Disappointed 'Skins limp toward finish

Dubious records possible in finale vs. Giants

Pro football

December 30, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,[Sun reporter]

A season of unfulfilled expectations and forgettable performances comes to its merciful end tonight for the Washington Redskins when they meet the New York Giants at FedEx Field. What started last summer with talk of a Super Bowl will conclude with a laundry list of deficiencies to fix in the offseason.

The Redskins are looking to avoid finishing with the worst record ever by a Joe Gibbs-coached team. Even a victory for the Redskins (5-10) over the Giants (7-8) might not prevent this from being called the most disappointing season in franchise history.

"It's a big deal for us, I know it's a big deal for our fans, we want to finish this the right way," Gibbs said earlier this week. "I think our guys have been playing with a lot of pride. This will be something where we see if we can do it again."

After showing some improvement in recent weeks, the injury-depleted defense was skewered for nearly 600 yards in Sunday's 37-31 overtime loss at St. Louis. Ranked 30th in the league, the Redskins defense could set several team records for futility as well as an NFL record with a similar performance against the Giants.

While the amount of yardage the Redskins have surrendered - 390 yards shy of a team mark - is a sore point this season, so is the lack of turnovers created by the defense. Washington has 12 take-aways - six interceptions and six fumble recoveries - and needs three to avoid setting a league record for the fewest in a 16-game season.

"It is a key part of our season," Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach for defense, said of the dearth of turnovers.

The same goes for injuries. Cornerback Shawn Springs will finish the season where he started, sidelined by an injury, after breaking his shoulder in the first series against St. Louis. The defense will also be without linebacker Marcus Washington, who was put on injured reserve last week with a knee injury.

The injury to Washington will give rookie Rocky McIntosh, who had played sparingly in the first 14 games, his second straight start.

Asked if this has been his toughest season in coaching, Williams said, "I don't know if it's the toughest of my career. It has been a tough year in respect to the fact that we want to have done better in all areas. We're going to tear it down as soon as the season is over and we will work to improve it the next time we come around."

The Redskins will try to continue building on what they have accomplished offensively in recent weeks. Running back Ladell Betts will go for a franchise-record sixth straight game with 100 yards or more. Second-year quarterback Jason Campbell will go for a third straight game without a turnover.

Each will have to do a little better than he did last week for the Redskins to finish on a winning note. Betts made a critical fumble late in the fourth quarter when the Redskins had a chance to win in regulation. Campbell missed several wide-open receivers.

"It has been a good experience," Campbell said of his first six NFL starts. "I wish we had a lot more wins. We lost some tough, really close ones. It is something that you can build off of. I feel like we are so close to getting over the edge to being a good football team."

The Giants might be the perfect remedy for a feel-good season finale, given how dysfunctional they have become.

After a 6-2 start, the Giants have collapsed and might have packed it in with Sunday's 30-7 loss to New Orleans at Giants Stadium. Embattled coach Tom Coughlin demoted offensive coordinator John Hufnagel this week after a string of poor outings by quarterback Eli Manning.

Still, a win tonight could save Coughlin's job and put the Giants in the playoffs.

"We have kind of approached this from that standpoint for quite some time now. It is a one-game schedule for us," Coughlin said.

"We have a chance to be an 8-8 team and be in the playoffs. We have to recognize this, play our best football, rise up and overcome some of the things that we have done as of late that put us in position in games and not allowed us to win."

The Redskins would like one more positive memory to take with them into what has the makings of a very interesting, and busy, offseason.

"We want to win, period," Gibbs said.

Notes -- Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey will miss the game because of an ankle injury. Shockey didn't practice all week and did not accompany the team to Washington. ... Redskins linebacker Khary Campbell, the team's leading tackler on special teams, will miss the game with a hamstring injury.don.markus@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Keys to the game

Giant meltdown

Have the Giants tanked? All the Giants have to do to rid themselves of Tom Coughlin is to play as they have the past two weeks, in particular Sunday in a 30-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints. They didn't show much in what was probably Tiki Barber's last game at home, so don't figure on the Giants playing hard tonight in what will likely be Barber's farewell.

Give it to Betts

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