FOXBOROUGH, MA—You can play the “what if” game for a while when looking at the Redskins vs. the Patriots.
—What if Pierre Garçon had caught that first pass from Kirk Cousins rather than it bouncing off of his hands and into the hands of a Patriots defender? The Redskins had just gotten a takeaway and it looked like the play was going to be a solid gain. Maybe they move down the field and score, tying the game and showing the Patriots that the Redskins were not going to go away easily. Instead, New England gets the pick, they move in for a touchdown and it’s 14-0 in the first quarter.
—What if Keenan Robinson had been able to get around Tom Brady and return his first-quarter interception for a touchdown? That also would have sent a message that the Redskins were going to hang around all afternoon.
—What if the Redskins had managed to push the ball into the end zone at the end of the first half instead of settling for a field goal? They got the second half kickoff and a pair of touchdowns would have made it 17-14 in the third quarter.
—What if Matt Jones had not fumbled to end their initial possession of the first half? That was a promising drive in progress, one that would have made it a one-score game if the Redskins gone into the end zone.
But the main “what if” happened in 2000. What if another team had decided to draft Tom Brady before the Patriots took him in the fifth round. Bill Belichick is an outstanding coach, the Patriots have some talented players. But they were banged up on both sides of the ball, lost their best running back in the second half, and didn’t get a whole lot out of All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was Brady, completing 26 of 39 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns who made the difference.
The Redskins did some things well. When his receivers were catching the ball Kirk Cousins had an OK day, throwing some nice passes, making no mistakes (his only interception was the ball that Garçon should have caught), and mostly staying upright in the pocket. After a rocky start the defense settled in and they ended up holding the Patriots to their lowest point total of the year.
The Redskins won’t dwell on the “what ifs”. They can’t, they have yet another must-win game coming up, this one against the Saints. They are better than they were last year but it would be a mistake to think that they are just a bounce here and a well-timed score there from being with the elite teams in the league.