Redskins' Offense Hits Wall in 7-7 Tie
By Richard Justice
The tie left the Redskins (6-5-1) a game behind the Giants (7-4-1) in the NFC Eastern Division. They remain a half-game ahead of the Cowboys (6-6), Detroit Lions (6-6) and Carolina Panthers (6-6) in what appears to be the race for the NFC's sixth and final playoff spot.
On a long, strange night, the Redskins lost quarterback Gus Frerotte to a sprained neck when he banged his head into the stadium retaining wall as he celebrated scoring a touchdown late in the first half. Frerotte was taken to a hospital for X-rays, which were negative. His health and his status as starter will be evaluated today.
In the end, the Redskins lost because they committed four turnovers and averaged just 2.6 yards per rushing play. They lost despite a defense that played brilliantly, led by linebacker Ken Harvey, who had four sacks.
"I don't know if I've ever been involved in a game like that," a drained Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "Both teams competed as hard as you possibly could. We had chances. We just didn't get it done. The defense was great sacks, pressure, coverage."
Playing extended minutes for the first time this season, backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler failed to make the most of the opportunity, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. Two of the interceptions and the fumble came in overtime.
As if Frerotte's misguided celebration wasn't strange enough, wide receiver Michael Westbrook made an even worse gaffe in overtime. In a mad scramble to get in position for a game-winning field goal as the final seconds ticked away, Westbrook jerked off his helmet to complain that an official hadn't given him a completion on a sideline route.
Taking off a helmet while on the field is an automatic 15-yard penalty, and Westbrook's backed up the Redskins and virtually assured that they wouldn't win.
"You've got to keep your poise," Turner said.
In three seasons in which he has frequently frustrated the Redskins by his injuries and foolish mistakes, Westbrook's latest errors may haunt him for a long time. Turner, who now is facing a fourth consecutive season without a playoff appearance, screamed at Westbrook as he casually walked off the field.
The penalty moved the Redskins back to their 47-yard line. The Giants were called for being offsides with 38 seconds left, then after Hostetler's 12-yard pass completion to Henry Ellard, Scott Blanton hurried onto the field and missed a 54-yard field goal attempt.
Blanton also missed a 45-yard try early in the fourth quarter.
The Redskins self-destructed at the end. They got their final possession at their 20 with 2:12 remaining. Hostetler led them to the New York 38 with 43 seconds remaining.
That's when Westbrook ruined what should have been one of the best days of his career. He had a career-high nine catches for 125 yards, but he made the mistake of taking off his helmet.
Westbrook had no comment after the game.
Frerotte was injured with 2:16 left in the first half. After escaping defensive end Bernard Holsey, he sprinted into the end zone to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead. He celebrated by firing the ball at the wall behind the end zone, then celebrated some more by smashing his head into that same wall.
He recoiled in pain, then asked for immediate medical attention on the sideline. He returned for one series at the end of the half, then didn't return from the locker room at halftime. After being taken to a hospital for further examination, he returned to the stadium, where he watched the remainder of the game in the locker room.
"It was stupid, but I was fired up," Frerotte said. "Things weren't going well, then I get a big play like that."
Turner shrugged and said: "I never thought to tell a guy not to do that."
Hostetler, who had taken only a few snaps with the starting unit since the start of the season, was sacked three times and under a heavy rush all night. One of the three interceptions came on a tipped ball, but overall, he looked like someone who hadn't practiced much with his teammates.
"It wasn't a very good beginning," Hostetler said. "I had a lot of opportunities to make big plays. Then we came back with the turnovers. Obviously, I didn't feel real comfortable."
The Giants played conservatively most of the night, rushing 37 times for 157 yards. Fullback Charles Way led the way with 84 yards on 17 carries, but like the Redskins, the Giants were unable to score more than one touchdown.
Hostetler's first interception led to their only touchdown. On second and 11 from the Washington 45, Hostetler's pass to fullback Marc Logan was tipped into the air and intercepted by cornerback Phillippi Sparks at the New York 46.
The Giants needed seven plays to drive 54 yards to tie it, 7-7. Way had three consecutive carries of seven yards, then after a three-yard loss by Wheatley, Way caught a 10-yard pass.
Redskins cornerback Darrell Green was penalized 20 yards for pass interference against Chris Calloway to give the Giants a first down at the 6. Wheatley gained two yards on first down, then came the touchdown. Quarterback Danny Kanell had no pressure, so he waited for Calloway to clear in the back of the end zone.
Kanell made a perfect throw, and Calloway got his feet inbounds. The score came with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
Hostetler got the Redskins going on his second possession. Actually, the Redskins got their running game going, with Allen gaining 39 yards on his first four carries of the possession. Defensive end Michael Strahan sacked Hostetler for a loss of four, but Hostetler fired a 17-yard completion to Chris Thomas.
When Sparks broke up a pass for Ellard at the 26, Blanton was forced to attempt a 45-yard field goal. The kick went wide left to keep the score tied at 7.
The Redskins didn't cross midfield again in regulation. On the Redskins' second possession of overtime, Hostetler completed a 16-yard pass to tight end Jamie Asher and an eight-yarder to Ellard.
But on third and two, Hostetler was wrapped up and fumbled the ball to the Giants. On their next possession, the Redskins drove to the New York 41, where Terry Allen (27 carries for 64 yards) was stopped for no gain on fourth and one.
The Redskins had only one more good chance, that coming in the final seconds when they drove from their own 20 to the New York 36. Thanks to Westbrook's mistake, they couldn't get Blanton closer for the field goal attempt.
"There were things I'd run before and things I'd never run," Hostetler said. "It's a whole different story under game-type circumstances."
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