The Washington Redskins dropped their 2013 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, 33-27, after one of the worst first halves of football in team history.
The ‘Skins actually grabbed the first lead of the game on a controversial backwards pass from Philly QB Michael Vick that ballhawk DeAngelo Hall returned for a touchdown. After that, however, the next 26:54 minutes of game time were an unmitigated disaster. Philly got a 48-yard field goal from Alex Henery on the possession after the fumble, then Alfred Morris fumbled on Washington’s second offensive play to give the Eagles great field position. They capitalized on the opportunity, with Vick completing a 25-yard strike to a wide open DeSean Jackson for the score.
After that, it somehow managed to get worse. Robert Griffin III, in his first live game action since tearing his ACL in a playoff loss against Seattle in January, clearly was not up to speed in the first half, and only completed 5 of 11 passes for 54 yards and an INT on a terrible decision to throw into triple coverage. Morris was a non-factor, and dropped (an admittedly poor) pitch from RGIII in the ‘Skins end zone, which resulted in a safety for Philly. The Eagles did whatever they wanted on offense, having LeSean McCoy torch Washington’s normally-formidable front seven for 115 yards in the first 30 minutes of game action. When the smoke cleared, the Redskins found themselves in a 26-7 hole that seemed to be insurmountable.
And, as it turned out, it was. But Washington did not go away quietly in the second half. They even had a decent shot to recover an onside kick that would have given them a chance to take the lead with just over a minute left in the game. Ultimately, Philly got the recovery and the victory, but the signs of life were encouraging, to say the least, after the mess of the previous half.
RGIII seemed to get his legs under him about halfway through the third quarter, and finished the game with 320 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. He also had 5 carries for 24 yards, and while he did not have quite the same electricity he played with when healthy last year, it did not appear that his knee was giving him any real problems.
Morris continued to be ineffective when given carries, but the Eagles defensive line got penetration all night long, and there just wasn’t much room to maneuver. The defense finally made some adjustments and held Philly to only 7 points after halftime.
A large part of the blame for the Redskins struggles can be placed on themselves. If they hold onto the ball early on and give their defense a rest, the Eagles have the ball less and therefore score less, potentially way less. They failed to have a touchdown drive of longer than 61 yards, so if the Redskins had sustained drives, they could have put themselves in a much better position for a number of reasons.
A lot of the focus over the next week will be put on RGIII and whether he was ready to play or not. It was obvious that, at least in the first half, he was not, and it probably cost the team the game. However, without a preseason to get ready, this “rust period” would have happened whenever his first game was. It just so happened to fall on the same night as a brand new offensive assault from the Eagles and new coach Chip Kelly.
The important thing to remember is that despite that horrible half, Griffin III still managed to bring the team back and give them a chance to win at the end. As long as the rust is off and he’s under center, Washington will be in contention every week, and I suspect that this team will still be making noise in December and beyond.