By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 12, 2006
As the Washington Redskins prepare for Sunday's game against winless Tennessee, they will concern themselves with the Titans' inexperienced but talented rookie quarterback, Vince Young, and the still-evident holes in their secondary. They will attempt to rediscover the inspired level of offensive play that lifted them over the Jacksonville Jaguars but eluded them in Sunday's 19-3 loss to the New York Giants.
With those larger goals, the Redskins will also seek to achieve something less obvious but every bit as significant: Players and coaches say they must take advantage of the pivotal moment when the momentum shifts and games are won.
Against the Giants, that moment came at the beginning of the second half, when, over a two-series sequence, a close game turned irrevocably in the Giants' favor. Redskins players said yesterday the ability to make that one important play to break an opponent's will is missing.
Leading 9-3, the Giants opened the second half with a punishing 15-play drive that ended in a touchdown that withered the Redskins' defense, while empowering the Giants.
On the ensuing series, the Redskins appeared poised to snatch the momentum back, but an impressive 11-play drive ended with nothing when John Hall missed a 42-yard field goal. The Redskins did not threaten for the rest of the afternoon.
"That's very important at the beginning of a half. That momentum swings when you don't get off the field just kill you," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "When they can sustain a drive the momentum swings in the other direction. We feel that's very important for us as a defense."
Defensively, the Redskins' players say four plays in particular during that 15-play New York drive have also haunted and motivated them during practice so far this week.Second and 10, Giants 45
Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said at halftime he was reluctant to blitz aggressively because of a secondary that had given up a 46-yard pass play to Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the first half. But on first down, safety Adam Archuleta blitzed the left side and forced Giants quarterback Eli Manning to rush his throw.
On second down, Archuleta blitzed again, this time up the middle, but the Giants read the play. Running back Brandon Jacobs allowed Archuleta to pass him, only to turn and catch a short screen pass from Manning and run nine yards. Jacobs bumped face masks with Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who made the tackle. After the game, Jacobs accused the Redskins of teaching their players to play dirty.
"It's football. It's not golf," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "When it comes to tackling, we just try to get a guy down. If you have to tackle him by his eyebrows, it doesn't matter, as long as you get him down."Third and One, Redskins 35
On the eighth play of the drive, the Giants made a statement that they could match the Redskins for physical play. Either Jacobs or running back Tiki Barber had touched the ball on all but one play of the drive. Two plays earlier, Barber ran for seven yards, breaking tackle attempts by defensive tackle Kedric Golston and cornerback Kenny Wright. On third and one, center Shaun O'Hara and right guard Chris Snee pounded tackle Joe Salave'a and Golston into the turf. Fullback Jim Finn knocked middle linebacker Lemar Marshall out of the play. Jacobs got four yards and a first down. Washington was winded. He stayed on one knee for a moment and spat through his mask.
"It was tough. We see it when our offense does it to a defense. We see those guys tiring out. So when we can't get off the field, it takes its effect on us," Wynn said. "You have to get ready for another set of downs, and if the drive continues to be sustained, it wears on you. You have to suck it up."Second and Five, Redskins 26
Manning faked a slot screen right to Burress, freezing weak-side linebacker Warrick Holdman, and handed off to the 6-4, 264-pound Jacobs, who met 6-3, 250-pound Washington head on. Jacobs bowled Washington over and ran for six yards and a first down. Washington, fighting a sore hip, got up slowly.Third and 16, Redskins 26
"The most important thing is that they don't score," Wynn said. "We don't care if they get all the way down into the red zone. We don't want them to score. Somehow, in the situation like that we need to get a turnover and get the ball back. It's something we haven't been doing."
Two plays earlier, Manning was called for intentional grounding, forcing long yardage. The Redskins were in a variation of the cover-2 defense, with the safeties protecting the corners of the field. O'Hara and left guard David Diehl double-teamed Cornelius Griffin. Left tackle Luke Pettigout pushed Andre Carter out of the play, giving Manning a throwing lane. Amani Toomer made a catch for 21 yards down the right sideline for first and goal at the 5. Two plays later, Burress leapt past Taylor for a two-yard touchdown reception.
"I have to make that play," safety Reed Doughty said. "The coverage was designed for that not to be there. It was a really good throw, to be honest, and a really good catch. I still thought he was out of bounds, but I have to make the play regardless. Maybe I could have hit him a little cleaner and the ball would've been out."
After 15 plays, 69 yards and 8 minutes 5 seconds, the Giants led, 16-3. They converted short- and long-yardage situations, survived a penalty and went 3 for 3 on third down. Washington has been steamed ever since.
"That's kind of been our Achilles' heel this year, third downs, and not getting off the field and giving our offense the football back," he said. "If we can get it back to them, eventually they're going to make something happen. You have to make them earn it, and we definitely have been giving up some big plays, and that's not us. That's not the way we play."