Trampled Out of the Gate

Redskins' Offense Fails to Answer Quick Start by Defending Champions

The Redskins struggle on offense and lose to the host Giants, 16-7, in the NFL's season opener on Sept. 4.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 2008; Page E01

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Sept. 4 -- A giant replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to each season's Super Bowl winner, was placed at the 50-yard line at Giants Stadium on Thursday night, providing a not-so-subtle reminder of what the Giants accomplished in the 2007 season. In a stirring pregame ceremony, the New York Giants celebrated the title they won in an upset of the previously unbeaten New England Patriots -- and then ruined a big night for Washington Redskins Coach Jim Zorn in kicking off the NFL season with a 16-7 victory in front of 79,742.

Zorn's head coaching debut was not what the offensive-minded coach had hoped for, as the Redskins, following a disturbing trend for them late in the preseason, struggled to prolong drives. With Zorn calling plays, Washington was limited to 209 total yards and produced its only points with seconds remaining before halftime on quarterback Jason Campbell's short touchdown pass to top wide receiver Santana Moss.

The Giants raced to a 16-0 first-half lead behind the play of quarterback Eli Manning -- the most valuable player of last season's Super Bowl -- and wide receiver Plaxico Burress -- who caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in the title game -- and then held on as neither team generated much offense in the second half.

With 6 minutes 12 seconds remaining in the game, the Redskins took over from their 10-yard line. They advanced to the Giants 43 in 10 plays before turning over the ball on downs. After the Giants went three and out, the Redskins got the ball back on their 33-yard line with 1:31 left but couldn't reach the end zone.

Campbell completed 15 of 27 passes for 133 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, the Redskins settled down after experiencing breakdowns in pass coverage early in the game while playing without injured veteran cornerback Shawn Springs. After injuring his right knee in a preseason game Aug. 23, Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor returned to the lineup and started in his 131st consecutive game.

"I am not 100 percent," Taylor said, "but I have played this game for 12 years, and you are never really 100 percent.

"The knee, it is what it is. I got hurt, and I am trying to battle through it and give this team what I can. I am not 100 percent. At some point, maybe I will be this year, but I don't know when."

Second-year tackle Stephon Heyer overcame some shaky moments in the early going after taking over at right tackle for the demoted Jon Jansen. The return of Taylor and encouraging signs from Heyer, however, were not enough to help the Redskins overcome long stretches of poor play in many facets of the game in the first half.

As the Redskins begin a new chapter under Zorn, the Super Bowl title that owner Daniel Snyder so covets, and that Vinny Cerrato, Washington's new executive vice president, hopes to provide, eventually could be delivered. But it appears the Redskins still are a long way from needing a replica of the Super Bowl trophy for a celebration of their own.

Six of the 10 players Cerrato selected in the draft were inactive, and that class struggled during the preseason.

The Giants clearly outplayed the Redskins in taking a 16-7 halftime lead, but were unable to seize opportunities to deliver potential knockout blows in the second quarter. On three occasions after putting together impressive drives, the Giants settled for three field goals from place kicker John Carney.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company