Antwaan Randle El was known as a triple threat on offense with the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the Washington Redskins, however, the wideout seemed to be no threat at all: Randle El produced only one run longer than 12 yards and two catches longer than 16 yards in the team's first 12 games, and his only pass attempt fell incomplete.
The Redskins gave Randle El a six-year, $30 million contract in March because of his big-play ability. His lone memorable play was an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown in a one-sided loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
That changed yesterday in the Redskins' 21-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Randle El hauled in a perfectly thrown pass from Jason Campbell for a 34-yard touchdown that cut the Redskins' deficit to five points late in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Randle El completed a 40-yard pass to fellow wideout Brandon Lloyd that gave the Redskins a first down on the Eagles' 18-yard line.
"That's what Antwaan does," guard Randy Thomas said. "That's why we got him here."
Randle El caught just four passes for 32 yards in the Redskins' other five games after the Oct. 29 bye, getting blanked in back-to-back weeks by the Dallas Cowboys and Eagles.
Yesterday, Randle El was the team's leading receiver with six catches for 85 yards. Randle El was out of the locker room before reporters were permitted to enter, but his teammates were happy to talk about him.
"Every week, we have three or four ways that El can throw the ball, a pass-run option," Lloyd said. "It depends on how effective our running game is, and it was obviously effective today. Their corners were coming up to play the run, so we dialed it up."
Lloyd's big play
A frustrated Lloyd threw his helmet in disgust when yet another defeat was ensured in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons last week. Lloyd drew a 15-yard penalty on that play and was benched after meetings with coach Joe Gibbs on Monday and Tuesday.
However, Lloyd made a huge, 40-yard catch of a pass from Randle El yesterday before being shoved out of bounds on the Redskins sideline by Eagles safety Sean Considine.
"We needed to get some big yards because we were kind of running out of time," Lloyd said. "It felt good to be in position to score. We just needed to capitalize [with a touchdown]. I saw the guy coming. I knew I had to take a shot, hold on to the ball and make sure to keep my feet in bounds."
It was Lloyd's only catch of the day, giving him 21 with 335 yards and no touchdowns for the season. Fullback Mike Sellers started, and Lloyd didn't play until the third series.
"I try not to make a big deal out of any situation, whether it's a rivalry game or there's turmoil during the week," Lloyd said. "[Not starting] wouldn't be OK if I felt we were taking a step back. We have [other] playmakers on this team."
Said Gibbs: "We've got really good depth at receiver, and those guys will all play a bunch. I feel really comfortable there."
In the cellar to stay
With the loss, the Redskins clinched last place in the NFC East. At 4-9, the Redskins can't catch the Eagles or New York Giants, who each have 7-6 records and superior divisional records. Philadelphia also swept Washington in their season series. The Giants won the first game with the Redskins. The rematch is the Dec. 30 season finale in Landover.
Rabach breaks hand
Redskins center Casey Rabach broke his left hand in the second half and was replaced by Mike Pucillo on the final offensive series.
Rabach hopes to play with the injury. He snaps the football with his right hand.
"I think as long as I don't have surgery, I'll be able to play," he said.
Left tackle Chris Samuels sustained a sprained wrist but didn't miss any plays. Tight end Chris Cooley took a knee to the helmet but returned to the game.
McIntosh sees action
Rookie outside linebacker Rocky McIntosh played several defensive snaps in the second quarter. He did not record a tackle and has no defensive tackles this season.
"It definitely felt good to play more on defense," he said. "I had a few more reps in practice this week, so I figured I would get into this game."
Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "Our plan was to let him get into the flow of the game and show him what he would be doing and then put him in during the second quarter. We were possibly going to come back to him more in the third quarter, but we got back in the game, we were playing in some tight situations and I didn't want to throw him out there and destroy his confidence.
"Hopefully, he'll grow from this, and we'll see if he'll play more down the stretch."
On the sideline
Tight end Todd Yoder, who pulled a thigh muscle in last week's 24-14 loss to the Falcons, was declared inactive. Receiver David Patten has recovered from his lingering hamstring injury, but he was declared inactive for the ninth straight week.
The other Redskins not in uniform were also regulars on the inactive list: receiver Mike Espy, offensive lineman Taylor Whitley, defensive linemen Ryan Boschetti and Anthony Montgomery and cornerback Mike Rumph. Todd Collins was the third quarterback.
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