Four turnovers when things were close spelled doom for New England while one of the more courageous efforts in recent memory by the defense had the Patriots in this game right to the last play.
Down 20-3, the Patriots defense stopped Washington time and again as time wound down, enough so Brady and the offense was able to climb back to within three in this one. But a battered Patriots team going in needed just a little more, falling short, 20-17.
The Patriots weathered the first Washington storm as the Skins marched down the field on the first drive and possession of the game. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey worked with Chad Morton and Laveranues Coles down the field until his team found themselves inside the Patriots 10. But a huge sack by Willie McGinest on second and goal knocked back Washington 10 yards. The incomplete pass that followed forced a 38-yard John Hall field goal and a 3-0 Skins lead.
The New England offense, with its banged-up offensive line, bounced right back, putting together a 7:30 drive that resulted in a 23-yard Vinatieri field goal to tie the game.
On the drive, passes to Graham for 20 yards at midfield and Givens for 13 on the next play brought the Patriots into Redskins territory. Two plays later, a pass that bounced off Troy Brown and into Deion Branch's hands 6 yards downfield had New England at the Redskins 11.
The Skins got the ball back and again drove the field, down to the New England 11 where Hall hit a 29-yard field goal to give his team back their three point lead at 6-3. While the Patriots defense was doing a decent job against the run, it was clearly having its problems with the Redskins two best receivers, Coles and Gardner. They were also being victimized by dump-offs to backs.
That was evident on the Skins next drive when Ramsey hit Coles for another big gain, this one 24 yards. But the Patriots defense was playing with a lot of heart and when Asante Samuel broke up a third and 10 play from the New England 30 intended for Gardner, Washington had to attempt yet another field goal.
This time, Dan Klecko broke through and made an outstanding play to block the try and score remained 6-3.
New England had an excellent opportunity to at least tie the game on its next drive. After the blocked field goal, the Patriots took over at the Redskins 32. After a little pass to Faulk for 7 yards, Champ Bailey was flagged for a questionable pass interference call downfield on Bethel Johnson (Johnson left the game with a leg injury). That 25-yard infraction had New England at the Washington 30. After two short runs by Antowain Smith, Brady looked to the end zone for Branch, but made a poor throw and safety Ifeayni Ohalete had an easy interception.
And when the New England defense forced Washington to a three and out with 1:18 left in the half, another chance was made available to the Patriots offense. After a Larry Centers run for 8 yards and then a beautiful pass to Branch on the sideline for 17 in which Branch did a nice job keeping two feet in bounds, Brady again had a bad throw. This one was intended for Givens down the right sideline on first and 10 from the Skins 41. Givens was blanketed by Bailey and the ball was slightly underthrown. With two timeouts remaining for New England, that kind of shot was truly a risk.
Those missed scoring opportunities would eventually prove costly.
As the second half opened, the offense was again its own worse enemy. Working from the Skins 26 on third and 4, Faulk took a direct snap to the right side but was hit and fumbled. The mad scramble for the ball eventually ended on the 1-yard line where Ladell Betts knocked it in on the next play for a 13-3 Redskins lead.
Despite three penalties on the next series, New England managed to advance to the Washington 27. A third and 5 pass from Brady intended for Branch was knocked down at the line and Vinatieri missed the subsequent 46-yard field goal attempt wide left.
While New England was turning the ball over, the Redskins were recovering their own mistakes. Up 13-3 and still in the third quarter, Washington began its next series from the New England 36. After two runs of 9 and 7 by Trung Canidate, a third attempt saw Tyrone Poole knock the ball loose from behind. The ball shot forward where McGinest had the best chance for a recovery. But instead of going for the ball, he chose to go for the nearest Redskin. He missed both and Washington recovered on the 12-yard line. Two plays later, Cartwright ran it in from 3 yards out and with just over five minutes left in the third, the Patriots found themselves down, 20-3.
Perhaps the Skins were lulled to sleep but the Patriots offense showed spark on their next series. It began with a 16-yard pass to Smith and ended with a 29-yard hook-up to a leaping David Givens in the end zone. In between, a big 20-yard completion to Troy Brown on third and 9 kept things going.
With a little over 17 minutes left in the game, New England needed 10 to tie at 20-10.
The defense certainly did its part, holding Washington to three plays and giving the ball back to the offense to start the fourth quarter. After converting a third and 3 with a 6-yard pass to Brown, things looked hopeful, but Brady's third interception of the day, this one to Rashad Bauman, put an abrupt end to any hope on that drive and worse, had Washington first and 10 around midfield.
That did not deter the defense from keeping its clamp on Washington. Another quick hold and the Patriots had the ball back with 3:34 left in the game.
This is where Brady is in his element and he riddled the Skins secondary. After a spearing call on Centers after he laid out Jeremiah Trotter that negated a 13-yard pick-up to Brown, Brady connected with Graham for 22 and 12 (Graham limped off the field on the 12-yarder), Branch for 15 and Centers for 14. On the 7-yard line, goal to go, he hit Centers again for the score.
By the time Washington began their next possession, there was still 2:05 left and when Chris Samuels was called for two consecutive false starts on third down, moving the ball back to the Washington 12, things got interesting.
It was then that Ramsey threw to Coles on third and 16. The play at the left sideline was ruled that Coles never had possession as he came down just over the first down marker. With the clock under two minutes, the decision to review the play was left up to the officials upstairs and they did so. After the deliberation, the rulling stood that Coles was juggling the ball as he came down. Washington had to punt from its own end zone.
With 1:39 left, New England was first and 10 from the Washington 45. But it was not to be. A pass to Centers for 6 and then a 1-yard run by Centers after a first down incomplete made it fourth and three from the Washington 38. Brady's last throw was behind a well-covered Graham and the game ended with that play, a 20-17 loss for New England.
Mistakes killed New England on this day, but with the tway the defense responded to all its injuries, a certain amount of pride had to be taken from this one. Whether it's enough to carry them into next week's game against the Titans remains to be seen.
On the day, Brady was 25 of 38 for 289 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. As a whole, the offense had 106 yards on the ground while the defense held the high-flying Skins passing attack to 147 yards.