Redskins lose lead, then game with another 4th-quarter fade

Down by 3 in last period, Saints craft 24-20 victory

December 01, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - The Washington Redskins could blame only themselves for letting another fourth-quarter lead slip away.

For the third consecutive week, the Redskins allowed an opponent to rally from a deficit. This time, the New Orleans Saints trailed by three points in the final period, but forged a 24-20 victory on a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Brooks to tight end Boo Williams before 76,821 at FedEx Field yesterday.

The Saints, who turned away two Washington drives in the fourth quarter, improved to 6-6 and kept alive their hopes of a wild-card playoff spot.

The Redskins (4-8), on the other hand, have dropped seven of their past eight games and seemed to agree that they would miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

"I've never been in this situation," offensive tackle Jon Jansen said. "We're going to have to figure out how to deal with it. ... The best we can do is 8-8, and that's not going to get us in the playoffs."

Washington racked up 392 yards of offense to New Orleans' 310, but the Saints did not register a single turnover. The Redskins, however, committed three turnovers - two of which ended promising drives into Saints territory.

Washington also faltered against running back Deuce McAllister, who recorded his ninth straight 100-yard rushing game. His 165 yards on 30 carries tied him for the third-longest streak in NFL history with the Chicago Bears' Walter Payton (1985) and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Fred Taylor (2000).

Redskins coach Steve Spurrier had few answers at his post-game conference.

"I don't know what to say," he said. "It didn't work out for us. Had a lead there for a while, [but] couldn't hold it. ... We didn't get it done tonight."

Washington's formula for losing has become familiar. Against the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago, the Redskins coughed up a four-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost, 20-17.

Against the Miami Dolphins last week, Washington owned a 13-point advantage in the final period and fell, 24-23.

Yesterday, the Redskins took a 20-17 lead with 12:53 left courtesy of John Hall's 49-yard field goal.

Keyuo Craver - who replaced ailing returner Michael Lewis (who sat out with an injury) and then Fred McAfee (who left the game in the second quarter with an injury) - took the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to Washington's 40-yard line.

Six plays later, Brooks - who scored on touchdown runs of 7 and 3 yards - threaded a pass between linebacker LaVar Arrington and free safety Matt Bowen to Williams for the four-point lead with 8:38 left.

The Redskins could not conjure any magic on their next two series. After collecting a first down, both drives stalled in Washington territory.

The loss spoiled several individual performances. Return specialist Chad Morton shook off a high ankle sprain and returned a kickoff 94 yards for the Redskins' first special teams score since Sept. 16, 2002.

Running back Trung Canidate shook off any doubts about his ability to run the football by posting 115 yards on 16 carries. Canidate became the first Washington running back this season to eclipse the 100-yard mark.

And quarterback Tim Hasselbeck completed 22 of 42 passes for 231 yards in his first NFL start. Filling in for Patrick Ramsey (bone bruise and aggravated fracture in the right foot), Hasselbeck seemed comfortable for a quarterback who had joined the team just five weeks ago.

But Hasselbeck made his share of mistakes, throwing an interception to cornerback Fred Thomas in the first quarter and losing a fumble on a scramble in the third.

"I need to be more accurate, I need to have better ball security, I need to make better decisions at times," said Hasselbeck, who could replace Ramsey for the rest of the season if Ramsey's foot continues to bother him. "I just need to continue to do those things, and hopefully, it will translate into getting wins."

NOTES: Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner missed the second half with a bruised forearm. Spurrier said his status for Sunday's game against the New York Giants is uncertain. ... After committing just nine penalties for 78 yards in their previous three games, the Redskins were flagged eight times for 120 yards yesterday. Fifty-four of those yards came on pass interference calls assessed to cornerback Champ Bailey. Bailey vehemently disagreed with the second penalty when he and New Orleans wide receiver Joe Horn collided at Washington's 3-yard line. "I'm standing there holding my ground, and the guy runs into me," Bailey said of the call, which set up Brooks to score his second rushing touchdown of the game. "What am I supposed to do?"

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