ASHBURN, Va. - If Fred Davis holds on to the ball, the chain gang mistake helps the Washington Redskins.
If Pierre Garcon holds on to the ball, the Redskins have a first down in New York Giants territory with plenty of time to finish the drive and possibly tie the game.
The glaring error by the officiating crew didn't cost the Redskins in their 24-17 loss Sunday night. Some of the same mistakes that have plagued the team all season did.
"We had a few opportunities there in that final drive," coach Mike Shanahan said Monday.
The Redskins had three dropped passes on their last possession, when they took over with 2:32 remaining and a seven-point deficit. The biggest drop come on the same play in which the officials goofed.
A catch by Garcon put the ball at Washington's 45, just short of a first down. However, the head linesman, with the Redskins in a hurry-up offense, incorrectly motioned for the crew to move the chains.
Thinking it was first-and-10 - when it was actually third-and-1 - quarterback Robert Griffin III threw downfield to tight end Davis, who seemed to have a secure catch with both hands at New York's 30 - until the ball was jarred loose by a defender.
Then, on fourth-and-1, Griffin completed a 6-yard pass to Garcon, but safety Will Hill stripped the ball from the receiver for a game-sealing turnover. Shanahan pointed out Garcon's facemask was grabbed by cornerback Jayron Hosley on the play.
"Pierre's the strongest guy on our team, and nobody really rips the ball out of his hands," Shanahan said. "And so that was quite unusual. And if you take a look (at the replay), one of the defensive backs has his hand on his facemask bringing it down, and that was probably the only reason why the DB did get it away from Pierre."
It was all part of a second half was symptomatic of what has happened to the Redskins (3-9) this year, and why they have clinched a losing record for the third time in Shanahan's four seasons in Washington. Problems with fundamentals and discipline, along with another special teams calamity and a suddenly stagnant offense, leave the team tied for the worst record in the NFC.
There were dead-ball penalties on Santana Moss, DeAngelo Hall and Garcon in the second half, and Shanahan cited mitigating circumstances for all three. The coach said a holding penalty that got Moss upset at official "should not have been called a holding penalty" and Hall was retaliating against a Giants offensive lineman. The flag on Garcon for kicking the ball in frustration after an incomplete pass in the end zone was a crime of passion, according to the coach.
"He's one of the most fierce competitors I've been around," Shanahan said of Garcon. "If I could get everybody playing like him, you won't need coaches."
Nevertheless, Shanahan also said he'll address the penalties with his team, saying "you've really got to keep your cool in those situations."
With the Redskins mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, Shanahan said it's time for his team to play spoiler, starting with this week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"You play just as though you were in the playoffs," Shanahan said. "You want to spoil somebody else's year. You want to play at a high level. You're always being evaluated for the future. And that never changes."
Shanahan said he won't start playing backups to just give them game experience.
"If you want to see a team turn on you," the coach said, "just go start playing younger players and start playing for the future."