Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden blew it.
The Redskins’ 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints saw plenty of self-inflicted wounds. A roughing-the-passer penalty that led to a touchdown. A controversial grounding penalty. A hands-to-the-face penalty to negate an interception that would have ended the Saints’ comeback.
But two decisions by Gruden were the final touches to this loss. The first was overly trusting his staff when tossing a red flag to review a Saints reception. It wasn’t even close to being overturned and cost Washington a timeout that would have been so useful in the final minute. Gruden needs to stop giving his staff a blank check in those situations. He should trust his own eyes rather than the eyes above when the call is that obvious.
Gruden’s second miscue was calling a third-and-one run into the teeth of the Saints coverage for a loss. The other side was open for a first-down conversion that would have sealed the game with two minutes remaining, leaving the Saints without any time outs.
Two painfully bad decisions by Gruden now have the Redskins looking like long shots to make the playoffs at 4-6. No matter the schedule gets softer with five games against losing opponents. Washington lacks the manpower needed to win its final six games.
Gruden has largely done a good job this season as an offensive play caller. The Redskins scored 31 points against a good Saints defense despite losing running back Chris Thompson for the season with a broken leg midway through the third quarter. Washington is left with one running back from training camp and Samaje Perine is a rookie.
Still, 3.5 seasons into the job, Gruden makes mistakes during games and his players commit too many unforced penalties. It happens to many good coaches, but too often to Gruden.
But no more. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another to give away a certain victory.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.