Redskins vs. Eagles: A season of woes packed into one game as Washington loses to Philadelphia, 34-10

January 1, 2012

In a performance befitting their dismal, error- and injury-plagued campaign, the Washington Redskins stumbled their way through a 34-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in their final game of the season Sunday.

The Redskins have been plagued by mental gaffes, turnovers, injuries to key players and flat-out poor play all season long.

Sunday’s game was no different.

Rex Grossman kept team and individual turnover streaks intact with his 20th interception of the season. Poor tackling and breakdowns in pass coverage led to big scoring plays for the Eagles (8-8). Ineffective red-zone play and penalties kept the Redskins from scoring.

At one point, the Redskins had both running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster on trainer’s tables, receiving treatment from the medical staff. Linebacker Brian Orakpo missed the second half with a pectoral muscle injury. There was a 21-point fourth-quarter collapse. And of course, the package wouldn’t have been complete without a blocked field goal, so Washington allowed one of those as well.

The primary bright spots of the game for Washington were a 47-yard touchdown reception by Helu, a second straight 100-yard rushing outing by Royster (20 carries, 113 yards) and two sacks by Orakpo, who finished the season with nine, the third straight year he has led the team. It also made Orakpo the first Redskins player since Dexter Manley in the 1980s to record at least eight sacks in three consecutive seasons.

But beyond that, highlights were few for the Redskins. The Eagles, in contrast, racked up 390 yards of offense — 190 of them in the fourth quarter — and had three pass-catchers with at least 86 receiving yards apiece. Washington’s defense gave up at least 30 points for the fourth time in the last five games, and the 24-point loss was the Redskins’ largest margin of defeat this season.

So ended the worst year in Mike Shanahan’s 17 full seasons as a head coach.

The 5-11 finish was worse than a pair of 6-10 campaigns recorded by Shanahan last year and in 1999. It also gave Shanahan an 11-21 record in his first two seasons with the Redskins, who went 12-20 in the two seasons led by former coach Jim Zorn prior to Shanahan’s arrival.

It also marked a third consecutive losing season for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, and the eighth time in the last 10 seasons that the Redskins have failed to post a winning record.

The Redskins’ standing in the NFC East already had been determined prior to Sunday’s game. For the fourth consecutive year, they finished last in the division.

By virtue of their record and following strength-of-schedule determinations, the Redskins learned on Sunday that they will hold the sixth overall pick in April’s draft.

“Extremely frustrating to lose 11 ballgames, another game to a divisional opponent,” said linebacker London Fletcher. “Felt like we played good football in the first half, and then in the fourth quarter, it got away from us. . . . Not enough good football for 60 minutes.”

The Redskins trailed 10-0 at halftime and saw their best chance for an early touchdown slip through their hands midway through the first quarter. On third and nine from the Philadelphia 43, Grossman had Santana Moss open running down the center of the field. Grossman’s pass was slightly underthrown, and Moss had to slow up for it, but the ball slipped between Moss’s arms for an incompletion at the goal line.

And then came an unfortunate second quarter, which featured the same misfortunes that have plagued the Redskins all season.

On the third play of the quarter, wide receiver Anthony Armstrong had slipped past two defenders 54 yards downfield. But Grossman’s underthrown pass bounced off the helmet of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and into the hands of safety Nate Allen at the Philadelphia 7-yard line. Allen returned the interception 31 yards. It marked the 13th consecutive game with a turnover for Grossman, who finished the game 22 for 45 for 256 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and for the Redskins, a league-worst 30th straight game with at least one turnover.

Later the same quarter, place kicker Graham Gano lined up for a field goal at the Philadelphia 18-yard line only to have it blocked as the Eagles mowed down the right side of the line and Derek Landri batted the ball down. That gave Washington its league-worst fifth blocked field goal of the season and Gano his 10th failed field goal attempt.

Philadelphia scored on a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Vick to wide receiver Chad Hall, who slipped feeble tackle attempts by DeAngelo Hall and Perry Riley and stepped into the end zone.

The Redskins moved to the Philadelphia 35 before turning over the ball on downs with 44 seconds left, but Orakpo sacked Vick and forced a fumble, and Washington recovered at the 17.

The Redskins, who had no timeouts left, reached the 4-yard line, but Grossman threw an incompletion in the end zone to Moss. The receiver thought he had been interfered with and took off his helmet while arguing the non-call, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that backed Washington up 15 yards with 23 seconds left.

“I’ve been a Redskin for seven years. I can’t tell you when things went our way when it comes to stuff like that,” Moss said after the game, still upset. “I just have to learn how to deal with it, put it behind me.”

Two plays later, the Redskins reached the 7-yard line, but couldn’t stop the clock and couldn’t get lined up in time to try a field goal. They entered halftime without a point.

Washington’s best play of the game came eight plays into the third quarter when Grossman hit running back Helu on a screen pass, and the rookie turned upfield, got a block by guard Maurice Hurt, and another downfield from wide receiver Niles Paul to score on the 47-yard play.

Despite their struggles, Washington entered the fourth quarter having allowed only 200 total yards, and less than two minutes in, a Gano field goal cut the lead to 13-10.

But three plays later, Vick completed a 62-yard pass to DeSean Jackson, who ran a post route and got behind cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe. That proved the tipping point. Vick later completed a four-yard scoring toss to tight end Brent Celek with 5 minutes 56 seconds left and, with 1:56 remaining, running back Dion Lewis scored on a nine-yard run for the final score.

“I thought it was competitive until the post route,” Shanahan said. “We really had a chance for three quarters, but when you’re 0 for 3 in the red zone, you don’t win games. We had moved the ball against them as much as anybody had moved it against them. They were giving up 225 yards a game and we had that at halftime. But we didn’t score points. . . . You can’t go on the road and win games like that.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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