By Eva Paspalis @EvaPaspalis
LANDOVER — What started off as a promising season for the Washington Redskins spiraled into a four-game losing streak that dropped the Burgundy and Gold, once at 6-3 and at the top of the NFC East, to 6-7 and in danger of missing the playoffs.
Sunday’s game against the division rival New York Giants (5-8) was the latest installment of Washington’s injury-induced skid, as the Redskins narrowly avoided a shutout but still lost to New York, 40-16.
With both starting quarterback Alex Smith and backup Colt McCoy shelved for the season due to leg injuries, Washington brought in quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson. The game against the Giants was Sanchez’s first start in over three years and he appeared to have a hard time shaking off the rust. Sanchez threw two interceptions and passed for only 38 yards as Washington trailed by the biggest deficit in franchise history at halftime before Redskins head coach Jay Gruden replaced Sanchez with backup Josh Johnson halfway through the third quarter.
“Nothing worked,” said Gruden. “There’s a couple of different reasons; misread a couple of coverages maybe, missed a couple of throws, protection issues. You’re talking about a quarterback that just got here… there’s a lot of different reasons but we do understand how difficult it is for him to come in in a short amount of time and play.”
While Johnson provided a much-needed spark and finally got the Redskins on the board in the fourth quarter, Washington suffered yet another offensive blow when starting tight end Jordan Reed exited the game with a foot injury in the first quarter and did not return.
Meanwhile, with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sidelined with a quad injury, the Giants hung their hopes on running back Saquon Barkley, and the rookie didn’t disappoint. Barkley rumbled for 170 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries and entered New York’s history books as the first rookie to score 13 touchdowns in a single season.
The tide turned in Washington’s favor when Giants quarterback Pat Shurmur pulled starting quarterback Eli Manning at the start of the fourth quarter and replaced him with rookie Kyle Lauletta. Redskins linebacker Mason Foster dove in front of Lauletta’s intended target and intercepted Lauletta’s second career pass. New York was penalized for roughing the passer and Johnson took advantage of the field position to run for an eight-yard touchdown and put the Redskins on the board.
Then, Washington receiver Jamison Crowder proved he is fully healed from the ankle injury that caused him to miss several games when he unleashed a career-long 79 yard touchdown. Crowder grabbed Johnson’s short pass and turned on the jets as he easily swept past Giants defensive back Kamrin Moore. Johnson then capped off the score with another successful two-point conversion, Washington’s second of the afternoon.
However, a slow offensive start and a slew of penalties (15 for 135 yards) dropped Washington to third in the NFC East.
“I’m obviously upset about the loss, but these penalties… I’ve got to check them out. I’m sure we’ll send a bunch of them to the league,” said Gruden. “The holding calls, the one on Fabian [Moreau] down the left sideline, it looked like he got pulled down and they called it on Fabian. A lot of holding calls. Whatever they are, we have to check them out and continue to try to correct them.”
Next week the Redskins travel to Jacksonville to try to return to form against the 4-9 Jaguars.