Not Playing to Win

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Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan decided not to go for the win after his Redskins had pulled to within a point of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Santana Moss’ 6-yard touchdown catch with nine seconds left in the game. The Redskins first year coach gave his hand picked place kicker the opportunity to send the game into overtime. After going 1 of 3 on field goal attempts on this rainy Sunday afternoon Gano who leads the league in missed field goals, was given a reprieve when Shananhan’s hand picked long snapper Nick Sundberg’s high snap went through holder Hunter Smith’s hands. The bad snap stopped the Washington Redskinsfrom tying the game, giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 17-16 victory 

The Redskins appeared to be playing not to win this game from the start. The offense made three trips into the redzone before coming away with points when QB Donovan McNabb hit rookie tight end Logan Paulsen for his first NFL touchdown catch on fourth and goal from the one. On their next drive the Redskins went from first and ten at their own 40 to first and goal at the Buccaneers five in just two plays, a 19 yard run by Ryan Torain and a screen pass to Keiland Williams that went 36 yards. With a minute and 50 seconds left in the half Williams picked up three yards and the Redskins called a time out. On the next play Williams was held to no gain and the clock ran down from 1:05 to :20 before the team called time out. With no timeouts left on third and two everyone at FedEx Field knew a pass play was coming but for those that weren’t sure, McNabb was flagged for delay of game making it 3rd and 7, of course the pass attempt failed and the Redskins settled for a FG.

There is no mystery as to where the blame goes for this lost, with KR Brandon Banks not being kicked to for the second week in a row the rest of the special teams made sure they left their mark on this game. Redskins linebacker Chris Wilson fumbled away a squib kickoff to start the second half after kicker Graham Gano had hit the left upright from 34 yards out in the first quarter, and then pulled a kick wide left from 24 yards in the second quarter.  Nick Sundberg’s and Hunter Smith’s contributions have been noted.

Running back Ryan Torain carried the ball 10 times on his return from a four game absents due to hamstring injuries, he gained 121 yards and that was in the first quarter. Torain totaled 158 yards on 18 attempts by half time, which is the the highest first-half rushing total in the NFL since Tampa Bay’s linebacker Ronde Barber’s twin brother did it against the Redskins five years ago. For some odd reason Torain only had 15 yards on five carries in the second half, but early in the first half Torain made effective cutbacks to gain yardage and gave the fans a glimpse of how coach Mike Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme should look. Why the Redskins chose not to return to Torain and the ground game in the second half is a mystery. Torain’s disappearance in the second have is almost as baffling as benching your starting quarterback during the last two minutes of the contest with the game on the line. It like Shanahan is playing not to win, but for draft position. Did he pull back the reins on Torain to avoid a repeat of what happened to Clinton Portis.

Speaking of disappearances, why hasn’t safety LaRon Landry and cornerback Carlos Rogers been placed on the injured reserve list. Landry has been inactive due to an Achilles’ tendon injury, has not played since the week ten loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Rogers has been inactive just as much as Landry battling a hamstring injury and returned to the playing field during the week 12 game against the Minnesota Vikings but only played long enough to injury the other hamstring. Neither player has practice in the last few weeks and it may be time to free up those roster spots. If the Redskins aren’t going to play to win than they should be playing for next year. Both players have done enough to secure spots on the roster next year and moving them to IR would allow the team to add potential 2011 contributors to the roster now.

The Washington Redskins went into the 2010 bye week at .500 after posting a 4-12 2009 season, there was a good chance the team could have been 5-3 going into the bye if not for the QB benching that still hasn’t been explained. Maybe head coach Mike Shanahan had seen enough at some point of the Detroit Lions game, because things sure have gotten weird since then. The new regime had the Redskins on course for a potential post season appearance at the mid-way point of the season only to be blown out by two division rivals by a combined score of 90 – 35, and couldn’t prevent a 40 year old quarterback with a bad ankle from picking up 10 yards on a third and eight with the game on the line. Now the Redskins are 5-8 and right in the thick of the race for a top ten draft pick. The coach may or may not be happy with his current QB but before the Redskins went into their tailspin, general manager Bruce Allen signed McNabb to a five year extension that reads like a series of five, one year deals. With so many potential franchise quarterbacks possibly available in the next draft and teams like the Arizona Cardinals with Derek Anderson and Max Hall, and the Minnesota Vikings with Tarvaris Jackson being headed by coaches that prefer a experienced QB there might be a market for Donovan McNabb and his contract. Other teams that might be looking for a quarterback of McNabb’s caliber includes the Carolina Panthers with Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen, the San Francisco 49er’s with Alex and Troy Smith, the Oakland Raiders with Bruce Gradkowski, Kyle Boller, and J.T. O’Sullivan and Jason Campbell, the Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, and the Cincinnati Bengals

A few more losses and the Redskins could be looking at a top five pick which would allow them to keep McNabb and draft their QB of the future. If Shanahan is truly playing not to win, he was doing a pretty good job of hiding it among all of the other turmoil coming out of Ashburn Virginia, but with Albert Haynesworth banned from that location the cat is coming out the bag.

Notes and Quotes:

— “I’ve been held all season, I don’t understand it. I keep saying, I’ve got to keep fighting through it, keep fighting, but I mean, when you’re getting held like this, it’s ridiculous. They’ve got back judges there for a reason, and for them to tell me that he wasn’t looking at the play, he was looking downfield? We’ve got downfield judges for that. He’s the backfield judge, referee. That’s exactly what he told me. It’s very frustrating because that was a huge play that could have turned the game around if I make that play, and I was right there. For someone to hold me around the neck, it’s not fair to the team. It’s not fair to our defense that has been working so hard.” — Linebacker Brian Orakpo on the non-holding call

— “He wasn’t held, he was mugged.” — Head Coach Mike Shanahan on the Orakpo play

— Donovan McNabb threw for 228 yards, two touchdowns and a 109.8 passer rating after reports that he split time with Rex Grossman this week, he has now thrown a touchdown in 12 straight games, the longest such streak by a Washington QB since Joe Theismann did it in 1984.

— “People are going to call for Graham’s head. They’re going to say it was a high snap. They’re going to blame me for dropping it, I’m a 12-year vet and I have to catch the ball and get it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining; it doesn’t matter where the snap is. If anybody needs to lose their job, it’s me, certainly not one of those guys. I certainly accept blame and hope I receive the blame.” — Punter Hunter Smith commenting on the botched game-tying PAT attempt.

— WR Santana Moss had seven catches for 82 yards, he now has 420 career catches with the Redskins and past Ricky Sanders (414) for fifth place in franchise history and is one catch shy of Jerry Smith’s 421 receptions and fourth place on the list. Moss also moved pass Sanders for fifth place in franchise history with 5911 career receiving yards with the Redskins, his 6 yard touchdown catch with nine seconds to play was his 50th career touchdown reception.

— “When you are going through it year after year, it just builds up man, It hurts. I don’t have words for it. I just feel we work too hard to come out here and be mediocre on Sundays. Yeah we (were) in a game, but that ain’t what we play for. … It’s … years of losing. It’s just week in and week out. You work and it’s your job to come out here and play this game of football. Somebody gotta win and somebody gotta lose. But when (you’re) just losing, and you know you had a chance to win — I’m not talking about the last play — I’m talking about throughout the game, throughout the years, throughout the weeks, throughout this year. When you are losing and you don’t have no say-so as to why … it hurts, I’m just getting tired of it. I put too much in it and it means too much.” — Wide Receiver Santana Moss after the Redskins 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay

— Nose tackle Anthony Bryant was active for the third time this season because of the suspension of DL Albert Haynesworth, and said he played more snaps on Sunday than he had since the preseason. The fourth-year player registered one tackle playing in the middle of the line, he said he had about 20 reps

— “We blocked them and we ran very far… All 11 guys really came together today and everybody bought into the system. It paid huge dividends for us.” — Center Casey Rabach on the difference in the run game on Sunday

— “We didn’t make the plays we needed to. We didn’t get off the field when we needed to. I didn’t catch the pick I would have probably took to the house. Gave up a deep ball. There’s plays that’s out there that’s routine plays that we normally make that we didn’t make. It’s execution. Sometimes it feels like you’re cursed a little bit, but that’s definitely not the case. The football gods ain’t cursing us right now. We’re just not executing some plays that’s supposed to be routine. I got a little lazy on a deep ball. Thought it was the smoke route. …I kind of coasted. Receiver ran right past me.” — Cornerback DeAngelo Hall on his performance against the Buccaneers

— “They started the clock early. They communication between me and Kyle [Shanahan] is cut off at 15 [seconds]. We all thought they would at least push the clock up. They started the clock early. We just took a timeout so you obviously can’t go back-to-back with timeouts.” — Quarterback Donovan McNabb on the delay of game at the 2-yard line before halftime

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Bernie Marshall

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