New York Giants Coach Jim Fassel and many of his players walked off the field today with a look of stunned disbelief in the wake of the Washington Redskins' 50-21 victory at equally hushed and, by game's end, virtually empty Giants Stadium. The Redskins had just put more points on the board than they ever had scored on the road, and Fassel, for one, was having a difficult time getting over it.
"I did not see this coming at all," Fassel said. "My attitude has been that anyone who wears a Giants uniform needs to go out and play like an NFL player. We all share this loss and I'm embarrassed about the way we played. I'll take the brunt of the blame for it, but it's everybody, everybody, everybody."
There were plenty of mea culpas all around the gloomy Giants locker room as a defense that held Tampa Bay to 13 points and scored two touchdowns last week was done in by a torrent of blown assignments, poor coverage and missed tackles.
"I'm just like you, I'm baffled," defensive tackle Keith Hamilton said. "If you let a team that's that potent run and pass on you, you're going to be in for a very long day. We were."
Giants cornerback Jeremy Lincoln, an eight-year veteran, may have had the longest day of all. He was constantly tested by Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson and was called for pass interference on the drive that set up the Redskins' second touchdown. He was burned so badly that when the game ended, veteran Redskins cornerback Darrell Green went over to console him.
"That's not the way we play and it's not the way I play," Lincoln said. "I blame myself as an athlete. A few pass interference calls went against me and I couldn't get out of that funk. I just didn't play well."
Lincoln was in the lineup because Fassel decided Saturday not to start Jason Sehorn. Sehorn, who missed the entire 1998 season with a knee injury and didn't play in the preseason because of a pulled hamstring, said he wanted to play but understood Fassel's reasoning.
"Good Lord, I haven't played in a year and a half," Sehorn said. "Would I have made a difference today? I would have helped, but one man stop that? I don't think so."
Eleven men on the Giants' defense, not to mention others plugged in over the course of the game, couldn't prevent the Redskins' offense from scoring six touchdowns. And when the Giants showed just a flicker of life late in the second quarter, driving toward what might have been a touchdown that would have cut the lead to 21-14, Washington's defense came up with a major turnaround play.
Giants quarterback Kent Graham had a second and seven at the Washington 25 when he set up to throw a screen pass to fullback Charles Way. Graham said his arm was hit as he released the ball, and Redskins linebacker Shawn Barber intercepted it and went 70 yards for a touchdown and a 27-7 lead.
"It's definitely an embarrassment, absolutely," Graham said. "It's the home opener; we can't ever let that happen."
Cornerback Phillippi Sparks, constantly burned himself, echoed Graham's distress.
"I'm just devastated about what happened," he said. "I hope someone comes over and can hit me and let me think it's a dream. It was a disaster. I can't explain it. The coaches put us in the right situation. We knew what they were going to do. . . . They had the will to do whatever they wanted to do. I'm shocked. I'm shell-shocked. That was just unacceptable."