During their recent years of success, the Washington Redskins have demoralized opposing defenses with long pass completions in key situations. Yesterday, for the third straight week, the Redskins were unable to throw long successfully.
"It was definitely one of the most frustrating games I've had in the past three or four years," said Washington quarterback Joe Theismann, who completed 15 of 34 passes for only 124 yards in a 19-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the first time the Redskins had not scored a touchdown since December 1982, when they beat St. Louis by 12-7.
Only five of Theismann's passes were completed for gains of more than nine yards, and one of those was a swing pass running back Keith Griffin turned into a 16-yard gain. The longest completion was a 25-yard gain to wide receiver Art Monk in the second quarter.
It did not take much time before Theismann stopped looking long altogether, although the Redskins never led.
"I think the receivers were covered," said Philadelphia free safety Wes Hopkins. "He had no alternative but to go short."
Hopkins, who returned a fumble 42 yards to set up Randall Cunningham's touchdown pass to Earnest Jackson that gave the Eagles a 16-6 lead with 6:22 remaining, said anyone surprised by Washington's inability to beat the Eagles' secondary has not been paying attention lately.
"Last year, we came in here and held Washington to something like 70 yards (actually 86) passing," Hopkins said. "Theismann looked like the same Theismann to me today. He was scrambling and trying; we just had excellent coverage.
"We don't change anything for the Redskins. Our secondary has been playing like this for a few years now. Maybe if we were the San Francisco 49ers, somebody would finally notice."
Seven of Theismann's completions went to Monk. The other starting wide receiver, Calvin Muhammad, did not catch a pass.
In the third-quarter series after the Eagles took a 9-6 lead, Theismann completed a 17-yarder to tight end Don Warren for a first down at the Washington 47. On the next three plays, Muhammad dropped a pass, stopped short down the left sideline as Theismann threw long expecting a fly pattern, and then failed to get both feet in bounds after catching a pass that would have brought a first down.
"We had a little bit of miscommunication again today," said Theismann. "These are things we are just going to have to iron out. I am going to sit down with the guys this week and say, 'If it is something I am doing, please let me know.' "
Hopkins said Washington's passing problems were a combination of good defense, tentativeness on the part of Theismann and his receivers who dropped several passes.
"Maybe he was thinking about the Dallas game (five interceptions) so he didn't try to force it today," Hopkins said. "I guess his receivers have become aware of our secondary when they are trying to catch the ball over the middle because they know they are going to get hit. Maybe that was in the back of their minds."
One Redskin who wanted to show what he could do, but never had the chance, was wide receiver Malcolm Barnwell, whom the Redskins obtained in a late preseason trade with the Los Angeles Raiders.
"I thought I had picked up the offense real well this week, and I thought I was going to play," said Barnwell, who did not play at all. "You could say I'm real disappointed right now."