AP NEWS

Washington now on verge of elimination after blown lead

December 23, 2018
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Washington Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson (8) walks off the field after throwing an interception against the Tennessee Titans late in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans won 25-16. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Washington cornerback Josh Norman sat in his locker still in his uniform 45 minutes after the Redskins’ latest and costliest loss.

Norman and the rest of the Redskins left all they had left on the field.

Josh Johnson threw for 153 yards and a touchdown in his second straight start as Washington’s fourth different quarterback this season only to be intercepted not once, but twice in the final 1:17 Saturday in a 25-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Redskins (7-8) aren’t mathematically eliminated just yet after their fifth loss in six games. But they need losses at least by Minnesota and Seattle on Sunday to even have a chance in their regular season finale against Philadelphia.

Making this loss hurt even more is that the Redskins led for much of the game after Johnson threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd in the second quarter after the second-longest drive in the NFL this season. Washington used up 10 minutes, 58 seconds over 17 plays and 93 yards. Adrian Peterson ran for 119 yards, and Dustin Hopkins kicked field goals of 50, 40 and 46 yards for a 16-12 lead in the fourth quarter.

Then the Titans, with their backup quarterback no less, went 75 yards in seven plays. Blaine Gabbert came off the bench when Washington defensive end Jonathan Allen knocked Marcus Mariota out of the game with 48 seconds left in the first half. Gabbert became the first backup to lead the Titans to a victory in the seven games Mariota has left with an injury, throwing a 2-yard TD pass to MyCole Pruitt with 4:30 left.

Then Johnson, who led Washington to a fourth-quarter comeback to win in Jacksonville last week, had the ball and a chance for another big win.

But Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler pressured Johnson with a blitz, and Titans safety Kevin Byard picked off his pass with 1:17 left. The Redskins forced Tennessee to punt one last time, giving them 14 seconds left down 19-16. Then Butler intercepted Johnson’s final pass, then ran 56 yards to the end zone for the clincher.

Washington coach Jay Gruden wasn’t ready when the game ended to sum up the Redskins’ playoff hopes.

“I’m just going to watch the games (Sunday) I guess and take a day off, our players will, and figure out what happens next,” Gruden said.

The Redskins held the ball for 33 minutes and had three sacks. Yet they hurt themselves with eight penalties for 49 yards, and had a couple more players deal with injuries in a season where the list already had been long enough. This time, guard Zac Kerin hurt a knee but was able to return. Defensive end Matt Ioannidis hurt a hamstring.

The frustrations certainly seemed to boil over for Norman after the game.

Taylor Lewan, the Titans’ three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, was caught in video by NBC Sports Washington, coming by the Washington bench. Norman threw his helmet at Lewan, slapped at his arm and face mask before bumping up against the left tackle. Titans center Ben Jones got between the men, and Norman slapped at Lewan’s back.

Norman did not comment. Lewan said Norman was throwing a “hissy fit” as the left tackle tried to help Henry up after a run.

“He was trying to hurt Derrick during that 4-minute, and that’s (expletive),” Lewan said. “That’s not the way football is supposed to be played.”

For the Redskins, it’s a loss that could finish off their playoff hopes. Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who had a sack, said that doesn’t matter for now.

“We have one more game at home to make a splash,” Kerrigan said. “You can’t give up or say it’s over and lay down. I’m going to keep fighting forever, and that’s just how it’s going to be.”

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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