- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2012

First quarter

Sav Rocca has had a pretty good year as the Redskins’ punter, but his 22-yarder after the first possession Sunday won’t go into his memory book. Or maybe it will for the wrong reasons. On the first play after that punt, the Eagles’ Michael Vick hit Brent Celek for a 30-yard gain. That set up a 35-yard field goal for the only points of the opening quarter. Otherwise, the opening stanza was about as dull as you’d expect in a game  between two teams going nowhere and just playing out the string. The Redskins had one good chance to score, but Santana Moss couldn’t hold on to what looked like a perfect pass from Rex Grossman on a third-and-9. It would have gone for a touchdown. The Eagles didn’t fare much better early on. The pass to Celek was one of only two completions for Vick in his first eight passes. But he then completed four in a row as the Eagles were driving to end the quarter.

Second quarter

How many ways can a team hurt itself? The Redskins seemed intent on finding out in the second quarter. For starters, Rex Grossman threw an interception. That extended the team’s streak of games with a turnover to 30 (tops in the NFL!) and Grossman’s streak of games with a pick to 12 (plus a lost fumble in his other start). Not to be outdone, Graham Gano’s 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and the Eagles scored on the ensuing  possession to make it 10-0. Then, after getting the gift of a late fumble thanks to a Brian Orakpo sack, the Redskins looked like they might finish the first half with some points. But it wasn’t to be. After getting to the 4, the Redskins moved back to the 19 when Santana Moss was penalized for taking off his helmet to argue a call. Washington moved forward again, but with no timeouts couldn’t get the clock stopped to even let Gano attempt  to get blocked again.

Third quarter

Keeping in mind that it was a very low bar to clear, the third quarter was easily much better than the first two for the Redskins. If they were in a funk over the way the second quarter ended, it didn’t show as they scored a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half. Rex Grossman found Roy Helu with a short pass and Helu, limping noticeably, somehow found a way to turn the play into a 47-yard touchdown. Philadephia mounted a drive on its next possession, but the Redskins defense tightened up and limited the Eagles to a 20-yard field goal. Washington then went on a long drive of its own and was nearing the Eagles’ end zone when the third quarter came to an end. As badly as they played in the first half, they were within reach of taking the lead. But the drive sputtered, leaving the Redskins to settle for a Gano field goal. Still, the team went into the final 14 minutes of the season down only three.

Fourth quarter

So that productive-by-comparison third quarter turned out to be a blip in an otherwise dismal day for the Redskins. In the last of 64 quarters they played this season, the Redskins pretty much disappeared. What had been a close game going in became a rout going out, as the Eagles tacked on three touchdowns to win going away and finish the season 8-8. The Redskins, on the other hand, finish 5-11. On the possession after the Redskins pulled to within three, the Eagles scored their first touchdown of the quarter. Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson hooked up for a 62-yard scoring pass, and it seemed to suck the life right out of the Redskins. Philadelphia later added a 4-yard pass to Brent Celek and a 9-yard run by rookie Dion Lewis. Washington did get 165 yards from rookie back Evan Royster (113 on the ground, 52 in the air). But it hardly seemed to matter on another disappointing afternoon for the Redskins.

Key play

With 6:18 to play before halftime, the Redskins lined up for a 36-yard field goal try by Graham Gano that, if good, would tie the score at three. It seemed likely. Gano had a streak of four games without a miss and he had four field goals of 50 or more yards this season. So this was a piece of cake. Except it got blocked by Derek Landri and the Eagles scored their first touchdown eight plays later. Washington never seemed to recover, although the Redskins did at least stay close until folding up the tent in the fourth quarter.