Monday, December 29, 2008

Ending the Hard Way

Rams game redux

Takeaway drill: a loss is a loss, it is tough to swallow when the unit that made you good lets you down in the end, at the end. And thus an up and down game ends an up and down season.


Monday walkthrough: on a balmy 50 degree night in San Francisco the Redskins get behind early and trade blows before falling to the 49ers 27-24, ending the season at 8-8. In an eery replay of the Rams game from week six another inferior NFC West team played Washington close to the end and scored a winning field goal as time expired.

The 49ers won the toss and elected to take the ball to start the first quarter, Frank Gore starts San Francisco's first drive strong with a seven yard run to the right then a Wildcat direct snap to Frank for a first down. San Francisco changed up to DeShaun Foster after that, there was not a pass until the fifth play, a 29 yard pass to tight end Billy Bajema. The 49ers move methodically on mostly runs before quarterback Shaun Hill runs it in from two yards out to cap a 10 play five plus minute drive to put San Francisco up 7-0. Washington got the ball for the first time on their 28 yard line and it is a weak weak three and out, the Redskins are punting. San Francisco's second possession starts on their 35 after a meh Ryan Plackemeier punt, the 49ers make their way down to the Redskins 30 yard line but a bobbled snap dooms a Joe Nedney field goal try and the Redskins get the ball for second time in good field position. James Thrash gets his obligatory catch and Santana Moss figures on a first down catch before Jason Campbell scrambles for nine and another first down. Clinton Portis bangs it twice to end the quarter with the 49ers leading 7-0.

The Redskins continue their second drive deep in 49ers territory to start the second quarter, two more Clinton Portis runs totaling nine yards and the Redskins score to tie the game at 7-7. The 49ers get the ball for the third time and go two plays before Carlos Rogers lag 49ers leading receiver Josh Morgan and intercepts Shaun Hill's pass, it was too far outside the receiver, and returns the ball 31 yards to give the Redskins the ball on the San Francisco 23 yard line. Washington's third possession starts with a near interception of Jason Campbell by linebacker Manny Lawson intended for Santana, no room to run and Shaun Suisham sets up and kicks a 41 yard field goal to put the Redskins up 10-7. The 49ers fourth possession starts with a Shaun Hill fumble-bobble for a nine yard loss, San Francisco cannot recover and punts three plays later. Washington's fourth possession is looooong 78 yards, 16 plays and nine plus minutes, nine running plays and seven passing plays including four straight handoffs to Clinton Portis at midfield, one of which was on fourth and less than one, the drive ended with a first and goal pass from the six to Antwaan Randle El for a touchdown to put the Redskins up 17-7. San Francisco got the ball for the fifth time with 26 seconds left in the half and tried to make something happen there was nothing doing and the half ended with the Redskins leading 17-7.

Washington got the ball for the fifth time to start the third quarter, after a run and two passes Clinton Portis fumbled on second and ten to give the ball back to the 49ers for the sixth time on the Washington 38 yard line. San Francisco takes advantage old school and runs the ball five times in a row, twice to Frank Gore and three times to DeShaun Foster to score from one yard out to bring the game to 17-14 Redskins. Washington's sixth possession starts with a 38 yard Rock Cartwright return but is another deadful three and out that started with a sack of Jason Campbell for thirteen yards through Pete Kendall. San Francisco's seventh drive starts after a 50 yard Ryan Plackemeier punt with a false start and it is three and out from there on three consecutive Shaun Hill incompletions. The Redskins begin their seventh possession on their own 26 and three and out, the game is becoming a hassle at this point, a bad Ryan Plackemeier punt with a good roll puts the 49ers at their eighteen yard line for their eighth drive. Frank Gore fumbles the ball on first down but Delanie Walker recovered the ball for the first down. Then Andre Carter collapses the pocket on first down for the sack of Shaun Hill, it is three and out from there. Washington's eighth possession starts after a fair catch at the Washington eleven yard line, the Redskins can manage 23 yards on eight plays, the feature play was a nine yard pass to Santana Moss on first down, the quarter ended on three straight passes by Jason Campbell, the final one to Chris Cooley for fourteen yards on third and ten with the Redskins leading 17-10.

The fourth quarter started with the Redskins driving on first down at midfield, it was three and out from there and the Redskins were punting, Santana had the ball in his hands on second and six but was hit by former Redskins cornerback Walt Harris, then Santana dropped another easy one on the next play. San Francisco's ninth drive starts with four straight completions, four plays later Shaun Hill hits receiver Jason Hill for the touchdown from nine yards out on first and goal to put the 49ers ahead 21-17. Washington responded on their ninth drive with a brilliant three and out that featured a nine yard catch by Chris Cooley on second and nine, Ryan Plackemeier booted a 51 yard punt to turn the ball back over to the 49ers for the tenth time, Allen Rossum returned the ball 35 yards to midfield. Shaun Hill scraps San Francisco down to the Redskins 16 yard line where Joe Nedney kicks a 33 yard field goal to put the 49ers up 24-17. Washington gets the ball for the tenth time, that drive started with a 43 yard Rock Cartwright kickoff return. After a batted pass on first down Chris Cooley catches a twelve yard pass for a first. Santana caught a twelve yarder, Stephon Heyer did not help things with a false start. Jason Campbell took matters into his own hands and ran for 23 yards on the next play, it was a busted play and showed good field awareness. Then on fourth and goal from the two, Jason cannot find the receiver he wants and runs it in for the score to tie the game at 24-24. The play was reviewed and upheld. San Francisco got the ball back for the eleventh and final time at their own 27 yard line, two plays made the difference, Shaun Hill on third and one to tailback Michael Robinson for 19 yards and one spike later Shaun to reciver Bryant Johnson for 24 yards. A spike and a kneel down later and Joe Nedney is lining up for a 39 yard field goal, it is wobbly and good, time expires and the 49ers win the game 27-24. And with that the Redskins 2008 season ends.


Soapbox: the 49ers set the tone early, announcing they were going to play this game where the Redskins are most vulnerable on defense, at the line, and for a while it worked. Ultimately though it was the arm of journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill and the openness of his receivers that won this game.


As it often and unfairly does, it came down to one play, on second and ten from the Redskins 45 yard line with 31 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 24 all, the Redskins defense appeared somewhat confused by the 49ers quick huddle after the quick huddle following the first down spike of the ball by Shaun Hill. On the resulting play Shaun found receiver Bryant Johnson for 24 yards to put them into field goal range, Shawn Springs got turned around and the middle of the field was wide open. Two plays later it was game over.

As with the Rams game, it was the defense that kept the Redskins in the game but let the team down at the end. And as with that week six game, it is unfair to blame the loss on the defense, the offense could have put up more points to be sure, but sometimes you need to do more than the more you usually do. It is not fair but that is football, a stop on either of those two long passes at the end of the game would have forced overtime, a condition that would not have guaranteed victory but would have allowed either a Redskins drive or a Redskins defensive reset. It is true in football as in business and in life that we expect our best performers to step up even when they deserve a break.

More to come in this soapbox.


Chattering class:


Omnibus: uniform watch: Washington takes the field in my preferred combination, white jerseys and burgundy pants.

In the pregame coverage we learned tailback Clinton Portis has more 100 yard rushing games than any Redskin in team history. Pretty cool.

The guys in the booth called Ryan plackemeier's 35 yard first punt quote kind of shanked unquote.

On the 49ers end around to receiver Jason Hill on the next possession, rookie safety Chris Horton came all the way from the left side of the line through traffic to the make the tackle way out on the right sideline, that guy has terrific pursuit and he is the gem of the 2008 draft. And on the next play he made first contact with fellow UCLA alumni DeShaun Foster, a great hit, I love this guy.

Great falling down catch on that second 49ers drive by NFL old man Isaac Bruce, he tipped the ball back to himself and tucked it up under his body as he neared the sideline, the altheticism of these guys, I love this game.

After scoring the Redskins first touchdown Clinton Portis ran to the first row of the stands and gave the ball to a lady Redskins fan wearing a Clinton jersey, the camera cut away to her after the handoff, that made her day.

How about that? A Carlos Rogers interception in the second quarter with a good return, I wanted Carlos to take that in for six soooo badly.

The Redskins second touchdown drive of the second quarter was a masterful example of Redskins football, ball control and controlled passing, nine minutes and sixteen plays, that is Redskins football.

In the second quarter Santana Moss went over the thousand yard receiving mark for the third time, in 2003 with the Jets, in 2005 when he set a Redskins receiving record and this season. Thank you Santana, that is why I wear your jersey on game day.

Jason Campbell does not hesitate to run when he has to, he is very hard to tackle, five eleven 205 pound San Francisco cornerback Mark Roman came in on a blitz in the second quarter, Mark bounced off six five 230 pound Jason Campbell on Jason's way to a first and goal to set up Antwaan Randle El's touchdown catch.

Pre halftime broadcast coverage bumper answered neighbor Bill's question, who was the last Redskins head coach to win nine games in his first season? Answer: George Allen in 1971 at 9-4-1.

The Jason Campbell sack to start the third quarter was all on Pete Kendall.

Quote Andre Carter collapses the pocket unquote is something I have not said all season until the third quarter of this game when he pushed through for the sack of Shaun Hill.

On second and ten with 31 seconds left in the game the Redskins were caught off guard by the 49ers on the quick huddle after a spike to stop the clock, Bryant Johnson got open easily in the middle of the field after juking Shawn Springs. That was the game killer right there.






Washington Post / AP recap, box score, play by play, photos. NFL recap, box score, full play by play, Gamebook (PDF), photos.

Other recaps:

Next up, nada, niente, into the nothingness, that is the end my friends for the 2008 season. Stay tuned for continuing offseason coverage of the Washington Redskins right here at The Curly R.

Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs denying 49ers receiver Bryant Johnson catching a fourth quarter touchdown reception: Paul Sakuma / AP photo from here. Into nothingness from here.