The Washington Redskins’ embarrassing late-season slide continued Sunday night in a 24-17 loss to the New York Giants. In losing their fourth consecutive game, they squandered a 14-0 second-quarter lead, displayed an alarming lack of discipline, wasted an encouraging performance by Robert Griffin III and flopped again on special teams.
Team leaders Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall were called for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Top wide receiver Pierre Garcon kicked a ball in frustration and was assessed a penalty.
Washington’s botched snap on a late-game punt — and the snapper’s ensuing penalty on the play — were among many second-half lowlights for the reeling Redskins. They dropped to 3-9 and were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
The game was settled on a special teams lapse. Let’s start there.
Special teams have hurt the Redskins all season — and it was no different Sunday night.
The Redskins led 17-14 with about a minute remaining in the third quarter. On fourth and 17 from their 38-yard line, the Redskins lined up to punt. Long snapper Kyle Nelson essentially rolled the ball to punter Sav Rocca, who did a great job just to recover the ball and get off a kick, which covered only 18 yards.
As if Nelson’s botched snap wasn’t bad enough, he also was called for holding on the play. Four plays later, Andre Brown scored on a one-yard run to cap the Giants’ four-play, 46-yard drive for the go-ahead score.
In the 32-team NFL, the Redskins rank 30th in punt return yardage, 31st on kickoff returns and last in punt return coverage. The pratfall performance on the punt Sunday further illustrated why major change is needed on special teams.
Considering how much Griffin has struggled this season, the Redskins should be encouraged about his performance.
Griffin completed his first 12 passes . He teamed with tight end Logan Paulsen on a 19-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and for the game completed passes to eight receivers.
For a quarterback who often has appeared lost in the pocket this season, Griffin showed progress, especially in throwing shorter passes — check downs — when receivers were covered downfield.
Of course, as we’ve come to learn, Griffin is far from being a polished pocket passer. He must improve at seeing the whole field. Twice early in the game, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson was open deep in the defensive backfield. Griffin missed the opportunity and threw short passes instead. Griffin still holds the ball too long. He has to get rid of it quicker.
In many ways, Griffin’s outing against the Giants was a step forward. For the Redskins to get to where they hope to go, Griffin has to keep making them.
It was only a 12-yard reception during the opening drive. Fred Davis has made bigger contributions. But the catch was Davis’s first since Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers. Finally, Davis did something to help.
After five straight games being inactive, Davis returned to the lineup in last week’s 27-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Although Davis had no receptions and played sparingly in place of sidelined rookie tight end Jordan Reed, he showed signs of life against the Giants in a two-catch, 13-yard performance.
With Reed inactive for the second time in as many weeks (he reportedly had a recurrence of concussion symptoms), Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan reluctantly turned back to Davis to share tight end duties with Paulsen.
A starter opening the season, Davis tumbled down the depth chart because of his lack of professionalism, many within the organization say.
Truth is, you should lose your job if you show up late for meetings, sleep through them and make mistakes in games. Davis, however, has talent. Despite missing 13 games over the past two seasons, Davis showed Sunday, even on his late-game drop, that he still possesses the ability to beat linebackers and safeties downfield. There aren’t many tight ends capable of doing that consistently.
A free agent after the season, Davis apparently already has one foot out the door. But with Reed’s status unclear, the Shanahans may have to rely on Davis to help a little longer.
Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo hopes to receive a lucrative contract extension — or a big deal elsewhere — after the season. Orakpo believes he’s an elite pass rusher and wants to be paid like one.
The view of Orakpo isn’t as favorable around the NFL. He simply isn’t considered a top-tier pass rusher, some NFL defensive coaches say, but Orakpo’s impact against the Giants was clear.
In the first quarter, Orakpo, whose speed is his best tool, caused fits for Giants left tackle Will Beatty. Beatty whiffed against Orakpo, who beat him with an inside speed move and sacked Eli Manning.
In the second quarter, Beatty took down Orakpo and was called for a hold. In the third, Orakpo recorded his second sack in the game, beating Beatty on a power move and pushing him back into Manning to collapse the pocket.
Orakpo has 5.5 sacks in the last four games. Orakpo has proved he’s a good player. He hasn’t, however, proved he’ll ever be a star.
After four seasons in a 3-4 alignment, the Redskins aren’t close to having a top defense. The problems start up front.
The Redskins still are waiting for defensive end Jarvis Jenkins to become a difference-maker.
As a rookie in 2011, Jenkins impressed in the preseason before suffering a serious knee injury and sitting out the season after surgery.
Last season, Jenkins wasn’t a major factor for one of the league’s worst defenses. It often takes players two seasons after surgery to regain their speed, quickness and power.
Jenkins had one of his best games — he was credited with four tackles, including three unassisted — in the Week 11 loss to Philadelphia.
The Redskins, though, need consistency from him.
On Andre Brown’s 23-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, an offensive lineman controlled Jenkins and turned him, which opened the hole that Brown ran through untouched. In the 3-4, the main job of defensive ends is to take on blockers to free linebackers to make plays.
Problem is, the best 3-4 ends also are effective at shedding blockers and tackling ball carriers.
The Redskins need Jenkins to make more plays.
Needing a confidence boost after losing last week to the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants faced the right opponent.
The Redskins are back in a horrible place — and many things have to change to help them eventually get back to a good one.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.