"The loss was my loss totally," Billy Kilmer, the battered Redskin quarterback, said, "The last play was my fault. I shouldn't have called it in that situation . . . It was a bad play call."
The last Redskin play was a quick trap for tailback Mike Thomas. It was second and 10 for the Redskins, at their 20, with 1:52 to play and the score tied at 17.
Thomas never gained control of the ball. Defensive tackle Troy Archer, eluding reserve guard Dan Nugent, quickly blocked Thomas' path.
The running back, hampered all preseason by a hamstring injury, tried to cut inside and spin to his left. Archer pulled at both of Thomas' arms, stripping the ball, and Harry Carson recovered for the Giants at the Redskin 19.
The Giants ran three straight dive plays by fullback Larry Csonka. They called a time-out with seven seconds left, then Joe Danelo kicked the 30-yard field goal that beat the Redskins, 20-17.
Afterward, Kilmer said he should have called a draw play for fullback John Riggins.
"It was a tough block for (center) Lenny Hauss," Kilmer said. "We were just trying to bust it up the middle. Mike really never got the ball. I just got it to him and he was hit. It shouldn't have been called in that situation.
"It's a block back for Leonard, and it's a tough block. If you call a draw, it's a block on the middle linebacker, and that's what we should have done. Leonard has to go back to his left and the other guy (Archer) anticipated the count. He just came right in there."
That was only one of three major misjudgments Kilmer said he made today. He said the other two were:
He did not toss a swing pass high enough to Riggins. It resulted in a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive end George Martin, who never broke stride on the first-quarter play.
He should have thrown a sideline pattern when the Redskins had the ball at the Giant 31 with seven seconds left in the first half. He tried instead to go long to Charley Taylor, and time expired without a chance at a field goal.
The winning field goal was set up because the Giant defense took some chances.
Normally the first defender to reach the ball carrier makes the tackle and the second man in goes for the strip.
Archer was the first man to Thomas, but he had no thoughts about a simple tackle.
"I was going for the strip rather than the tackle," Archer said. "I just pulled both of his arms out. It was a do-or-die thing. It was the end of the game, I had to take the chance."
Ironically, the Giant offensive strategy today was to play as conservatively as possible, quarterback Jerry Golsteyn said after his first regular-season NFL game.
He had thrown only 10 passes and drew boos from the record Giant crowd of 76,083 until the Redskins went ahead for the first time 14-10, with 7:58 to play.
"We were playing it kind of conservative," Golsteyn said. "We didn't want to give them the big turnover, which Washington is famous for."
Indeed, at that point, the Redskin defense, which included strong efforts by the only new starters, linebacker Mike Curtis and cornerback Gerard Williams, had not produced a turnover.
When the Redskins finally got ahead, it took only two plays for Jake Scott to intercept a Golsteyn pass and set up Mark Mosely's 51-yard field goal and a 17-10 lead with 3:36 left.
Three plays after the kickoff, Golsteyn threw up another potential interception, an off-balance pass at least five yards short of Eddie Marshall.
Ken Houston went up and deflected the ball with his left hand. Marshall caught the ball and the Giants had a 47-yard gain, to the Redskin eight-yard line.
"I saw the ball get tipped; I saw Eddie staying there," said Golsteyn. "Yeah, I underthrew the ball. You just hope it's tipped in a situation like that. Then someone has a chance of catching it."
If that play was lucky, the Giants executed the next one with precision. It was an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gary Shirk, who was wide open.
Houston, who appeared to be victimized on the play, said the Redskins blew the coverage. He said he would have to watch the films to determine whether he was supposed to be covering Shirk.
Shirk executed the the fake run beautifully, blocked Houston, released and was open in the flat for the pass by Golsteyn, who had rolled to his right.
"When I fired out I think they thought it was a run," Shirk said. "Yes, I hit Houston as hard as I normally would on a run. The harder you come off the line and hit the guy, the more it looks like a run . . . What if I'd dropped the pass? I'd just have kept on running out of the stadium."