When Santana Moss lined up with 1 minute 15 seconds left in Sunday’s 34-27 loss to the New England Patriots, he should have been in a comfortable, familiar spot. He was the Washington Redskins’ slot receiver, stationed off the line of scrimmage — in this case, the New England 5-yard line — to the right of quarterback Rex Grossman. He knew he would run an out route toward the right pylon, and if Grossman could roll to his right and come free, the two could connect for a tying touchdown.
For a moment, that looked to be what happened. In the next moment, an official threw a flag and the tying touchdown became an offensive pass interference penalty against Moss. Two plays later, Grossman’s final pass bounced off Moss’s hands and into those of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo for a clinching interception.
Moss’s message afterward was two-fold: On the interception: “I didn’t make the play. Plain sight.” Nothing more, nothing less. But on the pass interference penalty, Moss was adamant that he had not committed a violation against Patriots defensive back Julian Edelman, and that there is a systematic bias against the Redskins when it comes to officiating.
“I thought they were going to call it on him,” Moss said. “I didn’t know what was going on. But man, we don’t get no calls around here. . . .
“Y’all see what goes on out there. We blow our breath on one of the doggone guys over there, and it’s a penalty. Our quarterback’s getting killed, and we just almost hit somebody else’s quarterback, and we get flagged. So there’s a lot of stuff that goes on, but you know, I guess, hey, we got to play against the team and the refs.”
The exchange in the game’s final 75 seconds — and Moss’s words afterward — helped overshadow a day when the Redskins’ offense gained more yards (463) and scored more points than it had all season. Moss himself caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from return specialist Brandon Banks on a trick play that gave the Redskins a second-quarter lead, and he went over 9,000 yards receiving for his career.
But to hear Moss tell it, his battles with Edelman and other Patriots defensive backs were called unevenly all afternoon.
“I’ve been playing this game for a long time, and I still find it hard to believe that it’s all right for somebody to mug us at five yards, but we can’t get the guy off us or they call pass interference on me,” Moss said. “How can I get open when a guy puts his hands on me, unless I’m putting my hands back on him? You feel me? It’s stuff that’s been going on for years, but we [are] wrong when we do it, but they’re okay.”
Trailing 34-27, the Redskins used two third-down passes from Grossman — one to Donte Stallworth, the other to Jabar Gaffney — to keep alive a promising drive that could have tied the game. On second and goal from the 5, the Redskins had their play: Grossman was to roll right and get outside the last defensive lineman so he would have a clean look at Moss.
“By the time I got my eyes out there, he had already separated” from Edelman, Grossman said. “But I believe Santana. He knows. He understands the receiver position. He’s a veteran. He knows if he pushed off or not. I believe him.”
Moss said he approached the route differently from others he had run during an afternoon in which he was targeted nine times, but made just three catches.
“To tell you the truth, all day the guy been mugging me,” Moss said. “Every time I tried to go around him, I’m getting pulled. So I said, ‘Okay, I’m not going to go around him. I’m going to go at him.’ And if you’re standing still and I’m coming at you, of course we gonna collide. That’s what happened. We collided. He didn’t move, and we collided, and I broke off when we collided.”
Moss broke to the corner, and Grossman found him. The crowd at FedEx Field exploded. The official, though, never signaled touchdown.
“Pass interference on me, but if it’s vice versa, it’s a good coverage by them,” Moss said. “You could see it all through the game. Every time I just went around him and let him grab me, oh, I’m covered.’ . . .
“I’m [ticked] off right now. I guess you can see that, but it’s been going on. I guess that’s something I should’ve been used to.”