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Redskins Given the Slip

Washington's Best Chance to Win Ends When Kicker Falls

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 18, 2002; Page D01

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 17 -- The Washington Redskins' season may have come unraveled for good on a chilly, rainy day at Giants Stadium. A seven-point lead in the third quarter slipped away amid more offensive futility. A would-be go-ahead field goal with about three minutes to play became a victim of the mucky field, and the Redskins lost to the New York Giants, 19-17, this afternoon.

The Redskins emerged with a two-game losing streak and a 4-6 record, putting them three games behind the first-place Philadelphia Eagles and two games in back of the second-place Giants (6-4) in the NFC East. They are 21/2 games behind the Atlanta Falcons in the chase for the final wild-card playoff berth in the NFC, and the Falcons will play only one more team with a winning record. The Redskins were left with Coach Steve Spurrier contemplating another starting-quarterback switch, with tailback Stephen Davis wondering why they hadn't run the ball more and with practically no one in their locker room able to muster much conviction while insisting that they still can get where they want to go this season.

Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner is swarmed by New York Giants after a short completion in the first quarter. In 56 offensive plays, Washington's longest gain was an 18-yard catch by Gardner. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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"We have an uphill battle," quarterback Shane Matthews said. "Nothing is ever over until it's over. But we have to turn it around quickly."

Said Spurrier: "Basically when you get your eighth loss is when you're out of [playoff contention]. Sometimes 9-7 gets in. Sometimes it doesn't, I guess, is the way it goes. So until we've got eight losses, we're mathematically still alive. If we can find a way to get a little offense and a play or two here or there, then we've got a decent team."

For now, though, the Redskins can only dream of being decent. They managed a paltry 166 yards of offense. Matthews completed only 15 of 35 passes for 113 yards. Davis, in his return to the lineup after sitting out two games because of an injured right knee, rushed for 59 yards on 19 carries. The Redskins had 60 rushing yards and had possession for a little more than 23 minutes, compared with nearly 37 minutes for the Giants.

"What do you think we do best?" Davis said. "What we do best is run the ball. We have to do more of that, and pass the ball when we have the opportunity. I think if we would have stayed with it, we could have gotten something going. It's hard to get going when you don't get into any rhythm."

Still, the Redskins nearly pulled it out. They got two touchdown passes from Matthews and led 17-10 early in the third quarter after wide receiver Rod Gardner hauled in Matthews's 11-yard lob for a touchdown following safety David Terrell's diving interception of a tipped throw by Giants quarterback Kerry Collins.

The Giants moved back in front with three of the four field goals by Matt Bryant. His 19-yarder put New York ahead to stay just over three minutes into the fourth quarter. But the Redskins still had a chance to win when place kicker James Tuthill lined up for a 42-yard field goal attempt as the clock clicked down toward three minutes. Ethan Albright's snap was a bit high, but holder Bryan Barker got the ball down. Tuthill's left foot slipped on the soggy turf as he planted to make the kick, however, and the ball never cleared the line of scrimmage. Lance Legree was credited with the block for the Giants, and Omar Stoutmire scooped up the ball and ran 14 yards before being dragged down by Barker.

"We had a lot of good opportunities," Spurrier said. "We had some good turnovers early and got a few scores, got a few points here and there. But eventually, we didn't do much on offense. The defense played about the whole game. They kicked enough good field goals to beat us. We had one shot there at the end."

Collins threw two interceptions but survived a day with a depleted wide receiver corps by completing 22 of 46 passes for 211 yards. Rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey had 11 receptions, and wideout Amani Toomer added eight catches.

The Redskins were helped by three Giants defenders dropping prospective interceptions and Collins missing open receivers. He overthrew the ball on two potential touchdown passes on the Giants' opening drive, and they settled for Bryant's 43-yard field goal.

The Redskins went three plays and out on each of their initial two possessions, but were aided by a taunting penalty and a dropped interception in the end zone -- both by cornerback Will Allen -- and a pass-interference call on cornerback William Peterson on their third drive. Matthews took advantage by connecting with wide receiver Willie Jackson for a six-yard touchdown pass.

Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete stepped in front of Shockey for an interception late in the second quarter, and might have gotten a touchdown on the return if he hadn't slipped while attempting to maneuver around Collins. He was touched down at the Giants 12-yard line, and the Redskins were happy to get at least Tuthill's 31-yard field goal after Peterson dropped a potential interception. The Giants got even at 10 when Toomer beat Terrell and caught a 35-yard touchdown throw from Collins less than two minutes before the break.

The Giants committed turnovers on their first two possessions of the second half, first on a fumble by Shockey forced by defensive end Bruce Smith and recovered by linebacker LaVar Arrington, then on Terrell's interception on a pass that caromed off Toomer. The Redskins failed to capitalize on the first gaffe but moved in front 17-10 when Gardner jumped to grab Matthews's high pass with a host of Giants defenders in close proximity.

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