For the third game in a row, the Redskins' defense lost a fourth-quarter lead--and the game. For this prideful defense, that's hard to accept.
The San Diego Chargers scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to tie the Redskins at 17-17 and send the game into overtime. Then, the Chargers went 65 yards on just two plays to score the game-winning touchdown.
"It's one of those things about the NFL--you've got to play the whole game," safety Ryan Clark said. "Whether it is 60 minutes or 60-plus minutes, for them to win in overtime with our defense, it's frustrating. We didn't stop them. We didn't give our offense a chance."
It was Clark who had the last, best chance to stop running back LaDainian Tomlinson on his 41-yard touchdown run in overtime. But Tomlinson was able to cut to the left and avoid Clark's tackle.
"It shouldn't have come down to that," Clark lamented. "We gave up some drives in the fourth quarter that allowed them to tie it up and send the game into overtime."
Added assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "The best teams in this league execute under pressure. We didn't do that today."
Tomlinson proved why he is one of the league's best players. He finished the game with 184 rushing yards on 25 carries, a lofty 7.4-yard average, and three touchdowns.
"Their run game is a lot like other teams' run game, there is just a better guy doing it," Williams said. "There are not a lot of fancy plays. He just makes a lot of people miss. There are hardly any negative yards or tackles for a loss in the run game because you can have three or four guys behind the line of scrimmage getting ready to hit him and he will make those guys miss and get back to the line of scrimmage."
Up front, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin returned to action after missing the last three games. But Joe Salave'a succumbed to a lingering foot injury and sat out the entire second half. He was replaced by Cedric Killings.
Meantime, the Redskins kept tight end Antonio Gates in check most of the game. Gates produced his biggest play in overtime, on the play right before Tomlinson's game-winning touchdown. Quarterback Drew Brees found Gates in the left flat.
The play appeared to fool safety Sean Taylor and linebacker LaVar Arrington, who had both turned inside. They hurried over to catch up to Gates, but the 6-4, 260-pound tight end had lumbered for a 24-yard pickup.
After the game, Arrington could not hide his disappointment at the Redskins' 5-6 record.
"We did a lot of good things today, but it seems to always go to no avail," he said. "We just keep letting games get away from us, over and over again."
Those two plays in overtime overshadowed what had been a solid performance by the defense. The unit limited a potent San Diego offense to just 17 points in regulation and seven points in the first three quarter.
Brees was under pressure early in the game on linebacker blitzes. He was sacked once by Marcus Washington coming from the right. One play later, on a third down, Washington and Clark combined on a sack.
Early in the third quarter, defensive end Phillip Daniels pulled down Brees for his second sack of the season--and the defensive line's seventh sack on the season.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Redskins' defense gave the offense a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation.
Washington leaped high to tip a Brees pass into the air. The ball fell into the arms of Shawn Springs, who returned it to the Chargers' 31-yard line.
But the Redskins' offense failed to capitalize after center Casey Rabach was called for holding. The penalty pushed the Redskins back, and John Hall's 53-yard field goal was short.
"That interception was a gift--getting that in point-blank range, in field goal range," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "Unfortunately, having a penalty got us out of that field goal range. If you get the ball on the 30, John Hall is going to nail it. Then the game is over. It's a tough one to take because the defense made incredible plays. They do time and time again. We couldn't capitalize on it."
Frustrated and disappointed, Redskins players on both sides of the ball could only vow to fight on and hope the end result changes.
"All we can do is tighten our boot straps, pull our pants up high, be a man about it and keep plugging away," Arrington said. "But you get so tired of going through this."
Added Killings: "This is a very tough loss. We just have to regroup. We have to go out there and figure out how to get more out of ourselves as a defense."