At 2-3, the Redskins are tied with San Francisco for 11th in the race for the six NFC playoff berths, but they're actually in worse shape because the 49ers, Green Bay and Arizona each have a conference victory. Only winless Detroit (0-5) and Tampa Bay (0-3) are as bad off in NFC play as Washington (0-3). And the Redskins are in last place (0-2) in the NFC East, trailing Philadelphia, Dallas and the New York Giants, all at least .500 overall and in conference and division games.
"We can't afford to lose any more in the division," receiver Antwaan Randle El said.
But Washington can't gain any ground in the conference or division tiebreakers until November because its next two games are against Tennessee and Indianapolis of the AFC followed by their bye week.
Where the Redskins played their best in the crucial division games last year -- the dramatic 14-13 victory in Dallas in Week 2 and the consecutive thumpings of the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles to close the season -- their two worst games of 2006 have come against the Cowboys and Giants, getting outgained 778 to 409 and outscored 46-13.
"It's very humbling," fullback Mike Sellers said of Sunday's 19-3 loss at Giants Stadium. "We just didn't show up. I don't know if guys started getting a big head about the offense after (the 36-30 victory over) Jacksonville. It was a quiet ride home yesterday."
Those one-sided losses to Dallas (27-10) and New York further exposed some recurring headaches such as third-down efficiency (20 percent in the two games), eight passes allowed of at least 20 yards, nine sacks surrendered and just 309 passing yards. In Washington's other three games, those figures are 50 percent third down efficiency, 13 completions of at least 20 yards allowed, one sack surrendered and 753 passing yards.
Washington's offense hasn't reached the end zone in NFC East play while scoring eight touchdowns in non-division games. And quarterback Mark Brunell's passer rating was 63.9 against the Cowboys and Giants compared to 107.1 against Minnesota, Houston and Jacksonville.
"We're used to making things happen and we didn't," Gibbs said. "Sometimes it's probably not explainable. One week doesn't guarantee you the next week. You can play real good and the next week, if you don't play great football, then you get in trouble and that's exactly what happened (in New York)."
Quotes and Notes
--After two years in which K John Hall was sidelined for nearly half the games because of a series of pulled muscles, it seemed that offseason abdominal surgery had finally put those problems to rest.
Other than a last-minute 48-yarder in the opener against Minnesota, Hall had made his other eight field goals tries, two from 44 and 46 yards. Only three kickers with as many attempts had been as accurate. And after supplanting punter Derrick Frost on kickoffs in Week 2, Hall had pounded the ball, on average, to the opposing 5-yard line.
But the 32-year-old Hall, who complained of a tired leg late last week and went 1-for-2 against the Giants while not kicking off, now has a strained quadriceps and a strained groin and could well be sidelined yet again. The Redskins will audition five kickers, including last season's fill-in, Nick Novak today.
"It's very discouraging for John and for all of us," said Redskins director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer.
Hall, who kicked his 200th field goal on October 1 against Jacksonville, is 11th among active players with 886 points in a 10-year career that began as a rookie free agent out of Wisconsin with the New York Jets in 1997.
--Hall isn't the only Redskin fighting the injury bugaboo. Defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, who missed the Houston and Jacksonville games after straining his right cal against Dallas, strained his left calf against the Giants.
Tyer said that this calf injury is similar to the previous one which kept Salave'a out of those two games. So with the Redskins having just two games before the bye, rookie Kedric Golston could return to the lineup and Salave'a might not get back on the field until November.
--Washington traded with San Francisco for receiver Brandon Lloyd and gave the restricted free agent a big contract. However, Lloyd was shut out against the Giants and has just six catches for 75 yards.
"It's hard to explain," Gibbs said. "He played a ton."
--DT Cornelius Griffin strained a hip flexor and quadriceps against the Giants but is expected to start against Tennessee.
--FS Sean Taylor forced a fumble against the Giants, giving him two this season and seven in his 35 career games.
--LB Marcus Washington injured a hip against the Giants but is expected to make his 38th straight start on Sunday.
--G Randy Thomas started against the Giants and didn't further injure his ailing hamstring.--CB Shawn Springs, out since straining a groin on Sept. 20 in his first practice in pads since undergoing abdominal surgery on Aug. 15, is due to return to individual drills on Wednesday. It's still unlikely that Springs could play before the Oct. 22 game at Indianapolis.
Report Card vs. Giants
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- QB Mark Brunell had a forgettable game with just 109 yards, just two weeks after setting an NFL record with 22 straight completions at Houston and a week after throwing three TDs to WR Santana Moss, including the 68-yard game-winner in overtime, last week against Jacksonville. Moss managed just 39 yards on three catches, two yards less TE Chris Cooley gained on his team-high four catches. Does expensive new WR Brandon Lloyd still play for this team? Why didn't offensive boss Al Saunders test the Giants' porous downfield coverage or at least try some creative stuff underneath when New York played cover-2?
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- RBs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, who had slashed Houston and Jacksonville for 358 yards, were held to two yards on each of their first three carries. That was a sign of things to come. Portis made some nice runs en route to gaining 76 yards on 19 carries, but he didn't take over the game. Betts was never heard from again and T.J. Duckett, active for the first time in three weeks, didn't get on the field even when Washington had third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 at the New York 24.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- This area has been a negative every week. Washington surrendered completions of at least 23 yards on New York's four scoring drives before garbage time. Giants WR Plaxico Burress burned FS Sean Taylor for 46 yards to set up a FG and later beat him to the right corner of the end zone for the game's only TD. Third CB Mike Rumph was toasted by WR Amani Toomer on a 44-yard catch that also set up a field goal. And after breaking loose with four sacks last week, the rush reverted to its sackless ways.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Giants RB Tiki Barber picked up nine yards on his first carry, not the 57 yards in last year's 36-0 New York home romp. Barber rushed for 123 yards overall, not the 206 he ripped the Redskins for last year. But Barber was very effective again with a 5.3-yard average. No Redskin really made anything happen against the run.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus -- K John Hall hit from 39 yards before hooking a 42-yarder left in what could have been his final game as a Redskin, as his injury problems have struck again. P Derrick Frost had a solid day but again nothing spectacular. KR Rock Cartwright had his worst day of the season, averaging just 17.8 yards. The kickoff coverage, which was sterling in 2005, continued its disappointing season. Hardly a special day on special teams.COACHING: D -- Yes, the Redskins smartly got off the schneid two weeks ago in Houston and followed by beating Jacksonville thanks to a Moss-delivered flourish. But the games that really matter are the ones in the conference, especially the division. The Redskins are now 0-3 in the NFC, 0-2 in the NFC East. The ultimate responsibility for the flat effort belongs to coach Joe Gibbs, now the NFL's highest-paid motivator. Saunders, assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams and special teams coach Danny Smith join in this shoddy showing.