By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 1, 2008
With every missed assignment, failed play and stalled drive yesterday against the New York Giants, Jim Zorn became increasingly frustrated and animated on the sideline at FedEx Field. The Washington Redskins' coach and play-caller grimaced, shouted in anger and contorted his body throughout the Redskins' 23-7 loss, one that again highlighted their lack of offensive production.
"I just started whining about everything, believe me," Zorn said. "I was on everybody. I was even on myself."
There were many upsetting developments for Zorn, including mental and physical miscues on special teams, but the lack of offense topped his list. Washington lost for the third time in four games as its offense was ineffective and overmatched against another strong defense in front of 85,912.
The Redskins (7-5) scored their only touchdown on a gimmick play -- rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas's 29-yard reverse around the right end during the second quarter -- as the NFC East-leading Giants (11-1) were in control from the outset on a dreary day that included the induction of late Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor into the team's Ring of Fame in a pregame ceremony.
The wet field and 40-degree weather did not affect the Super Bowl champions. The Giants defeated their divisional rival for the second time this season and have won seven in a row despite playing without wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who has a hamstring injury and could face major legal problems after apparently accidentally shooting himself in the leg Friday night at a New York nightclub.
For the Redskins, the poor showing on offense recently has stirred concern for a team that aspires to qualify for a wild-card berth and has dropped to third in the division behind the Giants and Dallas Cowboys (8-4). The Redskins have four games left in which the offense must make a bigger contribution, and it appears Zorn's sideline demeanor could be a good barometer of the group's progress.
There is enough talent at skill positions to help the Redskins accomplish their goals, Zorn said, but they have to make it happen. "It won't matter what we call if we don't execute," he said. "I expect it to be successful, that's why I called the play, but you got to hand it to some of the things that the defensive group did against our offense to stop us.
"They did a nice job, especially in the run game, just loading things up. We knew coming in we were going to have to score more than seven points to win this game. That was a given because they're a very good football team, but to have them come in here and beat us like that, that's hard. That's really hard."
That has become a familiar story line for the Redskins. They have lost their last three games on their home field against Pittsburgh, Dallas and New York and are 3-4 at FedEx Field this season.
Washington's only win in November, when top teams usually begin to pull away, was against the Seattle Seahawks (2-10), who are tied for last in the NFC West. The Redskins average just 17.3 points per game, ranking 28th in the NFL. They scored 43 points in November -- an average of 10.8.
And again during their rough stretch, place kicker Shaun Suisham missed a field goal that is supposed to be within his range. Field goals are key for Washington because of its offensive shortcomings, so the Redskins rely on Suisham, whose 42-yard attempt sailed wide right just before halftime. He missed a 46-yarder against Dallas and a 43-yard attempt in the victory over Seattle, which he said was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
The Steelers, Cowboys and Giants are among the league's most productive teams at rushing the passer, and quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked four times yesterday and pressured on many plays. Running back Clinton Portis, who began the game as the league's leading rusher, had 22 yards on 11 carries. The Redskins finished with 320 yards, 105 of which they gained on the final two drives when the outcome was no longer in doubt. The Giants had 404 net yards.
With the running game shut down -- Campbell led the Redskins with 38 yards -- Zorn called more play-action passes in an attempt to establish a rhythm, but "it seemed they were just on top of everything we were doing," said Campbell, who completed 23 of 38 passes for 232 yards with one interception.
"I mean, they're an outstanding defense and outstanding team, and you know it's going to be tough against a team like that. But it's frustrating, real frustrating, because you would think that by around this time, we would be doing more" as an offense.
For the most part, the Redskins again played well enough defensively to win. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache's game plan focused on containing the Giants' formidable running attack, and the Redskins limited the Giants to a 3.1-yard average on 35 rushes.
The Giants, however, displayed their versatility with 305 yards passing from quarterback Eli Manning. On the Giants' first possession, wide receiver Amani Toomer beat cornerback Fred Smoot down the right sideline and Manning delivered the ball in a good spot for a 40-yard touchdown pass.
"The play between Eli and Amani was an outstanding football play," Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said. "It was an excellent pass given the circumstances. We had the ball, and everyone was kind of wondering how we were going to play it with the wind and et cetera, and that was a quick answer for us."
The Toomer-Manning touchdown was part of a 13-0 lead the Giants built on their first three possessions as the Redskins seemed to be searching for something missing since their four-game winning streak early in the season. "Where we don't capitalize, you're going to see them capitalize on the opportunity," Portis said. "If they get one-on-one, the receiver gets open, and the quarterback gets him the ball. They don't turn over the ball a lot, and they play sound defense."
The Giants' march to the playoffs continued to roll on. For the Redskins, their path to extending their season does not seem as clear as it once did.
"To the best of my knowledge, the league hasn't canceled our last four games," left guard Pete Kendall said. "So it seems to me that we still have a chance."