EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.--The Redskins got part of it right. For a change. They made big plays, forcing fumbles and intercepting passes and blocking punts. All of which made them feel good. All of which didn't let them win. That's because the Redskins still can't do enough right to beat anyone, let alone a team that reached the Super Bowl last season.
The Giants beat the Redskins, 23-9, in front of 78,651 fans, dropping the Redskins to 0-4. Washington lost end Bruce Smith for at least two weeks with a dislocated shoulder.
''Our team played hard from start to finish,'' Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said. ''But there has to be more than just playing hard. There has to be execution.'' Which there wasn't. At least not at the crucial moments. In some ways it provided the Redskins hope. They played a close game on the road against a division contender. This after a week that started with a meeting between the players and coaches in which the players aired their gripes. They noticed a difference.
''We came together and played as one,'' Redskins tackle Chris Samuels said. On the flipside, New York played without one of its top two running backs and the other one got hurt during the game. Also, the Giants dropped passes and, at times, seemed waiting to be beaten. Yet the Redskins couldn't do it.
''It doesn't really matter how many points you lose by,'' Redskins quarterback Tony Banks said. ''There's nothing we can take out of this game right now. A loss is a loss. It's not like we're Troy State playing well against [Miami]. It's all about producing at this level.''
They couldn't do it because they couldn't run--Stephen Davis gained 39 yards on 12 carries as New York concentrated on stopping him. At times New York had both safeties within eight to nine yards of the line of scrimmage, a few yards closer than typical. They made it difficult to run the ball: Davis ran only twice for no yards in the second half. And the longer the game went, the more the Giants dared the Redskins to pass. The Redskins couldn't do it. At least not well. Banks completed 13 of 31 passes for 151 yards and two interceptions. He underthrew some receivers, overthrew others and was wide on a few more. The Giants also pressured him into numerous hurried throws. Banks' interceptions both proved costly. Corner Jason Sehorn picked off the second one, an out route to Kevin Lockett, and returned it 34 yards for the game-clinching touchdown with 2:57 remaining, giving New York a 23-9 lead.
''I saw that ball coming and I figured I could get my hand on it to slow it down,'' Sehorn said. ''But I bobbled it, caught it and took off.'' Earlier in the fourth quarter, Sehorn prevented Washington from tying the game. Facing third and 10 from the Giants' 17, Banks wanted to hit Lockett in the corner. Problem was, Lockett was double covered. And Sehorn chased down the pass for an interception with 11:28 remaining, spoiling another opportunity. New York had just taken a 16-9 lead on its previous series when tight end Dan Campbell broke free in the back of the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run. Linebacker Eddie Mason got blocked on the play, springing Campbell. The loss ruined a mostly strong day by the defense, particularly end Kenard Lang and linebacker LaVar Arrington. Lang finished with a game-high 13 tackles and recovered a fumble. Their play helped overcome the loss of Smith. And they're the reason why Washington stuffed Giants' back Ron Dayne, limiting him to 39 yards on 16 carries in his half of play. The Giants ran for 142 yards, but only averaged 3.1 yards per carry.
''This builds character,'' Arrington said, ''because we have to endure this and when we look back at these times, we can say we overcame humble beginnings. I can't be but so hurt by this loss. We did what we needed to do to win the game. That's one of the biggest plusses.'' Lang said, ''It's like kissing your sister. There's nothing good [in losing].'' But, for what it's worth, the Giants say the Redskins at least gutted it out. Which isn't what they expected given Washington's dreadful start.
''I thought it would happen like that,'' New York left tackle Lomas Brown said. ''To their credit, they hung in there. There was no folding their tents. A team that folds up doesn't fight like that. That's a credit to them and to their coaching staff.''
The Giants grabbed a 9-6 halftime lead, thanks to a defense that stuffed Washington. And despite an offense that tried to hand the game to the Redskins. Washington's Michael Bates caused a fumble by Amani Toomer on a punt return that Antonio Pierce recovered at the Giants' 20. The Redskins only managed three yards in three plays and settled for a 35-yard Brett Conway field goal, tying the score at 3. Earlier, Morten Andersen kicked a 50-yarder. But the Redskins could have taken the lead one series later. Except they messed up a great opportunity. Washington's Ki-Jana Carter tipped a Rodney Williams punt and the ball bounced around the Giants' 40-yard line. For some reason, the Redskins Central McClellion tried to catch the ball on a bounce rather than run away from it. McClellion couldn't control the ball and New York's Emmanuel McDaniel recovered at the 44.
Washington's defense forced another punt, but the offense managed to place the defense in another hole. This time, Banks fumbled on third and five after end Michael Strahan hit him. Kenny Holmes recovered the fumble at the Redskins' 14. But the defense held, forcing Andersen to kick a 26-yard field goal for a 6-3 lead. The teams swapped field goals the rest of the half. Conway, with the wind at his back, booted a 55-yarder with 11:25 to play in the half. Andersen responded with a 22-yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining, capping a 66-yard drive.
The key plays: a 22-yard pass to Toomer followed by a 17-yard pass interference on corner Fred Smoot, against Toomer, followed by a 14-yard toss to receiver Ike Hilliard. The Giants weren't about to feel bad for Washington that Smith was out. After all, they played minus running back Tiki Barber and Dayne left after halftime. ''I'm happy [Smith] was out,'' Brown said. ''That was a break for us. You take advantage of things like that. They missed him.''