Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lopsided Loss To Eagles Shows Redskins Still Need To Make Vast Improvements
PHILADELPHIA – Football is, in a basic sense, a game of numbers. Yardages, statistics – they all help tell the story of performance and achievement.
Only one lingers now after the perennially underachieving Washington Redskins closed out another woeful season Sunday. After a lopsided 34-10 road loss to Philadelphia, the team will be permanently remembered by a single crooked digit – five – in the victory column in the historical ledgers.
Five wins. In a year that began with talk of hope and improvement, Washington concluded the season in a manner bereft of either of them, playing characteristically lackadaisical.
Granted, small lessons can be learned from the experiences gained over the past 16 games. As a whole? It will take time to digest what exactly went wrong – and how.
“Who knows what to say about this season,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “There’s a lot of things that happened.”
It was fitting that the Redskins finished their year against the Eagles, a team lauded during the brief offseason for their acquisitions of players deemed vital to improving an apparent Super Bowl contender. Philadelphia started the season with one win in its first five games but turned its fortune around, adapting as the weeks passed and salvaging an even 8-8 record with Sunday’s victory.
Washington, meanwhile, was unable to make those adjustments. The same things that hampered the team at the beginning of the season – turnovers, costly mistakes and untimely injuries – were still present Sunday, though it’s unlikely avoiding any of them would have helped against the Eagles.
“We had a chance,” said Mike Shanahan, who won his fewest games in his 17 complete seasons as an NFL head coach. “We had a couple opportunities, but you’ve got to make them.”
One such opportunity presented itself before the game even began. LeSean McCoy, the NFC’s leading rusher, was held out of the finale because of an injured left ankle, leaving the Eagles’ running game in the hands of reserve Ronnie Brown and rookie Dion Lewis.
Neither player had much of an impact on the game – they combined for 72 yards on 18 carries, though all but 13 yards were gained with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter – leading to a pass-first offense orchestrated by quarterback Michael Vick.
The proven playmaker handled the responsibility well, completing 24 of 39 passes for 335 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He found three different receivers on the scoring passes – Chad Hall in the first quarter, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek in the fourth – and only ran the ball once for three yards, marking his fewest carries in a game he started and finished since also running once for Atlanta on Jan. 1, 2006.
It was by running the ball that the Redskins found their greatest success. Evan Royster had 20 carries for 113 yards to finish the season with consecutive 100-yard games, while fellow rookie running back Roy Helu returned after missing a game because of a bruised left knee to score Washington’s only touchdown.
Helu caught a screen pass from quarterback Rex Grossman and, evident the health of the knee was still an issue, limped 47 yards to the end zone with 10:29 left in the third quarter.
Grossman finished the game having completed 22 of 45 passes for 256 yards and an interception, extending the team’s streak to 30 consecutive games with a turnover. It came early in the second quarter; the quarterback, under pressure, heaved the ball downfield to Anthony Armstrong, though it was underthrown and bounced off Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie before safety Nate Allen pulled it in.
Graham Gano also made a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the Redskins, who failed in two other placekicking opportunities. A 36-yard attempt midway through the second quarter was blocked, marking the fifth time opponents have blocked a kick this season; six minutes later, as the half was set to expire, the team failed to get the proper personnel in place for a quick kick.
Philadelphia had a 13-7 halftime lead before Alex Henery made his second of two field goals near the end of the third quarter. It finished with 390 yards of total offense, just shy of its yearly average, while Washington totaled 377 yards but failed to convert on any of its three trips to the red zone.
It meant the Redskins finished in last place in the NFC East for the fourth consecutive season. It also means a period of serious reflection and evaluation is coming.
For now, though, those five wins will linger around Redskins Park for some time. For all that was expected in Shanahan’s second year, how can they not?
“We’ve talked about adding a few pieces on offense, we need a few people on defense, we need a good draft,” Shanahan said. “But we made some strides. Our football team is a lot different than a year ago, and that’s a positive.”