The Washington Redskins gave the New England Patriots a scare, but ultimately fell short Sunday at FedEx Field and suffered their fifth straight home loss and their eighth defeat in their last nine outings.
With the loss, the Redskins officially were eliminated from playoff contention and also were ensured their third consecutive losing season.
Sunday’s loss featured both negatives and positives, so let’s get going with this week’s five observations.
1.) Moss’ costly errors — Without Fred Davis, the Redskins needed Santana Moss to step up, and he did when he came back to the ball to catch Brandon Banks’ pass, slipped a tackle and scored. But Moss had two costly drops to hurt his team. On the first, with Washington backed up at its own 4 in the first quarter, the veteran wideout let a Rex Grossman pass go through his hands on what would have been a gain that could have given Washington more breathing room. Instead, the Redskins faced second-and-10 from the 4, and after a 1-yard gain by Roy Helu, disaster struck. Andre Carter blasted off the ball, got past Willie Smith with a swim-move and sacked Grossman, forcing the fumble that led to New England’s first touchdown.
On the Redskins’ last offensive play, Moss bobbled a pass into the hands of Jerod Mayo. The pass interference call that preceded it and wiped out the touchdown didn’t look that bad. Moss bumped Julian Edelman with his shoulder — Moss said the two collided because the defensive back was just standing there — but it wasn’t really a pushoff. On the bobble, Moss wouldn’t have scored, but he would’ve inched his team closer and set them up for a chance on fourth down had he made the catch.
2.) Hall’s bad form — DeAngelo Hall was guilty of poor effort, poor judgment and poor leadership . In the first quarter he gave up on the play on which big Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski broke DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty’s tackle along the sideline and rumbled another 35 yards. Hall said he thought the tight end was headed out of bounds, and maybe he didn’t want to get a penalty, but even a shove — not a head of steam blast -- could’ve helped. Instead, Hall turned and walked away. Then in the third quarter, Hall disagreed with a holding call against him and tossed the flag up the field. Hall cost his team a total of 20 yards on a drive that ended with New England scoring a touchdown to take a 27-20 lead. As one of the team captains, Hall has to set a better example. He’s a passionate guy, but as Mike Shanahan said, Hall has to keep his composure.
3.) Promising backfield — Roy Helu proved yet agaiN that he can be an effective back in this league. He averaged 4.7 yards a carry and became the first Redskins rookie to rush for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games. Mike Shanahan’s confidence in the other rookie, Evan Royster, is growing as well. The coach made Ryan Torain inactive and went with Royster as the only backup at running back. The Penn State product responded by doing well while giving Helu a breather in the third quarter and later had two big runs on the final drive. With Helu’s 126 yards and Royster’s 44, the Redskins had their best rushing day since Week 4, when they gained 196 yards against the Rams.
4.) Turnover streak lives on — Mike Shanahan said last week that unless his team eliminated the turnovers, they wouldn’t win. Sure enough, the Redskins continue to give the ball away and lost again. The turnover in the end zone ultimately decided the game. Young Willie Smith deserves some blame and he took it, saying his poor technique more than Carter’s actions led to the breakdown. But some of the blame also should fall on Grossman. He’s got to have better awareness — especially in his own end zone — and get rid of the ball more quickly, Shanahan said. Even half a second sooner, and his arm would have been going forward and it would’ve been an incompletion. Or if Grossman had tucked the ball and taken the safety, the damage would have been less.
When asked what he thought of Grossman’s play, Shanahan didn’t point to the quarterback’s touchdown drives, but instead went right to the turnovers and the loss. Later Grossman was bailed out by an iffy roughing the passer call that wiped out an interception. Grossman definitely gives the Redskins the best chance to compete, and he likely will return next season, but his turnover woes are ever-present. That’s why he’s not the long-term solution at quarterback, but more likely a bridge to the reign of whomever Washington drafts this spring.
5.) Another option at right tackle? — The Redskins re-signed Jammal Brown to a five-year, $27.5 million deal during the offseason, but it’s clear that his body continues to fail him, and that he isn’t likely to play out that contract. Brown has struggled with effectiveness all season long because his surgically repaired hip remains a problem, and because of a recurring groin injury. The Redskins hoped that he could regain his Pro Bowl form, but that appears highly unlikely.
The team could have Brown’s successor in-house, however. Rookie Willie Smith rebounded from his early-game struggles (the Carter sack came on only the third play of Smith’s NFL career) to have a solid game at left tackle. On one third-down play later in the game, Smith had Carter coming at him, and a linebacker then came on a delay. Smith back-pedaled, hit Carter with a right jab, and then adjusted in time to take on the linebacker an instant later, holding off both players to give Grossman time to throw. Shanahan was so pleased with Smith’s play that he stopped rotating Sean Locklear in and out with the East Carolina product. Trent Williams is entrenched at left tackle, but the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Smith could have a bright future ahead of him, and his home could be right tackle.