December 2, 2013
There may be four weeks of football left, but for the Redskins, the season ended Sunday night.
Any glimmer of hope for a playoff berth was dashed on Sunday, with a devastating loss to the New York Giants. Though it was their fourth straight loss, for the Redskins, who at 3-9 are now eliminated from NFC playoff contention, it was more painful because they had played well. Because they had actually had a chance.
“It hurts. It sucks. What do you want me to say?” Linebacker Brian Orakpo told reporters afterward. “To find another way to lose is disappointing.”
In the first half, Robert Griffin III looked to have overcome all of the adversity–the rumors, his knee–by playing flawless football. He completed his first 12 passes and was 16-of-17 for one touchdown in the first half. Combined with a first-quarter touchdown run by Alfred Morris, the Skins had an early 14-0 lead. Things were looking good for Washington, and even the announcers commented on how they looked like the team–and the quarterback–fans had been waiting for all season.
There’s a saying that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. That might as well have been the Redskins’ mantra Sunday night.
Washington gave up two touchdowns in the second quarter, letting Eli Manning and the Giants tie things up at 14-14. By the second-half, the Redskins had lost their spark, and were back to the messy, penalty-ridden team they had been all season. Griffin was unable to avoid sacks, and they were hurt by unsportsmanlike penalties (DeAngelo Hall and Santana Moss), and unnecessary ones–Pierre Garcon got docked five yards for kicking the football into the stands after a botched snap.
That penalty set the Giants up for their third touchdown drive en route to a 24-17 win. Despite falling behind, the Redskins kept the game within reach by holding New York to a field goal and getting the ball back with a couple of minutes left to play. Down by just a touchdown, Griffin was driving his team down the field when on 3rd and short, there was some confusion on the sideline regarding what down it was. The on-field referee had signaled it was a first down, and the chains were moved. However, when the play was over–safety Will Hill had turned the ball over after a completion–referees said it had been fourth down.
Shanahan went ballistic, and the announcers agreed it was terrible officiating. If they had known it was 3rd and inches instead of first down, a different play would have been called, and the Redskins may have ended up in the end-zone. But nothing was reversed, and the Giants ran out the clock.
For Washington, who had entered the season looking for playoff redemption after last year’s early exit, this ending is hard to swallow. “You don’t like to play for pride,” Shanahan said. “But sometimes that’s the card that’s dealt, and that’s where we’re at right now.”
So for now, the Redskins will just have to play hard and settle for moral victories. And in a few weeks, when the off-season comes much earlier than they had hoped, they will be forced to look in the mirror and make some changes. Because whatever they’re doing now isn’t enough.