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Flop at goal linesums up season

December 11, 2006 12:50 am

By TAFT COGHILL JR.
By TAFT COGHILL JR.

LANDOVER, Md.--When the Redskins look back on yesterday's 21-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field, they'll probably remember one crucial possession.

The Redskins had dominated the game statistically and were on the verge of completely overcoming a 21-3 deficit when they inexplicably forgot what got them to that point.

Trailing 21-16, they were set up nicely with a first-and-goal at the Eagles' 3-yard line with 6:15 remaining in the game. Running back Ladell Betts had rushed for a career-high 171 yards on 33 carries, but didn't touch the ball in an unsuccessful three-play sequence that sealed coach Joe Gibbs' second losing season in the three years since he returned to the team.

In his post-game press conference, Gibbs stood by the decision to replace Betts with 6-foot, 254-pound backup T.J. Duckett.

"That was a lot of yards rushing," Gibbs said of Betts' big day. "The guy had a fantastic day. T.J. is also our goal-line runner and he goes in on those situations."

Said Betts: "From a competitive standpoint, you always want a shot to get it in. We went with T.J., and it's not the runner's fault. We just didn't capitalize as a team."

The Redskins had driven 82 yards from their own 15 to the Eagles' 3, and Betts had five carries for 20 yards on the drive. Second-year quarterback Jason Campbell had completed a key 13-yard pass to tight end Chris Cooley, and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El executed a reverse pass to perfection when he connected with Brandon Lloyd on a 40-yard pass play down to the Eagles' 18-yard line.

After Campbell scrambled 15 yards on third-and-10 from the 18, the Redskins appeared ready to seize control of the game.

But on first down, Duckett was stopped for no gain. On second down, Cooley fell down on his route and Campbell was forced to throw the ball away. Following a Redskins 5-yard penalty for having 12 men in the huddle, the Eagles brought a blitz and safety Brian Dawkins sacked Campbell for a 9-yard loss.

"He's a playmaker," Eagles safety Michael Lewis said of Dawkins. "You need your playmakers to make plays, and Brian stepped up for us big time."

On fourth down, newly signed kicker Shaun Suisham converted a 35-yard field goal that left the Redskins trailing 21-19 with 4:58 remaining. They never got the ball back as the Eagles were able to run out the clock.

Campbell said he didn't disagree with the decision to use Duckett near the goal line in place of Betts.

"He's a big, physical guy," Campbell said. "You figure when he gets down there, his body size will take it two yards."

Suisham's field goal was his fourth of the game. While he performed better than the departed John Hall and Nick Novak, the Redskins would've preferred touchdowns.

The inability to take the lead late was worrisome to Campbell.

"You know it's disappointing because we got down there on the 3-yard line and it's first-and-3," Campbell said. "So for us not to come away with six or seven points at the time, it kind of stung us a little bit because we know we can get that ball in."

The Redskins gave up a third-round pick for Duckett in a three-team preseason trade. He's considered the team's goal-line specialist, but the former Atlanta Falcon has failed to reach the end zone this season.

In addition to Betts' career-high game, he was coming off a 155-yard performance in a 24-14 loss to Atlanta one week ago. He was signed to a five-year contract extension last week.

He found running lanes through the Eagles' porous run defense all day, racking up 118 yards in the first half alone. However, in the end, the Redskins went with Duckett and two pass plays that officially put to rest any hopes of a second consecutive playoff berth.

"We were doing what we wanted to do," Betts said. "But at the same time we've got to put seven points on the board instead of three."

To reach TAFT COGHILL JR.: 540/374-5526
Email: tcoghill@freelancestar.com





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