By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 9, 2006
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Oct. 8 -- At least for one afternoon, the fortunes changed considerably for Mark Brunell. After two weeks of redemption through big numbers and important victories, Sunday's 19-3 loss to the New York Giants dumped ice water on what had been a torrid streak for the Washington Redskins' quarterback.
Against an inspired pass rush and a defensive scheme determined not to give up big plays, Brunell completed 12 of 22 passes for 109 yards. He was sacked three times and the Redskins never found any offensive rhythm.
"I thought we had some opportunities. It's tough without looking at the film, but you go out there and score three points -- regardless of how many opportunities present themselves, you've got to be efficient," Brunell said. "If you don't have big plays down the field, then you've got to hit some completions, you've got to run the ball, you've got to maintain some drives."
From the outset, it appeared Brunell was well positioned for another big game. Giants defensive left end Michael Strahan entered the game having not registered a sack this season. His partner on the right end, Osi Umenyiora, had been frustrated by double teams and had but one sack.
Meantime, only three teams -- Detroit, Green Bay and Houston, teams without much hope this season -- were worse against the pass than the Giants. Entering the game, the Giants were yielding 280 passing yards per game.
Brunell and the Redskins offense had enjoyed a torrid streak. Over his previous two games, Brunell had completed 42 of 57 passes for 590 yards, with four touchdowns against only one interception. He hadn't been sacked.
Sunday was different. On the line, Strahan notched his first sack of the season, obliterating tight end Christian Fauria on the Redskins' first possession of the second quarter. On third and five from the 32, Strahan took an outside rush past Fauria before crushing Brunell and forcing a punt.
"We were flying around trying to disrupt Brunell as much as possible," Strahan said. "So trust me, when you get a sack, you just don't get it and stand up. I know they say act as if you've been there, but you don't know if you'll ever get back, so enjoy that sucker when you get it."
Umenyiora also sacked Brunell.
The Giants owned a porous secondary, but the Redskins challenged it deep only once, a long throw down the left sideline to Santana Moss in the first half. It was a different approach from last week, when the combination of the running game and Brunell's efficiency allowed the Redskins to torch the vaunted Jacksonville defense for 481 yards.
The offense never recovered from a slow start. Brunell was 5 for 9 for 49 yards in the first half and running back Clinton Portis was averaging 5.5 yards per carry, but the offense was out of sync. In the second half, the Redskins converted on third down just 1 of 8 times.
"We had a lot of confidence in our ability to score points and today it was just a bad day for us, a poor performance," Brunell said. "But in no way should this take away our confidence in ourselves and our belief that we can be a good offense. It was just a bad day today."