January 3, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
All the Redskins needed to do was win their season finale against the New York Giants (11-5) to make the playoffs. Clinching a playoff berth at home in front of their fans seemed the perfect ending to a roller coaster season. Instead, fans were treated to a lackluster performance which eliminated the team from playoff contention.
Against a New York team already locked into the fifth seed and playing for little more than pride, Washington struggled. They outplayed through the first three-and-a-half quarters before they had a chance to comeback. But with a little over a minute remaining, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an ill-timed pass to Pierre Garcon which was intercepted by Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to end the Redskins’ chances–and season.
In the biggest game of their season, they fell shockingly short–despite coach Jay Gruden’s assertions that his team was prepared to compete.
“That irks the life out of me,” defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said. “It’s mind-boggling to know what type of offense we have and what we have on defense and what we can do. We just go out here, and we just keep dropping the ball when the lights get bright.”
Instead of playing hero and cementing his place in Washington, Cousins’ future with the team is now a question mark. After bouncing back from a disastrous first half in which he was sacked twice and his team was shutout, the Washington quarterback led the Redskins to a field goal and a touchdown to tie the game.
Down three with 2:12 to go, Cousins moved his team into Giants territory before throwing the heartbreaking interception, his second of the half. To add insult to injury, the ball was returned for a touchdown to extend the Giants’ lead to 19-10.
Though Cousins led the Redskins (8-7-1) to the brink of another playoff appearance, he was also responsible for major errors in the final two games that led to their elimination. It is hard to imagine that the team will sign him to the big-bucks, multi-year deal he is looking for, despite the fact he has previously voiced his hopes to stay in Washington long-term.
But Cousins can’t be the sole scapegoat for the Redskins’ disappointing season ending. In the team’s final two losses, both at home, their running game was held to just 66 total yards (28 and 38, respectively). With a stalled ground game the top-five Washington offense had to rely solely on Cousins, who was unable to shoulder the pressure.
After the heartbreaking loss, the team, much like their fans, struggled to wrap their heads around it.
“The talent we have on our roster and the talent we have on our coaching staff, we shouldn’t be done right now,” said linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “We should be going to the playoffs.”
Instead, the Redskins will head into the off-season wondering about the future and what-if.