- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

PHILADELPHIA.

The Redskins have been going backward all season, losing games and ground to everybody in the NFC East. But never has their regression been more painfully obvious than it was yesterday at waterlogged Lincoln Financial Field.

Indeed, if you’re looking for a microcosm of their miseries this year, I’d strongly recommend the series of three plays starting at the Washington 33 in the fourth quarter, by which time the Snydermen trailed the Eagles 27-3. A brief summary:

First down: Flat pass, 3-yard loss.

Second down: Flat pass, 9-yard loss.

Third down: Flat pass, 9-yard gain — 12 less than needed.

To recap: Three passes, three completions, minus-3 yards.

And after the first two passes, the receiver got earholed because (a) the ball took so long to arrive, and (b) defenses have begun to anticipate Mark Brunell’s Sideways Offense.

Even Joe Gibbs, Brunell’s staunchest supporter, couldn’t ignore the pitifulness of this display. He actually had Todd Collins warming up on the sideline in the final minutes, getting ready to relieve No. 8. But the Eagles held the ball for the last 9:03, delaying the long-overdue Quarterback Change for at least one more week.

There was progress on one front, though.

Coach Joe actually acknowledged that it was “a tough day for Mark.” This isn’t quite the same as saying, “The emperor has no clothes,” but it’s a step in the right direction.

Brunell did have a tough day, too: 16-for-31 for 132 measly yards with one interception that Sheldon Brown returned 70 yards for a touchdown. That’s right, in a 27-3 loss the Redskins could ill afford, their quarterback produced more points for the other team than for his own.

“I didn’t play as well as I needed to,” he said. “I thought our offensive line did a good job pass protecting. We ran the ball well. We needed to be more consistent in the passing game.” The problem is, at this stage of his career, Brunell doesn’t appear capable of playing as well as he needs to — that is, well enough to take the Redskins deep into the playoffs.

Nine games into his third season in Washington, the offense is still stuck in reverse … and headed toward a cliff, it seems.

Here’s a stat that puts it all in perspective: In the Redskins’ three division road games this year, the offense hasn’t crossed the goal line once. All it has managed is three field goals — one at Dallas, one at New York and one at Philly. How horrific is that? And get this: The only time the Redskins threw the ball into the end zone yesterday — on a first down early in the second quarter — they had Antwaan Randle El throw it. He did a pretty fair job of it under the soggy circumstances, but Chris Cooley was just too well covered.

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