For one brief, euphoric moment it appear as if Santana Moss had given the Washington Redskins a ray of hope in an otherwise discouraging season.
He had just pulled in a touchdown pass from Rex Grossman with under a minute to play in the fourth quarter to bring the Redskins within one. An extra point would have tied it and a two-point conversion would have given them the lead.
But that moment slipped away with the sight of a yellow penalty flag lying on the field.
It’s been that kind of season for the Redskins. Moss was called for offensive pass interference and that potential breakthrough victory once again eluded Mike Shanahan.
Grossman looked Moss’ way again on third and goal, but Moss knocked the ball into the air and Jerod Mayo intercepted it to give the Patriots a 34-27 victory – their tenth win of the season and the ninth straight year they’ve reached that number.
In case you were wondering, the Redskins have just one 10-win season since 2000. It’s not easy to reinvent a franchise when they can’t seem to escape the habit of finding ways to lose.
"[The Patriots are] a winning organization and that's what we're going to become,” said Roy Helu, who became the Redskins' first rookie running back to rush for over 100 yards in three straight games. “I'm very confident in that."
Sometimes you wonder about that. The Redskins have had a handful of scrappy performances against superior teams this season, but they haven’t translated into wins.
“You look back at [our schedule] at the end of the season you’re going to say, ‘Well, when we played the Patriots we had an L by it,’” Moss said. “We didn’t win, so regardless of what they did or how high people put them, they came out and did what they were supposed to do.”
New England has made a habit out of winning football games regardless of circumstance. Remarkable that even on a day when they weren’t at their best, they were fearsome.
Tom Brady -- for all his hiccups on Sunday including a rare red zone interception with an opportunity to ice the game -- was masterful when he needed to be, reeling off two touchdown drives to open the second half. Rob Gronkowski continued on his path of destruction and former Redskins Andre Carter even got in on the action with a sack fumble that resulted in a touchdown.
Ryan Kerrigan said it best after the game: “They do what they do and they do it well.”
Yet for nearly 60 minutes, the Redskins hung with New England, thanks to one of Kyle Shanahan’s best games as the team’s offensive coordinator. He mixed up the run (33) and pass (36) beautifully and snuck in a Brandon Banks touchdown pass to Moss for good measure.
“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” said Mike Shanahan on being asked if this was Washington’s best offensive performance of the year.
Washington had more first downs, total yards and held the ball longer than New England, but it didn’t matter. The Patriots read Winning Football Games for Dummies years ago while the Redskins still have their copy on back order.
“When it comes down to it, it’s another loss,” said Stephen Bowen. “Who cares how good we played and [that] we almost won. Almost won doesn’t cut it.”
There’s no tougher task than altering the mindset of a franchise so beset by losing and the Redskins are experiencing that this year. It’s admirable to see them continue to battle each and every week, but until they learn to win these close games, it’ll be more of the same.