The Redskins nearly upended one of the AFC’s top teams, but a series of penalties, blunders and errors of judgment receives the blame for the Redskins’ eighth loss in nine games, this one a 34-27 defeat to the Patriots.
From the opening minutes, when Rex Grossman took a sack in the end zone, to the final seconds, when what could have been a game-tying drive was marred by offensive pass interference and ended with an interception, the Redskins couldn’t get out of their own way against a Bill Belichick team that allows little margin for error.
In the opening quarter, on third and nine from the Washington 9-yard line, Grossman waited too long in the pocket, and New England defensive end Andre Carter beat rookie tackle Willie Smith. Carter sacked Grossman in the end zone, jarring the ball loose and Wilfork recovered it for the game’s first score.
“I felt like I was right on the cusp of getting rid of the football when I got hit,” Grossman said. “I believe I was cocking back to throw. But it can’t happen, and I need to do my part to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
In the same quarter, after Graham Gano’s kickoff went out of bounds, the Patriots began a drive from their own 40-yard line. On first down, Tom Brady completed a short pass to a diving Gronkowski at midfield, and the Patriots tight end popped up and darted downfield. Safeties Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes tried and failed to wrestle the 265-pound standout to the ground.
“He’s a big guy, but I can’t really make an excuse,” Gomes said. “We should’ve had him down.”
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall idly watched the play from a few yards away and assumed Gronkowski stepped out of bounds. “I thought the play was over,” Hall said.
It wasn’t. Gronkowski kept running, and Hall finally gave chase. The tight end was brought down at the 11-yard line and scored a touchdown on the next play.
It might not have been Hall’s worst play of the day. In the third quarter, Brady threw an incomplete pass to Gronkowski. Hall was flagged for defensive holding. He didn’t agree with the call, picked up the yellow flag and flung it, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty too.
“You know, you get caught up,” Hall said. “Emotions start running a little high. I felt like it was a terrible call. The dude started flopping and flailing all around. So, you know, it happens. Deal with it.”
The 20 penalty yards put the Patriots in Washington territory and Brady hooked up with Gronkowski for another touchdown just a few plays later.
“You have to keep your composure. We all know that,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “You can’t lose it.”
The Redskins hurt themselves with other costly penalties, several of which they criticized. In the first quarter, tight end Logan Paulsen was called for a false start on third and goal from the 1, and the Redskins had to settle for a field goal. Wide receiver Santana Moss was nailed for offensive pass interference on Washington’s final drive, a questionable call late in the game. And linebacker London Fletcher was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he hit a scrambling Brady in the second quarter.
“I thought it was horrible,” Shanahan said of the call against Fletcher. “That’s what I saw on the replay. What I saw on the replay, I thought it was a bad call.”
Said Fletcher: “You all watched the game. You saw it. They make calls. We just kind of have to live with it, I guess.”