Published November 20, 2014
It's fair to say Brady did it because he and the New England Patriots have such high expectations.
It's safe to say the Redskins did it because they're sick of losing.
The Patriots won their fifth straight Sunday, improving to 10-3 with a 34-27 win over the Redskins. The formula was familiar: Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker were good enough to compensate for a defense that keeps giving up gobs of yards.
What was unusual was seeing Brady throw a fourth-quarter, red-zone interception that kept the other team alive. With 6:30 remaining and a chance to put the game away, Brady tried to find Tiquan Underwood at the back of the end zone and was picked off by Josh Wilson.
The Redskins then began a march downfield that could have sent Sunday's game to overtime — even as Brady sat on the bench and exchanged heated words with offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.
"We're both pretty emotional guys, so that's what I deserve," Brady said. "You make bad plays, you're supposed to get yelled at by your coaches. It's certainly not the first time and probably won't be the last. You can't do it in that situation, and it was just a stupid play by me."
It was Brady's first interception since Nov. 6, and most of what he did was far from stupid. He completed 22 of 37 passes for 357 yards with three touchdowns, upping his career TD pass total to 294 to move ahead of Warren Moon (291) into sole possession of sixth place all-time. Brady also surpassed the 4,000-yard mark for the fourth time in his career.
He also helped carve a place in the record books for Rob Gronkowski, who caught six passes for a career-high 160 yards and set the NFL single-season mark for touchdown receptions by a tight end. His 14th was an 11-yard grab that moved him ahead of Antonio Gates (2004) and Vernon Davis (2009), and No. 15 was a 24-yard scoring strike in the second half.
But the Patriots didn't have the game won until they caught a couple of breaks at the end of Washington's final possession. The Redskins drove from their own 20 to New England's 5, but Santana Moss' catch at the goal line was negated by a pass interference call on the receiver, and then Moss tipped a pass into the hands of linebacker Jerod Mayo to save the day for a New England defense that ranks last in the league in yards allowed — and one that can't keep cutting it this close come playoff time.
"You kind of don't want to give up those yards in the first place," Patriots safety James Ihedigbo said. "But at the same time, we're going to bow our necks once we get down there, and say, 'Hey, they're not getting in the end zone.'"
The call against Moss rankled the Redskins (4-9), who amassed a season-high 463 yards but lost for the eighth time in nine games. There was also a personal foul call in the second quarter on linebacker London Fletcher that appeared particularly egregious. The referee announced that Fletcher hit a late-sliding Brady with a forearm to the head, but Fletcher's arm clearly hit the quarterback in the torso.
Coach Mike Shanahan said he thought the call against Fletcher was "horrible."
"We don't get no calls around here, man," Moss said. "You guys have been covering us for a long time. Y'all see what goes on out there. We blow our breath on one of the doggone guys over there and it's a penalty. Our quarterback gets killed — and you just almost hit somebody that's a quarterback and we get flagged. So a lot of stuff goes on. But I guess we've got to play against a team and the ref."
Already playing without tight end Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams — both suspended for the rest of the season last week for violating the NFL's drugs policy — the Redskins lost another offensive starter during pregame warm-ups when right tackle Jammal Brown injured his right groin.
Still, they unexpectedly gave the Patriots quite a game.
Rex Grossman completed 19 of 32 passes for 252 yards with two touchdowns, but he also lost a fumble in the end zone that New England recovered for a touchdown. Kick returner Brandon Banks came on for an offensive play and threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Moss as part of a double-reverse flea-flicker. Roy Helu (126) became the first Redskins rookie to rush for 100 yards in three consecutive games.
"I don't know what a moral victory is," Fletcher said. "Do those count? Either you won or you lost. At the end of the day, we're 4-9."
Notes: Brady on the quest for perfection: "There's nothing perfect in football — unless you are the Packers," he said. "But other than that ..." ... The Redskins were the only current NFL franchise New England had never beaten on the road. ... Patriots WR Welker became one of three players in NFL history with four 100-catch seasons, joining Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison. ... Redskins FB Mike Sellers hyperextended his right elbow. ... The end zones were marked "Army" and "Navy," leftovers from the game the stadium hosted a day earlier.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP