Even after the Redskins got off to an impressive start, looking as good on offense and defense as they have all season and taking a 14-0 lead over the New York Giants, a degree of uneasiness remained in a partially-filled FedEx Field.
The announced crowd of 75,220 — comprised mostly of Redskins fans but not without a fair amount of Giants supporters as well — seemed to hold its collective breath, fearing that the ills that had plagued Washington repeatedly this season would once again resurface.
Sure enough, a once-promising performance made way for a second-half meltdown that resulted in a 24-17 loss Sunday night. Penalties, dropped balls, another special teams gaffe and a game-ending turnover served as the lowlights of the Redskins’ loss.
“We lost composure, we lost everything,” wide receiver Pierre Garcon said. “We lost yards, we left points out there, we left yards out there. We lost everything. . . . We have a lot of problems, obviously.”
Things looked good for the Redskins, even early in the third quarter as a defensive stand forced the Giants to punt and Washington had a chance to rekindle the offensive rhythm of the first half.
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins got the ball at their own 10-yard line, and moved the ball to the New York 48 in seven plays. But then things began to unravel following a four-yard Alfred Morris run with 9 minutes 4 seconds left in the third quarter.
Center Will Montgomery got flagged for holding to wipe out a first-down run by Morris. On the next play, wide receiver Santana Moss drew a holding call, and as he voiced his displeasure with the officials, he also got slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“Honestly, he called a holding and I just thought it was a B.S. call,” Moss said. “I told him it was a B.S. call and he gave me an unsportsmanlike conduct. I guess I got an unsportsmanlike conduct for saying ‘B.S. call.’ ”
That put Washington in a third-and-18 hole and after a short completion, the Redskins had to punt — but not before Nick Barnett got called for a false start, setting up fourth and 20.
On the ensuing New York possession, safety Brandon Meriweather intercepted an Eli Manning pass and returned it to the New York 12. But not even that short distance proved a surety for Washington’s offense. A three-and-out followed, and when an errant Griffin pass intended for Garcon skidded to a stop in the end zone, the wide receiver walked up and booted the ball out of bounds. That frustration move drew a five-yard penalty for Washington, which had to settle for a 33-yard Kai Forbath field goal.
Asked why he kicked the ball, Garcon said, “Because we didn’t score the touchdown. If we had spotted it 75 yards and we hadn’t scored a touchdown, I would’ve punted it harder.”
“That was frustration,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “You can’t lose your poise. That was disappointing. We’ve got some competitors out there. . . . We’ve got to keep our poise in those situations and we lost it a couple of times.”
The Redskins clung to a 17-14 lead, but a sack on third down killed their next drive, and they only narrowly avoided disaster on the ensuing punt.
Long-snapper Kyle Nelson’s snap rolled back to Sav Rocca, who got off a low kick that got blocked at the line and only traveled 18 yards. Nelson committed a holding penalty as well, and that put the ball at the Redskins 46 — only eight yards away from the original line of scrimmage.
Nelson later explained that he misheard the call from Evan Royster, and thought he was supposed to snap the ball. By the time he realized that he was mistaken, he tried to pull back the snap but to no avail.
“I honestly shouldn’t have snapped it,” Nelson said. “I should’ve waited. Worst case scenario, we take delay of game. . . . I heard something wrong, did something, and it shouldn’t have happened. I was caught in the middle of the snap. I wanted to snap it but didn’t want to snap it. Next thing I’ll know, if I hear something and I’m not sure, I should just wait. Maybe it’ll be a delay of game, but maybe they’ll drop offsides.”
New York capitalized as the fourth quarter began, marching 46 yards on four plays. DeAngelo Hall was called for unsportsmanlike conduct following a 19-yard Manning-to-Victor-Cruz pass that put the ball at the 1, from where the Giants scored on an Andre Brown run.
Fittingly, the game ended on another miscue. Griffin — while trying to lead the Redskins on a game-tying drive — completed a fourth-and-one pass to Garcon. The wide receiver picked up the first down, but Giants safety Will Hill stripped the ball from him and returned it eight yards before Garcon tackled him at the Washington 43.
Manning kneeled twice to run out the clock, and Washington fell to 3-9 on the season, and with the defeat officially was eliminated from the playoffs.
“We can’t catch a break, man,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “We’ve been like that all year. Tonight, we get a 14-point lead and you’re thinking you’re finally going to have a game where everything’s clicking — offense, defense, special teams — and we let them crawl back in the game.
“Didn’t make enough plays in the end.”
More on the Redskins: