LANDOVER - The Washington Redskins delivered a present to a team that desperately needed one.
Armed with a chance to resuscitate their quickly fading playoff hopes, the Redskins ended those dreams by committing five turnovers that the New York Giants converted into 21 points in a 27-21 NFC East victory before 78,635 at FedEx Field.
The loss eliminated Washington (5-8) from the NFC playoff race. Conversely, New York kept a faint glimmer of hope by ending a two-game losing streak and improving to 7-6.
"The turnovers were crucially bad," said Washington coach Steve Spurrier, who is in danger of suffering his first losing season as a coach since his rookie year in 1987, when Duke finished 5-6. "We did some good things, but unfortunately, we turned it over."
Offensive guard Tre Johnson was a bit more blunt, saying, "You can respect somebody who comes out here and beats you up. You have to respect that this person is better than you. But when you go out and make that many mistakes to give the game away, it makes you mad."
Unlike their matchup three weeks ago when the Giants walked away with a two-point, rain-drenched win aided by former Washington kicker James Tuthill's blocked field-goal attempt in the waning seconds, the Redskins could blame only themselves for yesterday's setback.
Washington's offense - under quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who was replaced by rookie Patrick Ramsey in the third quarter to boisterous cheers - misfired on four of its first five trips into New York territory and surrendered four turnovers to a New York defense that started two backup linebackers and two reserve cornerbacks.
The offense, which posted a season-high 447 yards, also was flagged for seven of the team's 12 penalties - four were false starts - and punt returner Champ Bailey fumbled away a fair catch in the third quarter that the Giants turned into a touchdown.
Of the offense's four turnovers, a fumble by wide receiver Derrius Thompson (six catches for a career-high 122 yards) and a Wuerffel interception led to two touchdown passes from New York quarterback Kerry Collins (17-for-31 for 212 yards) to wide receiver Amani Toomer and fullback Charles Stackhouse.
Perhaps the mostly costly fumble, however, occurred on the Redskins' second-to-last possession of the game. Trailing by six, Washington marched 32 yards to the Giants' 42-yard line.
On second-and-eight with 4:12 left in the game, Ramsey found wide receiver Darnerien McCants open on a 12-yard slant. But defensive back Kato Serwanga, who was waived by the Redskins last week, burned his former team by stripping McCants from behind, and strong safety Shaun Williams picked up the fumble and returned it to the 43.
The Washington defense eventually forced New York to punt with 55 seconds left, but Ramsey's Hail Mary from 54 yards away was knocked down as time ran out.
"We were on a good drive," said McCants, who - as one of the young players Spurrier had singled out for needing more playing time last week - was guilty of a 15-yard taunting penalty that halted a Redskins drive in the third quarter. "We would've been in scoring range, and he [Serwanga] popped out the ball."
Said Serwanga: "I hit him from the back and pushed my hand through like we are taught, and the ball came loose."
Serwanga also was instrumental on Bailey's fumble with 2:20 left in the third quarter. The third-year cornerback who took over the punt return duties after Jacquez Green was released last month signaled a fair catch at Washington's 21-yard line.
But Bailey misjudged the distance of the punt, and as he stepped forward to cup the ball, it bounced off his hands and was recovered by Serwanga at the 21-yard line.
Two plays later, Tiki Barber (20 carries for 96 yards) bulled his way into the end zone from the 1 to give the Giants a 24-14 advantage.
"I just misjudged it," Bailey said. "It's all about catching, and I didn't catch it. I thought it was going a little deeper than it did."
After throwing a career-high three touchdowns in a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Wuerffel struggled to move the offense as he was sacked five times while completing 13 of 19 passes for 159 yards.
When Wuerffel left the game after spraining his right shoulder with 8:42 left in the third quarter, Ramsey entered the game to thunderous applause.
In his first extended action since Oct. 20, the Tulane product showed little rust in completing 12 of 27 passes for 204 yards and a 13-yard touchdown to Rod Gardner with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
"I feel like I did some things well, and I feel there is obviously some things I could do better," said Ramsey, who will start in Philadelphia against the Eagles next week. "We didn't win, so I'm not really fired up about my performance."