The top priority on the message board in the Washington Redskins' locker room at FedEx Field yesterday implored the players to eliminate the blunders they had overcome while winning their first two games, stating: "Very few penalties."
The Redskins didn't obey. They helped the New York Giants to an 18-point halftime lead with a series of gaffes, and a second gritty comeback in two weeks went to waste. The Giants marched down the field in overtime and escaped with a 24-21 triumph when place kicker Matt Bryant connected on a 29-yard field goal just more than four minutes into the extra session.
"Everybody fought to the bitter end," said Laveranues Coles, who finished with 105 yards on seven catches. "You can't ask for more than that."
(Preston Keres - The Washington Post)
"We're the Redskin killers ourselves," Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot said. "It's more frustrating that we killed ourselves. If they'd beat us like 30-0, that's one thing. But I don't feel like they were the better team. I feel like we gave it to them."
The Redskins (2-1) tied a team record with 17 penalties, losing for the first time this season. They persevered and erased a 21-3 halftime deficit, finally getting even on kicker John Hall's 33-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining in regulation. But the Giants (2-1), who rebounded from a deflating overtime defeat to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, won the coin toss in overtime and moved from their 6-yard line to the Redskins 9 before handing the game to Bryant, who came through after holder Jeff Feagles handled a low snap.
"I thought we were ready to play well and play smart," Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier said. "I don't think we did either one most of the time."
Wide receiver Darnerien McCants halted a Redskins' drive with a taunting penalty. Left tackle Chris Samuels wiped out a touchdown pass with a holding penalty, and middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter kept alive a Giants touchdown drive just before the break with a personal foul. Hall sent a field goal attempt off the upright, and cornerback Champ Bailey was victimized for a pair of first-half touchdowns. Giants quarterback Kerry Collins had three first-half scoring passes, two to Ike Hilliard and one to fellow wide receiver Amani Toomer.
But the Redskins, a week after overcoming a 17-point deficit to win in Atlanta, hung tough again. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey threw a four-yard touchdown pass to McCants in the third quarter, then connected with wideout Rod Gardner for a six-yard touchdown with just less than 21/2 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Ramsey hit McCants for a two-point conversion, and calmly led a final drive that culminated with Hall's tying field goal. Ramsey finished the game with 348 passing yards, eight fewer than his week-old career high. But Collins made the big plays in overtime, including a 27-yard completion to fullback Jim Finn.
"We have to play better in the first half so we don't fall behind," Bailey said. "We have so many veterans on this team. We have to stop beating ourselves. We're a lot better than we showed."
The missteps began on the Redskins' first possession. They used a 19-yard run by tailback Trung Canidate to move into Giants territory, and a 21-yard completion from Ramsey to McCants on a third-and-10 play should have given them a first down at the 21-yard line. But McCants threw the ball at safety Johnnie Harris after being shoved out of bounds and was flagged for a 15-yard taunting penalty.
That pushed back the Redskins to the Giants 36. After a pair of rare drops by wideout Laveranues Coles and a too-high throw by Ramsey on a third-down pass toward Chad Morton, punter Bryan Barker pinned the Giants at their 7-yard line. The Redskins' defense forced the Giants to go three plays and out, and Morton's 28-yard punt return put Spurrier's offense in business at the New York 25.
But the Redskins had to settle for Hall's 42-yard field goal. Ramsey stumbled on a first-down handoff to Canidate that resulted in no gain, then was sacked on second down when he fell after right guard Randy Thomas stepped on his foot. On third and 15 from the 30, Ramsey dropped a well-placed throw in Gardner's hands for an apparent touchdown. Samuels, though, was caught pulling down Giants defensive end Kenny Holmes. A 16-yard gain on a screen pass to Rock Cartwright got the Redskins back in field goal range.
The Giants responded with a touchdown drive. Hilliard turned around Smoot, who started despite suffering a concussion in practice Thursday, to catch a pass from Collins for a 19-yard gain and a first down at the Redskins 23. Tight end Jeremy Shockey found a seam in a Redskins' zone coverage for a 16-yard reception to the 7. On second down from the 5, the Giants emptied the backfield and split out five receivers. Hillard, working out the slot, found room in front of Trotter and grabbed Collins's throw for the touchdown.
The Redskins went to the run but saw reserve tailback Ladell Betts stopped on third and one, and punted. The Giants had to punt when Collins was pressured into a third-down incompletion by Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington. Coles got the Redskins going with a 23-yard run but two more penalties -- a delay of game and a false start on left guard Dave Fiore -- helped to stop the drive, and the Giants marched 80 yards for a 14-3 advantage.
Shockey made a superb one-handed catch with Arrington all over him for 22 yards. A holding penalty on left tackle Luke Petitgout put the Giants in a second-and-20 predicament. No matter. Toomer got behind Bailey when the cornerback bit on a subtle fake toward the sideline. Collins had plenty of time and dropped a pass over Bailey's head, and Toomer made the grab and eased into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown.
A roughing-the-quarterback personal foul on the Giants and Coles's 32-yard catch and run set up Hall's 53-yard field goal attempt, but Hall sent the ball off the left upright. The Giants got the ball back at their 43 with three minutes left in the half. A fumble forced by Arrington (and recovered by Tiki Barber) and an offensive pass interference penalty on Shockey put the Giants in a third-and-29 hole. Arrington gave the Giants five yards with an offside penalty, but Barber was stopped nine yards shy of a first down with a 15-yard run.
The Giants should have been punting with more than 11/2 minutes to go in the half. Instead, Trotter jumped up from the pile and used two hands to pop Giants guard Rich Seubert under the chin, and the 15-yard penalty kept the drive going. Barber made a key third-down catch and on second and goal from the Redskins 5, Collins rolled right and got the ball to Hilliard around the 3. Hilliard left Bailey grasping at air and got into the end zone 19 seconds before the intermission, and it was a 21-3 game.
"I need to do a better job of keeping my emotions under control," Trotter said. "You have to play with emotion and aggression. But you have to play smart, too."
The Redskins fought back in the second half. Their first drive ended with Giants cornerback Will Allen making a terrific fingertip interception on a deep pass toward Coles. But Collins threw three straight incompletions, and the Redskins went 89 yards to get to 21-10. The Giants helped out with another roughing-the-quarterback personal foul, and Ramsey threw a dart to wide receiver Patrick Johnson for a 27-yard gain. On second down from the 4, McCants got free on a slant pattern and Ramsey hit him for the touchdown.
The Redskins forced a punt and moved to the Giants 32, but got pushed back and had to punt. They got the ball back quickly and advanced to the Giants 31, but Hall yanked a 49-yarder wide left. The Giants kept the door open, though, when Bryant pushed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right. The Redskins got Ramsey's pass to Gardner with 2 minutes 27 second left, and Ramsey bought himself enough time to connect with McCants on the two-point conversion. The Giants ran only 19 seconds off the clock and punted.
Ramsey got the Redskins moving with completions of 21 yards to Coles and 32 yards to McCants. A holding penalty on Samuels ended any realistic hopes of a winning touchdown, but Hall calmly sent his 34-yard kick through the uprights to force overtime.