The Washington Redskins wasted a golden opportunity to make a second straight playoff appearance for the first time since 1991 and 1992, laying an egg at home against a Giants team that had nothing much for which to play.
As happened with the Panthers, the Redskins weren’t able to get up for a home game against an opponent that had much, much less on the line than Washington did. The Giants were fairly conservative in their gameplan, especially with a lead in the second half, but it didn’t matter.
The Redskins simply could not get the job done.
Here are five things we learned from the Redskins’ awful, 19-10 loss to the Giants . . .
1. There’s no question in my mind which wideout the Redskins should keep: Pierre Garcon made a couple of huge plays against the Giants, including a catch-and-run on a third-and-long screen pass that gave the Redskins a first-and-goal, setting up a short touchdown pass to Jordan Reed.
I have nothing against DeSean Jackson. I think he’s a great player who has contributed a lot to the Redskins, and I’m glad he played in Washington. However, he is a small guy who takes a beating from the bigger players who populate NFL defenses. I think there was some symbolism in the fact that Jackson wasn’t in the game during some of Garcon’s heroics.
2. One play told the story of this game: Garcon had just made an incredible move after a catch near the sideline, taking the ball deep into Giants territory on a 49-yard gain that put him over 1,000 yards for the year. On the next play, Kirk Cousins missed a wide-open Jamison Crowder in the end zone and, instead, threw to Maurice Harris. Harris slipped, resulting in an interception by Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. The Redskins’ best scoring opportunity up to that point generated zero points.
3. Taking a timeout earlier in the last drive of the first half would have helped: After the Redskins failed to stop the clock two plays earlier, Dustin Hopkins had to attempt a 57-yard field goal with one second left. Had the Redskins used their timeouts more wisely, Washington would have had the opportunity to get a more realistic shot at three points before the break. With the Giants getting the ball first in the second half, getting something on the board would have been big there. It also obviously would have changed the dynamics of the second half. Bad clock-management by the Redskins really hurt.
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4. Kirk Cousins is cold at best, regressing at worst: In addition to the play I mentioned at the top, Cousins is also now reverting to some of his pre-Bucs 2015 habits. While he never totally eliminated them, they’ve become more frequent in the latter part of this year. Specifically, not seeing open receivers, locking on to one receiver, checking down when it doesn’t make sense, and occasional indecisiveness that helps lead to sacks.
The primary problem on display against New York was the first one. He missed Crowder, Jordan Reed, and DeSean Jackson at various points — and that’s just what I could see from my sofa. The All-22 film is not going to be kind. And that final, game-sealing interception will look even worse.
But the bigger question is whether this is just a brief cold spell (mildly concerning) or a regression (major problem). If it’s judged to be the latter by the organizations, the Cousins contract negotiations will be even more contentious. Either way, he just cost himself a whole lot of money.
5. The Redskins didn’t deserve to make the playoffs: I said this two weeks ago after the loss to the Panthers. This is not a playoff team. You can blame Cousins or the coaching staff or just about anyone you like. Take your pick.
But the bottom line is that the current roster does not have a critical mass of guys who shine under the brightest, hottest spotlights. Pierre Garcon does. I think Crowder is that kind of guy. Josh Norman, minus the 15-yard penalties, is that kind of player.
You have to have more guys like that to win a title. The Redskins went 8-7-1 this year, and every fan who watched the eight games the Redskins didn’t win knows that they were just a couple of plays away from winning about five of them, including this game against the Giants.
The NFL is built around parity. Having guys who make those critical plays more consistently than the other team — and who thrive under pressure in big games — is the difference between being an 8-7-1 team and a 12-4 or 13-3 team.
The Redskins need to find players who can make those plays, and coaches who can put them in a position — and properly motivate them — to make them.
In the end, this season goes in the books as a disappointment. Even though this organization is moving in the right direction overall, and I trust McCloughan to continue to add good pieces, there’s no excuse for not making the postseason in a year when 9-7 would have been good enough.
The Redskins had two chances to take control of their fate at the end of the year, and they blew both of them.
It’s time for some changes.