Washington Redskins’ loss to Philadelphia Eagles offers two paths forward

Mike Wise
Columnist September 10, 2013

There are two ways to look at Mike Shanahan’s second Monday night eyesore in four years at the hands of Michael Vick and the Eagles:

(1) Like the big-picture, experienced coach said afterward, “It’s a 16-round fight, and we lost the first round.”

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

And (2) Just like that deflating night when Vick dropped 59 points in Landover three Novembers ago, Philly punked Washington again. Further demoralizing, it took more than a season for the clock to strike midnight, but now that it has, Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Kai Forbath have all turned into pumpkins at once, and the dream just might be dead forever.

Amid these crazed and wandering thoughts, it’s good to have someone to help differentiate between distorted reality and actual legitimate concern on the day after a really ugly game. Because everyone has packed up their computers and left the press box and it is now 2:27 a.m., that’s not going to happen.

Nonetheless . . .

This team is closer to 4-12 than 12-4.

Distorted reality. Griffin will find his sea legs, his touch and his rhythm before the fourth quarter of almost every other game he plays this season, and it will be almost statistically impossible to have three turnovers in your first six offensive plays. The chances that a Shanahan-coached squad is going to open a second half with a 33-7, beat-the-traffic deficit — and have a 2-for-10 third-down efficiency night — is pretty slim.

But Griffin took some big hits and missed on passes downfield often, and the kid just didn’t look right at times.

Legitimate concern. His certainty afterward was almost too reassuring. “We don’t fumble pitches, and [Alfred Morris] doesn’t fumble the ball and I don’t throw picks,” Griffin said, which sounded great. But it didn’t leave room for further error, which likely will happen as his body adjusts to the fact he had the most invasive surgery on a knee possible outside of a total replacement less than a year ago.

When a not very fast outside linebacker such as Connor Barwin chases down Griffin from behind, that’s a sign that the speed with which Griffin bedazzled the NFL is going to take longer than merely eight months to return. Give him till Dallas and the fifth game either to shelve the knee brace or at least feel more natural in the pocket. Left tackle Trent Williams had the best take afterward. “You guys put him on a pretty good pedestal, so anything he does wrong is going to seem like a letdown,” the man who protects Griffin’s blind side said. “But I don’t feel he played that bad a game.”

One game in and already D-Hall has gotta go . . .

Distorted reality. DeAngelo Hall had a couple of alarming I-Gotta-Be-D moments. For instance, pantomiming toward the heavens after returning a fumble without a single person from the other team pursuing him and, oh, his umpteenth 15-yarder-cuz-my-team-is-getting-beat-down penalty. But the play in which his hips didn’t move, when DeSean Jackson ran a simple crossing route on the Eagles’ first touchdown, was not all his fault. Rookie safety Bacarri Rambo was supposed to have his back, but there’s a lack of communication in the secondary because Brandon Meriweather is still injured and the kids are trying to play like veterans. By and large, until Jim Haslett gets some people back, Hall is still the best cover corner available, and Washington would be decimated at the position without him. You take the Good-D-Hall moments with the MeAngelo ones. That’s all there is to it.

The Post Sports Live crew breaks down Robert Griffin III's performance in his first start since reconstructive knee surgery. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

I know it was just the opener. But if the Pack tunes up Washington in Green Bay on Sunday, this season could get away from RGIII and friends quickly.

Legitimate concern. Not that the season is done by any stretch if the Packers win, but the lofty goals of an organization with real Lombardi Trophy aspirations are going to be much harder to meet going forward. Falling to 0-2 would mean Washington would need to beat a pretty decent Detroit team at home the following week. If not, it would have to try to become just the fourth team since 1990 to rebound from an 0-3 start to make the NFL playoffs. (Hasn’t happened since the Bills in ’98). Running the table late was electrifying a year ago, but that kind of run also can create a false sense of security for a team that needs to learn to play ahead in the standings instead of from behind.

Monday night’s loss was worse than 2010’s 59-28 whupping because we were told Griffin was all better, this team would blow a rookie coach such as Chip Kelly out and this was now Washington’s time.

Distorted reality. Look, the expectations were greater, but that game was essentially the end for Shanahan’s first forgettable, Donovan-didn’t-work season. This was more of an RGIII-ality check. He is not . . . risen — yet. Give him and the knee some time to catch up to his cocksureness. This is not the end of anything. This is the start of taking your medicine for deciding not to play the starting quarterback a down in the preseason.

It was a wise decision that should not be second-guessed today. The offense hung the defense out to dry by leaving it on the field too long and too early. Now comes the real work: finding the soul of the team that reeled off seven straight at the end of last season.

For more by Mike Wise, see washingtonpost.com/wise.

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