The Redskins left Giants Stadium battered, bloodied and hamboozled by a flea-flicker pass play that New York turned into a 17-6 victory yesterday as the Washington offense again fizzled badly.
The Redskins thus reached the midway point of the season even with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East title race, both 6-2, with the New York tough guys close behind at 5-3.
The Redskins must play the last eight games without the services of All-Pro cornerback Lemar Parrish, who fractured a bone in his right forearm early in the second period and is not expected to be healthy at least until the playaffs.
The way the offense performed again yesterday, the Redskins can hardly afford to look that far ahead. Quarterback Joe Theismann managed only 15 completions in 38 attempts, had three passes intercepted and said, "I played lousy football with a capital L."
The Redskins have strung together three games of that ilk over the last three weeks, and the offense has produced only three touchdowns over the last four games. But Redskin Coach Jack Pardee said yesterday he was not thinking about replacing Theismann with Billy Kilmer.
"In the heat of the battle," he said, "I didn't think that was the entire answer."
What was the answer?
"We've just got to get back to playing hard football," he said. "The season isn't over and we're not in bad shape. Right now we're just trying to get by day by day and week by week. There's no magic in whose name you call out or what you do, we're just got to get touchdowns on the board.
"But we're not in any panic situation by losing to the Gaints because they're a good team."
The Gaints, in beating Washington a fourth straight time, dusted off a play the Redskins used six weeks ago to defeat the Philadelphin Eagles.
The Redskins had struggled from an early 10-0 deficit to creep back to within 10-6 late in the second period. The Gaints were at midfield, courtesy of former Redskin fullback Willie Spencer, who survived a crushing Jake Scott tackle to hang onto a 23-yard pass for a first down at the 50.
On the first play after the two-minute warning, Gaint quarterback Joe Pisarcik handed off the ball to Billy Taylor on a play that began as a sweep to the right side. Taylor handed the ball to receiver Jimmy Robinson who pitched back to Psiarcik.
While all of that was going on, another ex-Redskin receiver, James Thompson, was streaking across the field toward the right corner of the end zone. The Redskins were in man to-man coverage with cornerback Joe Lavender on Thompson.
"I just saw the reverse and that's what I covered," Lavender said. "I tried to recover and trailed the play, but it was too late. Give those guys credit. I thought it was a hell of a play to call at that particular time."
Thompson, who spent 1976 on Washington's injured reserve list and was cut before the 1977 season, caught the ball at the Redskin four-yard line and was knocked out of bounds there by Gerard Williams after a 46-yard gain.
Two plays later, Pisarcik got another thrill when the Redskins defense went for his lovely play fake to Spencer over the middle, then could not recover to catch the quarterback as he bootlegged around right end for a three-yard touchdown run and a 17-6 N.Y. lead.
For the entire second half, the Giants went into their own version of the four-corner offense. They threw only four passes. They picked up only two first downs. They gained only 54 yards of total offense. But mostly, they watched the Redskin offense self destruct.
That process began early. Tony Green returend the game's opening kickoff 50 yards down the left sideline to the Gaint 43. But that opportunity was squandered when Theismann's first-down pass at the New York 32 bounced off tight end Jean Fugett's shoulder pad and was intercepted by Gaint linebacker Brad Van Pelt.
"It was the kind of ball on most days I'd catch," Fugett said. "It was a ball I had to adjust on, and I didn't.If I make the catch, we go in and score, we got a quick jump on 'em and maybe blow 'em out. Instead, this happens."
Midway through the first period, Robinson was wide open over the middle with the Redskins in a nickel defense and blitzing. Pisarcik held his ground, fired the ball to Robinson in full stride at the 18 and watched in great glee as his receiver dragged Williams into the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown catch and a 7-0 lead.
Gaint Joe Danelo and Redskin kicker Mark Moseley traded field goals of 31 yards and 41 yards, respectively, making the Gaint lead 10-3. The Redskins were threatening to tie later in the second period when they had a first down at the Gaint 26
A first-down pass to John McDaniel at the sideline left the Redskins with a second and 1 1/2 yards near the 17. What happened next also left the Redskin coaching brain trust answering the second-guessers who wondered why they then called two straight pass plays. Both were incomplete.
On second down, Theismann aimed into traffic in the right corner of the end zone toward Ricky Thompson, who was covered nicely by rookie cornerback Terry Jackson. Gaint fans in a record crowd of 76,192 thought Thompson should have been called for offensive interference when his feet tangled with Jackson's and both men went down. They seemed to have a good case, but no flag flew.
On third down, Theismann again went deep, aiming for McDaniel, who was open and streaking toward the right corner of the end zone. BUt the ball was badly overthrown and Moseley came on to kick a 34-yard field goal to close the gap to 10-6 with 3:34 left in the half.
"We thought the defense would be set up good to get someone open and strike," Pardee said. "We thought the situation was right for it. We had guys open a couple of times, but we just couldn't get it to them."
Theismann second-guessed his own decision to aim at Thompson on the second-down play: "You can look at the film tomorrow and probably see I had a wide receiver in the flat open and John (Riggins) trailing and he was open. I probably should have come back (to one of them).
"On the third-down play, Johnny Mac was open, I just missed him. I'll take the blame . . . The thing about it is they gave us exactly what I expected. There was no mystery in anything they did. I just let my teammates down. "You saw it, I'm not kidding anybody. I had a lousy football game."
Theismann was feeling rotten again midway through the third period when Green got himself wide open near the Gaint 20 on a fly pattern out of the backfield. The quarterback overthrew him. Theismann's third-down pass in that same series was almost intercepted by Van Pelt. Moseley came on to try a 49-yard field goal; it was short.
That drive had been kept alive by an illegal block on a Washington punt. The march also killed seven minutes with nothing a show for it and, later on, the Redskins paid dearly for squandering the time.
In the fourth quarter, they dug out two spectacular razzle-dazzle plays - a quick screen pass and ensuing lateral back to Green that gained 39 yards to the New York 32, and a fake punt and pass by punter Mike Bragg to safety Mark Murphy on the Redskins last possession of the day.
The Thompson-to-Green pitch play was one the Redskins have been practicing for the last several weeks. It came with seven minutes left in the game at a time when the Redskins were still alive.
But they were barely breathing three plays later when Theismann's throw over the middle intended for Danny Buggs was intercepted and returned 52 yards by safety Ernie Jones. Theismann, made the touchdown-saving tackle.
The Gaints did not pick up a first down and the Redskins had a fourth and eight at their own 38 with just over two minutes to play when Bragg completed his pass to Murphy for a first down at the Gaint 49.
But six plays later, Theismann's final pass of the day, intended for Fugett in the end zone, was intercepted by middle linebacker Harry Carson with 45 seconds remaining and the Redskins were dead. For the day.
But later on in the locker room, several players insisted they would rise again. "We had such a quick start and maybe we thought we were a little better than we really are," Riggins said.
"Right now, we're in a nose dive, but I think we'll pull it out before we crash and burn. The only thing the Giants forgot to do was play taps today. They sure didn't take any prisoners."