A Reversal of Misfortune
Monday, October 15, 2007
GREEN BAY, Wis., Oct. 14 -- The blown halftime lead, the fumbles and dropped passes, the sheer pang of Sunday's 17-14 loss at Lambeau Field will linger this week for the Washington Redskins. The injuries suffered by the offensive line could color the entire season.
The Redskins and Green Bay Packers met in a football free-for-all in the mist, their swings in fortune keeping each team in the game until finally time expired. Washington had distinguished itself everywhere but the scoreboard when Santana Moss's fumble on a reverse was returned 57 yards for a touchdown by Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson late in the third quarter. That gave the Packers their three-point lead and capped Moss's nightmarish afternoon.
Washington's offense, awash in injuries, imploded in another second-half collapse from that point on. The offensive line, already weak on the right side with Jon Jansen out for the season and Randy Thomas recovering from a torn triceps, lost its linchpin, center Casey Rabach, to a potentially serious groin injury. Replacement right tackles Todd Wade (groin) and Stephon Heyer (hamstring) also left the game, leaving the Redskins possibly seeking to sign free agent linemen.
"One of the things I'm most concerned about right now is our injury situation," said Coach Joe Gibbs, who added that the extent of the damage will not be known until Monday. "We were scrambling around there trying to get guys who could fill in for us. We had a chance to make plays today and a lot happened."
The Redskins, who entered the game on an emotional crest after thumping Detroit, 34-3, last Sunday, have made a habit of letting games slip away. Against Green Bay, they turned the ball over three times and could not increase a 14-7 halftime lead, with Moss and Brandon Lloyd unable to pull down potentially decisive catches. Quarterback Jason Campbell's stellar effort was obscured by the intense pressure he faced after the injuries and the power running game -- the identity of the team -- amassed only 33 yards on 12 second-half carries. Even the defense, which stopped the NFL's top passing attack for the second straight week, dropped several potential interceptions.
In the last year, Washington (3-2) has led opponents nine times at the half, yet has lost six of those games.
"I guess we ain't learning our lesson," tailback Clinton Portis said. "When we get a chance to put teams away, we have to finish them."
Momentum swung to Green Bay (5-1) in the third quarter. Penalties thwarted Washington's first drive of the second half and the Packers' Mason Crosby, who missed two kicks, connected on a 37-yard attempt to make it 14-10. That was Green Bay's final offensive score, and the Packers prospered despite being blanketed by Washington's defense. Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, opted to curtail his blitzing tendencies for a second straight week and relied again on deep zone coverage; Green Bay had 225 net yards with 169 coming on passes.
"We wanted to make sure they didn't pass the ball all over the field," said linebacker Randall Godfrey, who played well with Marcus Washington out with a hamstring injury. "And we did a good job of that."
Washington's defense did not score a touchdown, however, and Green Bay's did. Gibbs said that the last time the Redskins called a reverse for Moss, it resulted in a 30-yard gain, but this time Moss allowed defensive tackle Corey Williams to strip the ball. Woodson avoided Campbell and navigated his way to the end zone for the game-winning score.
"He was carrying the ball kind of wild," Corey Williams said. "I just had to go for the ball."
On Washington's next drive, Campbell fired a 30-yard strike down the sideline to Moss, who dropped the pass that would have put the Redskins near the red zone. Moss said his hamstring, a recurring problem through his career, tightened up on the play and he pulled himself from the game. He failed to make a catch and Washington's wide receivers produced just 60 yards total, with Woodson and fellow cornerback Al Harris playing solid man coverage and punishing the wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.
"I just wasn't myself, and it hurts bad," Moss said.
Still, there were opportunities. Portis could not covert a third and one in the fourth quarter -- the offensive line wilted -- and he fumbled at the 10 on the next possession. Green Bay failed to pad its lead (Crosby missed a 38-yard field goal attempt). The Redskins drove to the Green Bay 33 but, on fourth and two, tailback Ladell Betts caught a pass for no gain. Favre, 38, whose aging arm failed him often with receivers open deep, underthrew Greg Jennings, allowing safety Sean Taylor to grab his second interception (Favre set the all-time interception mark Sunday, two weeks after setting the NFL touchdown record).
"I could care less, we won the game," Favre said of his 279 career interceptions. No. 278, also by Taylor, broke George Blanda's mark.
The Redskins got the ball twice in the last 4 minutes 14 seconds, but a snap between Campbell and replacement center Mike Pucillo was botched, Green Bay sacked Campbell twice and the offense gained two net yards on those drives.
It was the opposite of the first half when, save for a 60-yard pass by Favre that set up the game's opening touchdown, the Redskins excelled. They tied the game immediately -- Campbell completed four of five passes for 52 yards and scored his first rushing touchdown with a slippery six-yard scramble. On Washington's final drive of the half, tight end Chris Cooley caught three passes for 42 yards, and five of the Redskins' eight plays on the march were for 10 yards or more. Washington went ahead, 14-7, when Cooley collected a 14-yard touchdown pass on third and nine, but those were the last points the Redskins scored.