings a new dynamic to the game.”

Although there were numerous culprits in this loss, Young put the blame entirely on his shoulders.

He was offside on a first-quarter punt on fourth-and-4, which gave the Vikings an automatic first down. Eight plays later, Peterson’s 1-yard touchdown gave Minnesota a 10-0 lead.

Later, with 8:06 remaining and the Redskins trailing 30-23, Young held defensive end Jared Allen’s leg on an end-around to Banks. Banks raced around the left edge of the defense, down the sideline and into the stands, all for naught.

“It’s no positives to it, but you can learn from it and try not to do those things,” the second-year fullback said. “I cost the team the game, and I’ve got to face the responsibility and take up for everything that happened. Hopefully next week I can overcome it — if I have a chance next week.”

The Redskins‘ chances, of course, ran out long ago.

“You can’t beat yourself,” Shanahan said.

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