PHILADELPHIA — The ball hung in the air, fresh off quarterback Case Keenum’s fingertips, with Terry McLaurin sprinting after it and two Philadelphia Eagles trailing him. The ball landed just beyond the rookie wide receiver’s hands and bounced unceremoniously to the turf of Lincoln Financial Field. It represented a missed opportunity and the last real chance the Redskins had at rebounding after blowing a 17-point lead in Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Eagles.
“I’ve played Philly a lot now. I know how this crowd is,” running back Chris Thompson said. “I know how their team is. You give them momentum, and it’s kind of hard to stop that. … [DeSean Jackson] being back here again just made the crowd go crazy after they were pretty much booing them for a long time. As an offense, when things like that happen, we’ve got to be able to go back and answer.”
The missed touchdown could have been the second time Keenum and McLaurin connected on a long bomb Sunday. The rookie outran the Philadelphia defense on a first-half 69-yard touchdown. McLaurin and others said the missed play didn’t deflate the offense, but it sure seemed as if it did. The Redskins had drops on the next two plays to go three-and-out for the second consecutive second-half series. They went three-and-out on the first three possessions of the second half, derailed in part by four offensive penalties . Their only points of the second half came on a last-minute touchdown on which the Philadelphia defense already appeared to have retreated.
The offense’s first-half success — Keenum threw for 257 yards, a career high for a first half and two touchdowns — provided a glimpse at what the unit is capable of. It was something of a surprise, given the team’s run-first, ball-control attack that was meant to complement a formidable defense.
But that excitement was short-lived. And the prevailing sentiment after the loss was that the offense needs to find a way to be more efficient, particularly after an opponent scores.
“You learn from both sides of it,” Keenum said. “When the momentum starts to flip, we have to make sure we really focus and do our job. . . . All those three-and-outs give them a short field. We can’t put that type of pressure on our defense. When they start to get momentum going, we’ve got to put together a drive and squash it. . . . We’ve got to play better complementary football.”
Concerns in the trenches
Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen went down with a knee sprain late in the first quarter and did not return. The injury did not appear to be too serious, and Coach Jay Gruden said after the team that Allen would be day-to-day moving forward.
The defensive line is the strongest unit on the Redskins’ roster but not necessarily deep. The Redskins only had five defensive linemen dressed, and they were very thin up front after Caleb Brantley left with a right ankle injury, although Gruden said Brantley was fine after the game. The Redskins struggled to put pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, generating just four quarterback hurries and one sack.
Allen’s injury provided another reminder of that depth issue — one that could extend into next week against the Dallas Cowboys. If Allen can’t go, the team probably will need to make a roster move for a replacement.
“It affected us," cornerback Josh Norman said. "They took our five bulls. They took our bulls off the field. ... When you don’t have that surge up front, that’s just fact there.”
McLaurin shines in debut
McLaurin posted a sensational first half with three catches for 104 yards, including the 69-yard touchdown. The rookie, however, said he was most proud of a 22-yard third-down conversion in which he ripped the ball from Philadelphia cornerback Ronald Darby. He said winning routes with his speed comes naturally to him, but it’s those 50-50 balls that separate receivers in the NFL. He finished with five catches for 125 yards and the score.
McLaurin’s performance made the organization look pretty smart for going young at wide receiver. The team released former first-round pick Josh Doctson in part to open up a starting job for McLaurin, a third-round pick out of Ohio State. Doctson never had a 100-yard game in his career — a threshold McLaurin crossed in his debut.