Redskins Are a Long Shot for the Playoffs

The Giants win a key NFC East matchup at FedEx Field, building an early 13-0 lead and maintaining control throughout.
By Thomas Boswell
Monday, December 1, 2008

Playoffs? What playoffs? The Washington Redskins, so hot two months ago, can't remember to rush an extra point.

After a stinker of a 23-7 loss to the Super Bowl champion Giants yesterday at FedEx Field, one in which rookie coach Jim Zorn spent much of the day fuming at his discombobulated team on the sideline, the Redskins find themselves in dire need not merely of a win, but of a winning streak if they are to keep their season alive in January.

Partly their plight is their own fault for losing four of their last seven games, as the league has exposed the grievous weakness of their offense, especially their lack of any deep-threat receiver except Santana Moss. In the NFC, only two teams have scored fewer points than the Redskins' paltry 208, which is just five more than the 0-12 Lions.

Partly, however, their playoff misery is just dumb luck. In some seasons, like last year, a 9-7 record lets you play in January. In others, like this year, a 7-5 mark with four weeks left makes you an underdog, almost a long shot.

Yesterday, as the Giants, in Jason Campbell's words, "dominated" the Redskins in all three phases of the game, all the wrong teams -- from Washington's perspective -- were winning in other cities.

Tampa Bay and Carolina pulled out games in which they trailed, tackle Chris Samuels was told soon after the game. "Oh, we know. It's not good for us," he said grimly. "They're both 9-3. One's going to win the South division, the other one will probably be a wild card."

If so, that would leave the Redskins behind Dallas and Atlanta (8-4) for the second NFC wild card. The complex conference is an even tougher maze than that, since the Eagles (6-5-1) may be on the Redskins' heels, too, when they come here in three weeks. Teams with worse records than Washington may win the NFC North and West divisions, but make the playoffs automatically.

"We have made it very interesting for ourselves, where there is not a lot of margin of error left for us," said London Fletcher, whose defense, which had allowed only 249 yards a game in its previous seven outings, was shredded by Eli Manning for 404 yards. "We've got a tough ballgame coming up with the Ravens. Each week it gets harder when you don't win. We've got a tough row to hoe."

If one play can capture the faltering concentration and infuriating failure of execution that has bedeviled the Redskins for their last seven games, it came just five minutes into this game after the Giants struck for a 40-yard touchdown bomb from Manning to Amani Toomer.

On the extra point, all 11 Redskins fell asleep. After an initial perfunctory rush, they simply stopped playing and stood like indifferent statues. No one noticed that Giants holder Jeff Feagles had dropped the ball and that place kicker John Carney had stopped in mid-kicking motion. When no one rushed, Feagles eventually put the ball down, Carney flicked at it, like a golfer hitting a chip shot, and blooped the ball barely over the goal post 20 yards away.

Zorn went nuts. As he should have. How can you play an arch rival that happens to be the Super Bowl champion in a home game you desperately need to win, yet go into a collective coma after just five minutes?

"I was very upset with that first extra point. How can you let the holder drop the ball, look around, reset it and still kick it?" said Zorn. "Very upsetting, shouldn't have happened. . . . The first half was like that. Poor execution.

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