Redskins’ defense breaks down when game is almost won

Quarterback Robert Griffin III and wide receiver Santana Moss teamed up to give the Washington Redskins a lead on a 30-yard touchdown with just more than 1 minute 30 seconds to play Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Redskins had a chance to seize a share of the NFC East lead and drop the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions, to 0-3 this season in divisional play.

But the defense couldn’t do its part, surrendering a 77-yard touchdown pass from Giants quarterback Eli Manning to wideout Victor Cruz with 1:13 left. The Giants held on for one more Redskins’ possession and prevailed, 27-23.

“I thought that we were going to win the game,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “You see [Moss] make a great play. Robert put the ball right where it needed to be. So I’m thinking, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity for our defense to stand up and make a play.’ And you see Manning hit Cruz and you’re just like: ‘No. I can’t believe this is happening,’ the way it happened that quickly.”

The Giants struck with stunning swiftness on their second play after the Griffin-to-Moss touchdown. Manning tossed an on-target pass to Cruz after the wide receiver sprinted past Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Madieu Williams.

“They made a play, man,” Wilson said. “They made a play.”

Williams gave a similar explanation, saying: “They made a play. We didn’t execute as well as we had been doing throughout the game, and credit to them.”

The Redskins declined to assess blame publicly.

“We had him double-teamed,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “Two guys double-teamed him on that play. Obviously Cruz did a great job of splitting the double-team.”

Said defensive tackle Barry Cofield: “We’ve got pros back there. We’ve got good coaches. And, you know, other teams make plays sometimes. You get to pointing fingers, especially this early in the season, it’ll be a disaster. So I won’t be doing that. We’ve got to stick together. We’re still in the race.”

But the Giants’ late touchdown left Sunday as a day of could-have-beens for the Redskins.

“It’s definitely a tough one to swallow,” Wilson said. “We want . . . the offense to come in and lean on us. And we didn’t hold up.”

More on Redskins vs. Giants:

The Takeaway: Turnovers, weak secondary prove too much for Redskins

Bog: A look at Cruz’s touchdown in images

Manning has last word as Giants beat Redskins

Summary: Giants 27, Redskins 23

Jenkins: Griffin-Manning, start of something big

Analysis: New day dawns in the (NFC) East

Davis lost for season; Cooley re-signs

Another signature day for RGIII, but another loss

The Insider: Latest updates

Photos: Scenes from MetLife Stadium

Couch Slouch: Should kickers get the boot?

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.

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