The festivities at FedEx Field on Sunday had the feel of a dual ceremony — a funeral and a birth. You had the once-proud Philadelphia Eagles, laid low by injury, age and misjudgment, getting rolled by the Washington Redskins 31-6. And you had Robert Griffin III leading the way for the home team with a near-flawless performance (one incompletion, four touchdown passes, a game-high 84 yards rushing).
Let's face it, Andy Reid's Eagles are officially in ruins. It's not just that they've lost six straight and have been forced to start a rookie, third-round pick Nick Foles, at quarterback. It's that they're Lost in America, Lost in Space. At times against the Redskins, it was a challenge for them to get the snap count right. Another time, they fumbled in a kneel-down situation and handed Washington a gift field goal. Still another time, they had Santana Moss double covered and allowed him to snatch a 61-yard scoring throw.
When the clubs meet again Dec. 23 at Lincoln Financial Field, I fear for Santa Claus' safety — especially if the Eagles keep playing like this. Philly fans, after all, have never been particularly tolerant types, even in good times.
And the 11 years from 2000 through 2010 were very good times, indeed, times that saw the Eagles go to five NFC title games, one Super Bowl and compile the best regular-season record in the conference (113-62-1). But they couldn't re-create with Michael Vick what they had with Donovan McNabb — for reasons too myriad to go into here — and now their coach is reduced to saying, as he did Sunday, "I am not doing a good enough job. It's my fault that that's the way things are going."
The Redskins were in the same 3-6 straits as the Eagles when the game began: win or start making plans for next year. But there was a difference in their desperation that became more and more obvious as the afternoon progressed. In Griffin, the Redskins have a Next Year to look forward to and a Next Year after that and a Next Year after that, the football gods willing. The Eagles, on the other hand, are waiting to see if Foles is a long-term answer at quarterback or merely a temporary plug-in. This much seems relatively certain, though: He's no RG3.
Granted, one game isn't much basis for comparison, and that goes double when it's Foles' first NFL start (to Griffin's 10th). Still, it bears mentioning that the Philly QB threw 24 more incompletions (25 to 1), four fewer TD passes (0 to 4), two more interceptions (2 to 0) and rushed for 84 fewer yards (0 to 84). Those last two stats were especially telling, because Eagles turnovers led to 10 Washington points and because Foles' lack of running ability enabled the Redskins to rush him with virtual impunity.
As Ryan Kerrigan put it, "Michael Vick's speed and feet kind of change how you rush a little bit. It's always a huge factor when [he's] back there and has the ability to throw on the run."
Or to flee the pocket and fly downfield for a demoralizing — for the defense — first down. How often has Vick done that to the Redskins over the years? But he couldn't do it in this game because he still was recovering from a concussion inflicted the week before. (Not that he seems long for the starting job. His play had dropped off enough this season so that Philadelphians already were beginning to bang the drum for Foles.)
Anyway, the Eagles had a terrific run under Reid, and now the Redskins are trying to have a run like that, with Griffin as the focal point. Days like Sunday, days when he hardly misses a pass, make you realize the limitlessness of his horizon.
"He ignites our fire," Moss said. "When he's doing his thing it just rubs off on everyone else."
Exhibit A: Moss' improbable touchdown grab between two defenders. Santana chalked it up to "me being hungry and knowing that this opportunity may not come again" — and that undoubtedly factored into the equation. But getting to play with a quarterback like RG3, a quarterback for whom all things seem possible, also is energizing, even for a 33-year-old receiver.
Griffin was right when he said the Redskins and Eagles were "out there fighting for the same thing" — survival in a season that was fast slipping away. And when the Redskins travel to Dallas to play the 5-5 Cowboys on Thanksgiving, it will be another out-there-fighting-for-the-same-thing affair.
But more so than the Eagles and Cowboys, the Redskins are fighting for the future as much as for the present — for a next decade that's a dramatic improvement over the past decade. If you took anything away from their win over Philadelphia, you took that. The Eagles, in their current rusted-out state, are old news; the Redskins are new news. Or at least, they have the chance to be.
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