LANDOVER - Down by 34-27 to the New England Patriots with just over a minute to play in regulation, Washington Redskins receiver Santana Moss knew he had a shot to tie the game. Washington's offense, which was having its best day of the season, had the ball second-and-goal at the New England five-yard line.
Moss ran an out route to the front corner of the endzone, where he was wide open. When quarterback Rex Grossman connected on the five yard pass for the score, it seemed the only question was whether Mike Shanahan was going to go for a two-point conversion to try to win the game in regulation.
But it wasn't to be. There was a flag on the field, and it was offensive pass interference on Moss. The Redskins longest-tenured receiver was flagged for pushing off on receiver-turned-nickelback Julian Edelman on his way to the endzone. The score was negated and the Redskins would never reach the end zone again the rest of the afternoon.
"I still find it hard to believe that it's alright for somebody to mug us at five yards, but we can't get a guy off us," Moss said afterward. "How can I get open if a guy is going to put his hands on me, and if I put my hands back on him [it's a flag]?"
Thus summed up yet another frustrating day for the Redskins, losers of eight of their last nine.
"I guess we got to play against the [opposing] team and the referee," he added.
Moss wasn't the only one frustrated with Sunday's officiating.
Earlier in the game, while Tom Brady attempted a late slide to protect himself from getting hit, London Fletcher made contact with him as he was falling to the ground. Again, flags flew. The call was a personal foul on Fletcher for hitting Brady in the head with his elbow as he was sliding.
"He waited to the last minute to slide," Fletcher later explained. "The referee thought I hit him in the head. I didn't hit him in the head."
Defensive end Stephen Bowen believed that penalties like the one Fletcher incurred are intended to protect star quarterbacks such as Brady, even if they are hit legally.
"They pamper [Brady], because he's like the golden guy of the league," he said. "You gotta let people play. I think it was a real bad call."
But while they certainly had plenty to be upset about with the game's officiating, all the Redskins have to do is look in the mirror to really find out why they were unable to pull off the upset. There were no conspiracies against them by the referees, no plot to save franchise quarterbacks playing for the opposing team. It was simply a case of not being able to execute against the superior team in New England.
Moss may have been right that his pass interference penalty was a ticky-tack call, but he had a chance to make up for the call in subsequent plays. Two plays after the penalty, he was unable to hold on to a Grossman pass, which was deflected into the arms of Patriots linebacker Jarod Mayo for a game-sealing interception.
As for Fletcher -- whose argument was more plausible -- a case could be made that the Redskins were bailed out on offense by the zebras on the previous possession, when a Grossman interception was nullified thanks to a similarly suspect roughing the passer call on former Redskins defensive end Andre Carter.
And yet the Patriots still won.
Why? Because it came down to what it usually comes down to: talent and execution. When it came down to it, the Redskins didn't make enough plays against New England. While they certainly were able to move the ball against a porous defense and make the game far more competitive than most thought it could be, the game's decisive plays were made by the visiting team.
So while the Redskins may have been wronged on several calls, blaming the officiating post game simply sounds like something a struggling 4-9 would do.
For more on the New England vs. Washington game, be sure to follow this StoryStream. For more on the Redskins, please visit Hogs Haven. For the perspective from the other side, please visit SB Nation Boston and Pats Pulpit.