Football games have their share of highs and lows, but for the Redskins, nothing could have compared to the euphoria of scoring a go-ahead touchdown only to have it nullified by a penalty moments later. And then to have a turnover on the very next offensive play.
That's how the final moments of the Redskins' 28-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers played out on Sunday afternoon. Clinton Portis appeared to have scored a touchdown on a 43-yard pass from Mark Brunell, tying the game at 20-20 with the PAT coming next.
But James Thrash was called for an illegal motion in the backfield, nullifying the score. On the Redskins' next offensive play, Brunell was picked off by Al Harris, all but sealing the win for the Packers.
Head coach Joe Gibbs said he was perplexed about the call in the moments after the game.
"The referee on the far side called it," Gibbs said. "I asked for an explanation and they said the running back moved. The running back was Clinton Portis and he doesn't move. Then someone said it was James Thrash when he came across in motion. But James Thrash didn't release on the pass. [The call] was a mystery to me."
Said Brunell: "You go from one extreme to the next--just thinking you made the play to win the game and then they throw the flag. It was a frustrating call. That's one that's going to hurt for a while.
"It's unfortunate that it happened because we kept battling. We thought we had gotten the play that we needed to launch us over the edge and perhaps for the remainder of the season. Hopefully that game is next week."
In the locker room after the game, players discussed the euphoria of scoring the go-ahead touchdown after playing from behind all game long, then to have it reversed so quickly.
"Nothing like that has ever happened to me," tight end Chris Cooley said. "Just to see Clinton running down the field like that and to look back and see a flag, it was heartbreaking. Illegal motion is a pretty uncommon call, so it was tough to take."
Added Thrash: "One play changed the whole game. We had the opportunity to win and for whatever reason, it didn't happen today. It rips your heart out anytime you lose, no matter how it happens. We have to live with what happened and just continue to work hard. We've got a lot of football left."
Tight end Robert Royal said the offense was prepared for the Packers' blitz on the play--and would have made them pay if not for the penalty.
"We had a good play on for the call the defense had," Royal said. "Unfortunately, the refs said we had movement, and so that's how the ball bounces. The Packers brought an all-out blitz and our running back was going to the post. Mark did a great job of getting him the ball."