Washington's offense could not keep pace with the Los Angeles Chargers' defense in Sunday's matchup, as the Redskins found the end zone just once.
An emotional game ended with heartbreak for the Washington Redskins, as the team fell 30-13 to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, ending all hope for a playoff appearance.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who continued to lead his team under center despite the bleak postseason outlook, struggled against the Los Angeles defense, throwing for 151 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"I just remind myself that when you play in this league, this can happen. A lot of good players have stood here in this position and have had these moments happen to them," Cousins said. "Even the best of players have these days, season, or moments."
Cousins' second drive of the day, following a Redskins punt, ended with a tunrover. Down 10-0, Cousins immediately turned the ball over, throwing a pass that was intended for tight end Vernon Davis but was intercepted. Cornerback Trevor Williams undercut Davis's deep route, stretching up to catch the ball. Williams nearly came down with the pick, but the ball bobbled and fell from his hands. Linebacker Kyle Emanuel was there to snatch it, returning the improbable interception to the Washington 29-yard line.
While the Chargers scored on every of their five drives in the first half, the Redskins failed to get on the board until the second quarter.
After a Los Angeles field goal, Cousins and the offense, undeterred, marched 77 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Cousin found receiver Ryan Grant on a slant over the middle, resulting in a 28-yard gain.
Not long after, head coach Jay Gruden kept his offense on the field for a fourth-down conversion attempt. Cousins dropped back, but quickly scrambled to his right after scanning his initial routes. On the run, he found tight end Niles Paul split between a host of Chargers defenders. Paul hauled in the 16-yard pass, saving the drive.
Within reach of the end zone, Cousins again was forced to shift outside the pocket, this time finding Davis for a 23-yard touchdown. Cousins narrowly missed the oncoming defensive lineman and threw a perfect pass to Davis, who caught the pass over the outstretched arms of cornerback Desmond King.
Down by seven, the Redskins' momentum quickly vanished following another Los Angeles touchdown.
"That's been the story right now. As soon as we make a big play and they answer in a bigger play and we can't get the momentum back," Cousins said. "Unfortunately, this game is about momentum swings and we just had it for about 30 seconds."
A chance to reclaim that momentum fell just out of reach on the following drive. Faced with another fourth down, Cousin looked again to Davis deep down the right side. The pass, however, flew a few inches off course, and Davis could not haul it in while staying in bounds. The Redskins turned the ball over on downs, resulting in a Los Angeles field goal.
The failed fourth down conversion was the last chance Washington had at an offensive touchdown, as six consecutive punts filled the entire second half. After the game, Cousins lamented the lost opportunity.
"That has a chance to be a touchdown with man coverage. You know it is a game of inches," Cousins said. "Then you say that what if that inch went there and he had caught it? You wonder and that's where the game can wear you down about all those plays you missed by inches."
While the Redskins have struggled offensively the last two weeks, the hope is that the unit can get on the same page again over the final three games of the season.
To do so, the Redskins will need to once again have a balanced attack.
"The entire offense wasn't quite as efficient as it should be," Gruden said. "Our running game wasn't very good. Samaje [Perine] went down a couple times. He wasn't feeling good. We lost our third-down back there on the second kickoff of the game. We had a lot of featured plays for him on third down that [were] erased. So we were a little bit shorthanded at running back. But of the most part I think Kirk competed but I really – and I'm not here to throw stones at anybody on the offense, I know from what we expect offensively, it wasn't even close to what we want or what we should look like from an efficiency standpoint, from a run production standpoint, from a quick passing game standpoint.
"Then you fall behind by 17 and 23 points, you're playing catch up against a heck of pass-rushing football team and it's always going to be hard. Every week I say the same thing, when you look at the numbers the way they are where you're strictly relegated to drop-back passing, it is going to be tough for us to catch up."