It's not often that an NFL team goes for it on 4th-and-four in the first half of a preseason game. But head coach Joe Gibbs wanted to do something--anything--to establish some positive momentum for the Redskins' struggling offense.
It worked. Mark Brunell completed a 7-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El to give the Redskins a first down in Saturday's preseason game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
It all went to no avail. The Redskins have struggled to score points all preseason, and the problems continued when John Hall's 43-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
The Redskins would go on to lose to the Patriots in disappointing--perhaps even startling--fashion. The final score was 41-0, and as the score indicates, the Patriots dominated all phases of the game.
The Redskins' offense compiled just 154 total yards, and just 80 yards passing. The pass protection units yielded seven sacks, including three on Brunell.
The Redskins' defense yielded 465 total yards to a Patriots offense that was both efficient and big-play oriented. For the second preseason game in a row, the Redskins' run defense was porous, allowing 171 total rushing yards.
"We're going through a real tough time," Gibbs said in his post-game comments. "The way you get out of that is all of us together. We have a hard-working group. We're being tested and when you go through a test, you find out what you're made of. The biggest thing for us is getting out of this."
The Redskins are now 0-3 in the preseason and have been outscored 87-17. Washington closes out its preseason next Thursday night at FedExField, against the Baltimore Ravens.
After that, the real games begin. The Redskins open on Sept. 11 in a nationally televised Monday Night game against the Minnesota Vikings. By that time, the Redskins' offense will certainly have to develop a rhythm, the defense will have to become stouter and the special teams will have to be shore up its mistakes.
From the get-go of Saturday's game, the Redskins struggled against a talented Patriots' squad led by Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
In the first quarter, the Redskins' defense yielded two long drives to Brady and the Patriots. Despite blitzes, Brady was able to sidestep the rush or get off his pass just in time.
The first drive was in grind-it-out fashion. It was aided by a pass interference penalty on Carlos Rogers, who appeared to tackle wide receiver Reche Caldwell just a second before Brady's pass arrived. The penalty added 17 yards to a drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal by kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
For the Redskins, Brunell started at quarterback and quickly completed a 14-yard pass to Chris Cooley. But the drive stalled when a pass to Santana Moss was just out of his reach.
The Patriots used two big plays to build a 10-0 first quarter lead. First, running back Corey Dillon broke free down the right sideline for a 39-yard gain. Then Brady connected on a 36-yard pass to wide receiver Troy Brown. Rookie running back Laurence Maroney capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Late in the first half, the Redskins put together a solid drive that included a 10-yard run by Ladell Betts and Randle El's fourth-down conversion.
On Hall's 43-yard field goal attempt, the Patriots' defensive line collapsed the interior Redskins line and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork got a hand on the football. It wobbled toward the end zone and landed at the 5-yard line, well short.
The Patriots scored two more times in the second quarter to build a commanding 20-0 halftime lead.
Brady connected with tight end Ben Watson on a 35-yard pass completion, then found Watson again on a 6-yard touchdown pass. Watson faked pass protection on a blitz by Adam Archuleta, then suddenly broke toward the goal line. Brady tossed a pass to Watson just before Archuleta could reach the quarterback.
Late in the first half, the Redskins' offense was pinned deep in its own territory on two drives. The Patriots responded with strong pressure and sacked Brunell three times, by linebackers Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin and defensive lineman Ty Warren.
In the third quarter, the Redskins' starting unit returned to the field, except with Duckett at running back. Duckett, making his debut as a Redskins, bulldozed ahead for a 6-yard gain on his first carry, but he finished with just eight rushing yards on four carries.
Even when things went well for the Redskins, it seemed they backfired in the end. Midway through the third quarter, Mike Rumph intercepted a Brady pass in the end zone, but Kenny Wright was called for defensive holding, giving the Patriots a 1st-and-goal at the Redskins' 2-yard line.
One play later. fullback Heath Evans barreled in for a 1-yard touchdown run, giving the Patriots a 27-0 edge.
Todd Collins replaced Brunell at quarterback and many of the Redskins' backups entered the game. Collins played just two drives, throwing one pass for an 11-yard gain. Brunell finished with 7-of-16 passes completed for 51 yards.
Coaches were clearly upset about the first-team's performance, but they also had to stay focused on one of the game's primary tasks: to get a closer look at and evaluate players competing for backup jobs.
Plenty of youngsters saw action in the final quarter, including Jason Campbell. Playing most of the fourth quarter, Campbell completed 8-of-16 passes for 76 yards, and he also scrambled for 26 yards of rushing. Like Brunell and Collins, he was unable to guide the Redskins' offense into the end zone.