By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 1:49 AM
The first play was embarrassing, and would have been plenty to stain the reputation of the Washington Redskins' defense. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick scrambled around a bit, freed himself for a moment, and uncorked a perfectly arced pass that fell into the hands of wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Eighty-eight yards later, Jackson was backpedaling into the end zone, mocking the Redskins after Philadelphia's first touchdown.
If only that had been the worst of it. The humiliation for the Redskins' defense was nearly as thorough and complete as any in the 79-year history of the franchise. Long ago, of course, there was the famous 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears in the 1940 NFL championship game. And now, there is Monday night's 59-28 decimation by the Eagles in which the Redskins allowed a staggering 592 yards - the most Philadelphia has ever gained. The last time Washington coughed up that much yardage: Nov. 10, 1996, when Arizona rang up 615 - the second-highest total in franchise history.
Among the ignominious aspects of Monday night:
The Redskins nearly set a new franchise record for most points allowed in a regular-season game, approaching the 62 they coughed up to the Cleveland Browns in 1954. No team has ever given up more points in the 41 seasons of "Monday Night Football."
The Eagles scored six touchdowns and a field goal in the first half - 45 total points. The Redskins had never given up more points in one half of a regular-season game, and only matched that total once - in that shutout at the hands of the Bears in the 1940 title game.
The Eagles gained 280 yards in the first quarter, the most ever allowed in an opening quarter of any NFL game - and a pace, had they sustained it, to produce 1,120 yards in the game.
"I think they [were] racking up BCS points, something like that," defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth said. "They should be ranked No. 1 now."
Very few of the Redskins defenders had endured anything like this. A 52-7 loss at New England in 2007 came to mind - a bit.
"That game against the Patriots, it was just a methodical beating," inside linebacker London Fletcher said. "This was a flurry right from the beginning."
The indignities seemed endless, and they started from that opening snap. Ten of the Eagles' first 15 plays went for at least 11 yards. In four first quarter possessions, the Eagles faced exactly one third down - and converted it easily.
"You think, 'Okay, we'll recover from this,' " Fletcher said. "Then when it happened again and again and again and again, now you're just like, 'Whoa.' I mean, they score on you one time and drive down the field another time, you just don't think it's going to continue to happen. I just never anticipated this happening."
Before the first quarter ended, the Redskins were down 28-0, narrowly escaping setting the franchise record for most points allowed in a quarter. (That mark survives, barely, at 31.)
So what could the first play of the second quarter bring? Why, a 48-yard bomb from Vick to Jeremy Maclin, another touchdown.
The victim on this particular play? Hall, who joined Fletcher as a defensive captain at the midway point of the season.
"I felt like I should've made the play, and I didn't make the play," Hall said. "It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing to go out there and play the way we played."
When the statistics are moved to the side - and that will be hard to do - there will be significant questions about the Redskins defense, which must somehow right itself over the season's final seven games. Washington entered the night allowing 393.3 yards per game, third-worst in the NFL. It had been especially susceptible to the pass, ranking 31st in the league at 280.9 yards per game.
Both of those numbers will go up - significantly - after Monday. Is this the identity of the Redskins' defense?
"I hope not," Hall said. "If it is, we all need to be looking for jobs, myself included."
Any juggling, though, will have to come from within, because new personnel is not on the way. Tuesday, the sorting out begins.
"It all seems like a blur right now," Hall said. "I feel like I'm in a dream."
With seven weeks to repair the issues, cue the nightmare jokes.