For three quarters of play the battered and bruised Washington Redskins had hung in with a suddenly resurgent Eagles team. A Graham Gano field goal early in the fourth quarter cut Philadelphia’s lead down to 13-10 and it seemed like the Redskins just might have a shot to ring in the New Year with a victory in their season finale.
Then disaster struck as DeSean Jackson killed Washington’s spirit with a 62-yard touchdown catch and the Eagles proved to be inhospitable hosts, routing the Redskins 34-10.
Yep, it’s been that kind of season. The Redskins end the year with a 5-11 record – the worst finish ever for any Mike Shanahan-led team.
Injuries helped ruin a 3-1 start and they resurfaced Sunday, crippling Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Brian Orakpo. Royster and Helu gutted it out, but Royster’s 165 yards of total offense and Helu’s gallant 47-yard touchdown off a screen pass from Rex Grossman weren’t enough to keep the Redskins in the game.
Credit that to another mistake-filled performance by the Redskins – especially Grossman, who never met a bad decision he didn’t like.
The quarterback’s day was punctuated by an improbable sequence right before halftime in which the Redskins ran nine plays over two possessions in Eagles territory. After Grossman threw incomplete on fourth down at the Eagles 35, Brian Orakpo stripped Michael Vick on the ensuing play to set the Redskins up with great field position on the Eagles 17.
Washington moved the ball to the 4, but Santana Moss was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet while lobbying for pass interference on Joselio Hanson in the end zone. On the Philadelphia 15 with no timeouts and 16 seconds remaining, Grossman fired a short pass over the middle to Jabar Gaffney, who was unable to get out of bounds after making the catch.
The field goal unit ran out, but time expired as long snapper Nick Sundberg was late getting onto the field and the Redskins trotted into the locker room down 10-0.
Mike Shanahan told reporters after the game the headsets were down and Grossman was unable to communicate on the final play. The coaching staff had wanted Grossman to take a shot to the end zone, but instead he opted for a short pass over the middle.
It’s hard to be surprised by anything Grossman does anymore, but his lack of awareness in this instance is particularly mind-boggling from someone who’s played the quarterback position for years. Then again, this is the same guy who plays the game with no conscience at all, turning the ball over 25 times – many of them at pivotal moments.
Yet Moss and the special teams unit have to be held accountable as well. A veteran and offensive captain of Moss’ caliber can’t lose his cool and cost his team 15 yards at such a critical juncture. Nor can Danny Smith proudly trot out a kicking unit that allowed its fifth blocked kick of the season and then fail to get the right personnel on the field in time for another attempt in the same game.
However, the game didn’t end with that fiasco as the defense gave up 24 second-half points, making it four times in the last five games Washington has given up at least 30 points. So there’s plenty of blame to go around.
And an entire offseason to talk about it.