In a Funk After a Funky Effort

The Redskins' Randy Thomas, left, and Giants safety Brent Alexander circle after Santana Moss fumbled following a hit by Corey Webster.
The Redskins' Randy Thomas, left, and Giants safety Brent Alexander circle after Santana Moss fumbled following a hit by Corey Webster. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Michael Wilbon
Monday, October 31, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. How do you not show up to play when first place is at stake, when the opponent is a division rival of nearly 75 years whose coaches and players figure to approach the day with supernatural emotion two days after burying a boss so beloved he was like a father to them all? How do you drop a stink bomb like the Redskins did here Sunday when your offense is No. 2 in the entire NF of L and their defense is next-to-last at No. 31?

There's no shame in losing to the Giants, especially up here in the Meadowlands with the wind blowing and Eli Manning throwing and Tiki Barber running his best. But how do you drop passes, miss tackles, blow assignments and get out-hustled when at the very least a prideful effort is in order?

Maybe the Redskins arrived at Giants Stadium on Sunday thinking they were 52-17 good, which was the victorious score against the miserable 49ers last week. Perhaps they thought the Giants themselves were going to be in mourning during the game and unable to see how to block, tackle, throw and catch through their tears. Whatever the case, the Redskins stunk the joint out Sunday. They flat-lined their way through a 36-0 loss that ought to leave every coach and player perplexed until full practice resumes Wednesday and angry until Sunday night, which will be their first chance to prove this was a fluke and not the start of a downward spiral that will leave this just another losing season.

The only thing the Redskins did with any grace Sunday was accept the blame afterward like professionals and vow to not let it happen again anytime soon. Coach Joe Gibbs said: "Something like that starts with me. It was my responsibility. We all realized what was at stake. We talked about it all week. We've got to take a long, hard look at ourselves, but it starts with me." Quizzed on specific areas of ineptitude, Gibbs did allow that the stink (my word, not his) was "all the way across the board."

And defensive end Renaldo Wynn added: "I'm very disappointed, upset, sick to my stomach. We're going to get this turned around; I'll guarantee you that."

But before we get to the turning-it-around part, it's still necessary to examine what happened Sunday.

I suppose there will be plenty of folks who'll try to convince you that the death of Giants owner Wellington Mara couldn't possibly have had great influence on the game, that today's players aren't even that close to owners, particularly an 89-year-old man. And those folks would be not just wrong, but stupid wrong, unobservant wrong. The Giants, particularly the team leaders such as Michael Strahan and Barber and Amani Toomer, know that Mara is one of the most important figures in the history of the league.

They know he cared enough to come to practices every week for 50-plus years.

They remember how he treated them from the time they walked through the door as rookies. They saw his children and grandchildren, like young Kate Mara, who sang the national anthem so beautifully it made folks reach for tissues, gathered in the stadium Sunday afternoon.

Only a fool wouldn't know the Giants were going to come out from the opening kickoff and play with incredible precision and great purpose. The Giants were going to play the best possible game they could play Sunday. And since the Redskins live 200 miles down the road, not 2,000, it only made sense that the Redskins should have anticipated an extra nasty battle, the usual plus a little more.

Instead, they apparently thought the 49ers had been penciled in as a replacement opponent.

But from the time Barber ran 57 yards on the first play of the game it was apparent the Giants cared more than the Redskins did and were prepared to do something about it.

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