September 28, 2003
Pats Let This One Get Away
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
LANDOVER, MD -- The Redskins did everything they could to give away the game on Sunday, but in the end the Patriots couldn't quite take it from them.
Leading 20-17 with just under two minutes left in the game and with the ball at their own 22-yard line, Washington committed three penalties and then gave New England the ball at the Redkins 45 with a chance to tie the football game.
Out came a banged up Tom Brady who had earlier followed up his three interceptions with two touchdown passes to get his team back in the game. All New England needed to do at that point was to get a first down and put kicker Adam Vinatieri in position to tie the score and force overtime.
However on 1st down Brady overthrew a double-covered Deion Branch on a deep crossing pattern. Then on second down Brady threw a 5-yard pass to Larry Centers, and New England followed up that play on 3rd down with a runningback draw to Centers for a gain of just two yards.
With the game on the line rather than use their final timeout to discuss their options the coaching staff instead had Brady bring his team to the line and run the next play, which was a crossing pattern downfield to tight end Daniel Graham. With tight coverage on Graham the pass fell incomplete and the game was over.
There appeared to be a fair amount of disbelief on the Patriots sideline. After all, it was the first time that the Patriots had lost a game by three points or less with Brady at the helm.
But the game had been lost long before that final drive.
New England miscues were the difference in the football game. The Patriots had four turnovers in the game, including a fumble by runningback Kevin Faulk early in the third quarter that eventually lead to a Redskins touchdown to put them up 13-3. That touchdown was then followed up by a rare miss on a 46-yard field goal attempt by Vinatieri. That gave Washington the ball at their own 36-yard line.
The Patriots then seemed to catch a break on the Redskins fourth play from scrimmage when runingback Trung Candidate was caught from behind by cornerback Tyrone Poole, who punched the ball out.
But with the ball rolling around on the ground Willie McGinest instead of trying to dive on the ball apparently felt that he would be better served to try and block wide receiver Rod Gardner out of the play. The only problem was that McGinest missed completely, and Gardner ended up recovering the football at New England's 12-yard line.
Two plays later Washington was in the endzone, and with the score now 20-3 the game ended up being out of reach for New England.
The Patriots certainly had their share of chances. Two of Brady's three interceptions were made inside the Redskins' 10-yard line, including one in the endzone which ended potential scoring drives.
On paper when looking at the statistics all signs would have pointed to a win for New England. The Patriots held Washington to 3-of-11 on third down (27%) while converting 7-of-15 (47%) themselves. They also outgained the Redskins 387-250.
They even had one fewer penalty than Washington, committing 8 for 64-yards while the Redskins were flagged nine times for 75-yards. The Patriots also held the edge in time of possession, holding the ball for 33:39 compared to just 26:21 for Washington.
In the end looking back at Sunday's game, with seven starting players on the inactive list it's amazing the game ended up being as close as it was. New England was just one field goal away from forcing overtime, but after missing a 46-yard a field goal earlier in the game and facing a possible 55-yard field goal attempt, apparently the coaching staff felt that Vinatieri wouldn't be able to knot the score and send the game into overtime.
It's a frustrating loss to say the least, and the road doesn't get any easier. Heading to Foxboro next Sunday are the red-hot Tennessee Titans who have won two in a row and are 3-1 on the season. So far this season Titans quarterback Steve McNair has thrown 8-touchdowns and just one interception, and could give a depleted Patriots defense their fair share of problems.
With the loss New England finishes September at 2-2, tied with Buffalo for second in the AFC East, one game behind Miami who is 2-1 and was idle this week.
But for now the players and their coaches will likely look back on Sunday's game as one that "got away". There is plenty of football still left to be played, but hopefully the loss isn't a sign of things to come.
Otherwise if it is it will be a long and painful season, and there's not a lot of players left on New England's roster who aren't experiencing any.
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