High-Flying Offense Hits Ground -- Hard

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 31, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Oct. 30 -- A day that opened with grand possibilities, including maintaining a share of first place in the NFC East, began to unravel on the New York Giants' first play from scrimmage, a 57-yard run by running back Tiki Barber. And it just kept getting worse.

A Redskins offense that came into the game ranked No. 2 overall never did get untracked against a New York defense that came in ranked the league's second-worst. The Redskins' high-flying, deep passing combination of Mark Brunell throwing downfield toward Santana Moss was non-existent in a 36-0 loss on Sunday at Giants Stadium.

"It's really frustrating," said Brunell, who came here with the second-best passer rating in the league and headed home with a dismal 32.4 rating for the game. "I certainly could have played better. I could have made a lot better decisions. We didn't make plays, we never got in a rhythm, we turned the ball over and dropped passes and we missed throws. This was a big game. Give credit to [Giants] Coach [Tom] Coughlin. They rose to the occasion and were far better than we were."

In their worst offensive showing of the season, the Redskins managed only 125 yards total offense, including 38 rushing. They converted only 2 of 12 third-down situations. Brunell and backup Patrick Ramsey, who entered late in the third quarter, were sacked five times and the offense had four turnovers -- three fumbles and a Brunell interception.

"The results are what they are," Brunell said. "I think 36-0 speaks for itself. It's tough. We'll start with this -- the Giants beat us. They're a good team, playing solid football. They were prepared on both sides of the ball. They flat beat us. Maybe we were flat, but I'm not going to take anything away from the Giants."

The Giants took plenty away from the Redskins. They stuffed the run on a day when running back Clinton Portis managed only nine yards on four carries, by far the worst game of his four-year professional career. The Giants schemed to make Moss, who arrived here as the NFL's leading yardage receiver, a non-factor. Moss caught four passes for 34 yards, far below his 19.6 yard average per catch through Washington's first six games. His longest reception Sunday was for 15 yards, and he had a costly fumble trying to make a play after a catch.

"Coverage-wise, they had a couple of guys on [Moss]," Brunell said. "They had a great scheme. When we tried to get it downfield, it just wasn't there. They got us out of our game plan. We got one-dimensional real quick, and that always gets you in trouble."

Playing catch-up in the NFL is never easy, especially trying to come back from a 19-0 halftime deficit that became 26-0 two minutes into the third quarter.

"It's tough because you've got to throw it down the field," Brunell said. "You know that, and they know that. That's the time when their defensive ends and linebackers really start to enjoy the game. They played solid football. They executed their game plan very well. You could say they wanted to stop Santana. They stopped all of us."

Moss could only shrug and wonder why bad things kept happening in the team's worst loss in Joe Gibbs's second tenure as coach.

"When things happen, you wonder why, and then it happens again, and that's what was going on," Moss said. The deep ball "probably was there, but if you watched the game, you could see what was going on. There were a lot of guys back there [in deep coverage]. They played hard, and they put a lot of pressure on us. When the quarterback gets those looks, he has to check down to something else. I'm not the quarterback. He saw something in his face, and he had to get out of it.

"You can sit here and dwell on it and be mad, but for what? We have a lot of games left, and we've got to play [the Giants] again. When it's all going good, it's all going good. Now we have to see how we can come back. We kept trying out there. If you don't try, it might even look worse."

The Redskins knew the Giants would come into the game riding a wave of emotion after attending the funeral of team co-owner Wellington Mara on Friday.

"Emotion was the first thing some of their guys said to me after the game, but if you don't have enough emotion to go play the game, you shouldn't be out there," Moss said. "We just couldn't do what we wanted to do."

Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, a former Giant, aggravated a hip injury trying to chase Barber down on the first play and spent most of the day on the bench.

"Each individual has to look in the mirror and say, 'What can I do better?' " he said. "It's the worst performance in the two years I've been here. But we can't let this one game decide our season. It could be a wake-up call. I hope it is."

Brunell also tried to accentuate the positive as the Redskins packed up their gear and began to head home for another critical NFC East game Sunday night against Philadelphia at FedEx Field.

"I believe in the character of these guys," he said. "We've got a group of guys here committed to make it a special year. I think we have the potential to have a team that is special. I believe we have the character and the work ethic."

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