Washington, D.C. - With Donovan McNabb watching from the sidelines in what was likely to be his final game in a Redskins uniform, Washington's Rex Grossman-led comeback fell short as they fell 17-14 to the desperate New York Giants in the season finale.
The Redskins exited a forgettable 2010 campaign with a whimper as Grossman turned the ball over three times and Mario Manningham caught a 92-yard bomb from Eli Manning in the third quarter, giving them just enough to edge out Mike Shanahan's squad. However, New York's playoff aspirations were dashed with a Green Bay win, which eliminated them from playoff contention.
For Washington, the playoffs were out of the question for much of the second half of the season, leaving them to play for pride and for some, their jobs. After McNabb was benched 13 games into his inaugural season, Shanahan announced he would be evaluating his roster in the final three weeks of the season.
Most of what he saw today couldn't have pleased him as the Redskins lost their sixth straight to the Giants and ninth in 10 games.
Osi Umenyiora wreaked havoc in the Redskins backfield, forcing a pair of fumbles and the Giants had four takeaways on the day, including three while Washington was in their territory. The mistakes haunted the Redskins in a ballgame that turned out to be a close affair despite their repeated efforts to hand it to New York.
"We sure had out opportunities during the game, but anytime you have four turnovers and you are still in the game at the end, I think you did some good things throughout the game," said Shanahan. "But, I was disappointed we couldn't finish."
The Giants struck first behind the running of Brandon Jacobs. The burly 264-pound back carried the ball for 37 yards on his first three carries, leaving a familiar trail of Redskins defenders in his wake. Jacobs and quarterback Eli Manning led an 11-play, 78-yard scoring drive in 5:58 capped off by a 20-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.
The Redskins had their chances following the Tynes field goal, but Graham Gano, last week's NFC special teams player of the week, pushed a 30-yard kick wide left. Then on the ensuing possession, Grossman was stripped by Umenyiora with Washington on the Giants 20-yard line.
The wasted opportunities cost the Redskins dearly as the Giants put together another long drive in the second quarter. Washington's defense surrendered first downs on two third and longs and Jacobs punched it in from two yards out to extend the New York lead to 10-0. After the touchdown, the defense tightened and the Giants only possessed the ball in Redskins' territory twice for the rest of the game.
"I thought we did a pretty good job with stopping them on first and second downs in the first half," said London Fletcher. "We did allow them to convert a couple of third downs that were key to scoring one of their touchdowns. Defensively, we got one turnover, we probably needed to get a couple more because they won the take away battle, but I'm proud of the way we played today. I thought the guys played with a lot of energy; never looked at the score, we just kept fighting and gave ourselves a chance to win the ball game."
With their inability to make the most of their scoring chances, the Redskins had to scramble to put together a late first half rally. Grossman completed five of six passes in the two minute offense including a 1-yard TD toss to backup tight end Fred Davis with 22 seconds left, cutting the deficit to 10-7.
Grossman passed for 120 yards in the first half, but 77 of those came in the final two minutes. He finished 26-44 for 336 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception while Manning went 17 of 29 for 243 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Manning didn't play a particularly good game, but unlike Grossman he limited his mistakes and it was enough.
In the first half it was the defense doing the bulk of the work as they were on the field for 18:45 with the Giants going 4-9 on third down conversions. Third downs were once again a huge issue all day for the Redskins as the offense moved the chains on just 3 of 12 attempts. The Giants went 5 of 16 on third down, but they converted several key third and long situations, which was the cause for frustration in the locker room afterward.
"The third down and long [struggles] blow my mind," said safety Reed Doughty. "Third and 10 and we can't get off the field. It blows my mind."
The defense did post a strong day against a Giants running game, which was missing lineman Rich Seubert after he dislocated his kneecap in the first half. They gave up 82 yards rushing after making some early adjustments, containing a ground game that amassed 198 yards rushing against them in December.
Despite the lackluster start for both teams, the Giants kicked off the second half with a bang. On the Giants' second play from scrimmage, Manning lobbed a pass over DeAngelo Hall into the arms of Manningham who turned on the burners and took it in for a 92-yard TD reception and 17-7 advantage for New York.
"It was man-to-man coverage. I think D. Hall maybe mistimed his jump, because he had good coverage on him," said Fletcher who finished with a team high nine tackles. "And from there we only had a pulled safety and once the ball was completed it was going to be tough for somebody to tackle him."
The Giants kept the pressure up as linebacker Keith Bulluck intercepted a Grossman pass intended for Mike Sellers, but Tynes missed a 39-yard attempt. Umenyiora once again lived up to his reputation as a Redskin killer by forcing another Grossman fumble with Washington driving down the field at the Giants 30-yard line.
The Redskins moved the ball well in the second half, gaining 222 yards, but the quality possession didn't translate to points, making it one that got away for defensive lineman Adam Carriker.
"I think we outplayed them," he said. "I think we were the better team, but we cost ourselves and that's why they won. We got to eliminate those mistakes, you know the big pass, the turnovers, things like that."
"The most frustrating part of the game was the fact that we were moving the ball well and had some good drives going and something bad would happen to stop our drives," added Grossman. "To only get 14 points as well as we moved the ball is extremely frustrating."
While the Giants were unable to distance themselves from Washington, it ultimately didn't matter because the Redskins failed to capitalize whenever they were in scoring position. Santana Moss' fourth quarter fumble in the red zone ruined a key drive late and Shanahan opted to run the ball on fourth and one from the Giants' 32-yard line rather than attempt a 49-yard field goal.
That decision backfired when Anthony Armstrong brought the crowd to life with an explosive 64-yard TD catch on the Redskins next possession. Had Gano come on and made the field goal, Armstrong's touchdown would have tied the score. Instead Grossman hit him in stride as he split a pair of Giant defensive backs to make it 17-14 with 5:52 remaining. Still, despite the questionable decision-making, it appeared the Redskins would have a shot to end the season on a high note.
The defense was able to force a punt, leaving Washington with 2:11 to steal one from New York. Armstrong picked up a first down, but that was all they could manage. Grossman's fourth down attempt intended for Terrence Austin fell incomplete, icing the win for the Giants and ending the season on a sour note.
"I think at the end of the first year, especially in the next two weeks, that we look at everything," said Shanahan. "We look at personnel and we look at our scheme. Then you got to make a decision on what you can do to better your football team and your organization....Obviously, when you finish the way we did with six wins, we got some areas to work on."