Powell got called for roughing the passer
The end came on a long heave, a Hail Mary pass tipped harmlessly away in the end zone amid a swarm of Redskins and Giants. The play never had a chance. With it went another chance for the Redskins to win. And, when the ball landed safely out of bounds, it became official: another postseason would be played without Washington.
That's nine times in 10 years, for those who had forgotten. It's likely few have, considering the mediocrity that's pervaded Redskin Park the past few years.
But they're not even mediocre now, not after dropping to 5-8 following a 27-21 loss to the Giants in front of an announced crowd of 78,635 fans, though many bothered not to show up and thousands of others sold their tickets to New York fans.
This isn't what the franchise could have expected when it hired coach Steve Spurrier, handing him $5 million a year; and defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, giving him nearly $1 million a season.
The mood has turned feisty with several players already anticipating they'll play elsewhere next season.
''This isn't dire straits around here the way some people might make you think,'' Spurrier said.
That's open to debate as Washington once again must finish up a season trying to explain what went wrong.
''It's been like this since I got here,'' Redskins corner Champ Bailey said. ''We've got to find a way to win somehow.''
''It gets old,'' Redskins receiver Rod Gardner said. ''You get tired of losing games like this.''
The Redskins now will focus on the future, starting rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey for the next three games. Or so says Spurrier, who's been known to change his mind on such topics.
Ramsey entered for an injured Danny Wuerffel and completed 12 of 27 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't enough to rally the Redskins from deficits of 14 and 13 points in the second half.
``When you're playing, some of the Redskins' receivers said, `The real cannon is on the sideline,'" Giants corner Jason Sehorn said. ``They know the kid with the arm is on the sideline and obviously he hasn't picked everything up, otherwise [Spurrier] would just play him. Maybe he will now that they're completely out of [the playoff race]."
And it seemed every time the Redskins mounted a threat, they'd give the game away. Wuerffel fumbled twice, losing one, and threw a costly interception on a scramble. Bailey fumbled a punt return at his own 22, recovered by ex-Redskin Kato Serwanga, that led to a crushing score after Washington had cut the score to 17-14.
Later, receiver Darnerien McCants fumbled at the Giants' 30 with four minutes, 12 seconds remaining, Serwanga poking the ball out from behind and spoiling Washington's last real chance. McCants already had cost his team crucial yards earlier in the game when he was flagged 15 yards for taunting--after Derrius Thompson had caught a 28-yard pass to the New York 19. The Redskins eventually punted.
''If [McCants] keeps that stuff up we can't play with him,'' Spurrier said. ''You try to live with it because he's a big strong guy who can catch. But he has to play smarter or we can't live with him.''
Chances are the Redskins will have as many as 11 new starters combined on both sides of the ball. That will lead to more growing pains, but the real problem against New York was the botched plays. Some said Washington is close to winning some of these close games, but good teams win and bad teams blow games. That's what the Redskins did.
''We're not taking care of the little things right now,'' said Redskins receiver Derrius Thompson, who fumbled at the New York 22 in the second quarter.
''The only thing that hurt us were the turnovers,'' Samuels said. ''We can't do that and win.''
There's a lot they can't do and win, like pass the ball. Spurrier said this week he wanted to return to his way of calling plays, suggesting he had listened too much to critics who say he should call more running plays. He did anything but that Sunday, as Washington attempted 46 passes and ran the ball 20 times.
Running back Stephen Davis carried just 12 times for 70 yards, though 33 came on one run. Washington might have moved the ball, with 363 passing yards, but the Redskins dropped to 2-7 this season when they pass more than they run. They've lost five straight when they pass more than run.
''We're not real good right now,'' Spurrier said. ''Maybe if we don't fumble and finish off drives we're not talking about silly mistakes. But we're not blaming the loss on the offense.''
At least Ramsey provided a glimpse of his talent, rallying Washington from a 17-6 deficit. He whipped a 13-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rod Gardner in the third quarter. Ramsey's two-point conversion pass to receiver Chris Doering made it 17-14.
Washington had grabbed the momentum, forcing New York to punt on its next series. That's when the Redskins handed the Giants another gift as Bailey fumbled the punt return. Tight end Jeremy Shockey (five catches, 89 yards) caught a 20-yard pass on first down and running back Tiki Barber ran over from the 1 for a 10-point lead.
But the Redskins made it interesting in the fourth quarter when Ramsey directed a 62-yard drive, with passes of 36 yards to Thompson and 18 to Gardner. Davis scored from the 1.
McCants fumble ended the next possession.
The Redskins' final series stalled at their own 46.
''We've got some potential, we're just not there yet,'' Spurrier said.
Thompson caught a career-best six passes for 122 yards, but he was more upset about his fumble than pleased with his production.
''The other stuff doesn't matter because the fumble hurt the team,'' Thompson said.
New York, playing minus two of its top three receivers, built a 17-0 lead. The Giants scored a touchdown after Ralph Brown intercepted Wuerffel and returned the ball 31 yards to the Giants' 44.
Quarterback Kerry Collins led a nine-play drive, capping it with a two-yard toss to fullback Charles Stackhouse. Collins added a 29-yard pass to receiver Amani Toomer, beating Bailey.
Collins underthrew Toomer, who, with Bailey running at him, stopped and came back for the ball.
''If he keeps that stuff up we can't play with him,'' Spurrier said. ''You try to live with it because he's a big strong guy who can catch. But he has to play smarter or we can't live with him.''
The Redskins only first-half points came courtesy of new kicker Jose Cortez, who booted a 24-yard field goal with no time remaining. Cortez had missed a 43-yard kick in the first quarter.
As usual, late in the season, it wasn't enough.
''It's been a tough season,'' Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels said. ''I don't even know what the playoffs taste like.''
--Washington is 5-8 heading into Sunday's game at Philadelphia.
--Stephen Davis tied a season-low with 12 rushes.
--Davis had a season-high 33-yard run.
--Washington is now 2-7 when it throws more than it runs,
The Big Play
Washington had regained the momentum and awaited possession of the ball. But that all changed when a New York punted landed in the third quarter.
That's because returner Champ Bailey fumbled the punt, losing the ball at his own 22-yard line. Ex-Redskin Kato Serwanga recovered the ball.
Two plays later New York scored a touchdown for a 24-14 lead.
''I just misjudged it,'' Bailey said. ''The ball wobbled a little bit and there was no spin on it. Bryan Barker would kick them like that in practice and I never catch those.''