When wins for the Redskins have been scarcer than African-American votes for Mitt Romney, complaints about the quality show a lack of gratitude. Victories in the NFL are not to be taken lightly, no matter the opponent or whatever transpired during the game. The standings only reflect the ends, not the means.
So the joy is understandable, now that the Redskins snapped their three-game losing streak. A cloud has lifted and the stench in D.C. has been washed away, left to continue plaguing the City of Brotherly Love. Let the Philadelphia Eagles search for positives in their 31-6 shellacking by the Redskins; Washingtonians are content to gaze fondly at the ‘W.’
But since the typical post-mortem involves explaining away Redskins losses, the wins should be subject to the same scrutiny. And despite all the positives in Sunday’s performance at FedEx Field, there’s reason for concern looking forward, when future opponents won’t enter the game lugging five-game losing streaks with a coach who appears headed for the unemployment line shortly.
From a distance, the score and statistics suggest that the Redskins were nearly flawless. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown while recording four sacks and picking off two passes from rookie-starter Nick Foles. His counterpart, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, threw a touchdown pass in each quarter and an incompletion on just one of his 15 pass attempts.
What’s not to like? Plenty, including 13 penalties, six Philadelphia completions covering 20 or more yards, and nine Redskins’ plays in the second half that netted zero or fewer yards (not counting the victory formation kneel-down to conclude matters).
“We have to look at things we did poorly,” coach Mike Shanahan said after Washington’s largest margin of victory during his tenure. “It’s a lot easier to look at those things after a win. At the end of the day, you have to find a way to win the game. Then you go back and be tough on yourself, take a look at film and eliminate those mistakes so you can keep winning football games.”
Like most teams that lose more often than they win, Washington fondly has claimed to be a few snaps away. They’re usually big plays that the Redskins yield, and/or don’t make themselves, at the games’ most crucial moments. A breakdown here, a mix-up there and penalty flags all over, which typically results in a sullen locker room filled with long faces.
Washington won the battle of back-breaking game-changers from the start Sunday, with DeAngelo Hall’s interception on the third play from scrimmage. The Redskins began their first drive just 9 yards away from the end zone and cashed in on RG3’s 6-yard pass to Darrel Young. They scored on another short-field drive at the end of the first half, thanks to Barry Cofield’s forced fumble with 27 seconds left.
Thankfully for Washington, it faced a team as just as hapless in the Eagles. Foles was making his first career start, and it showed. The Redskins harassed him with a variety of blitzes and disguised looks. Redskins wideout Aldrick Robinson didn’t have a defender within shouting distance on his 49-yard TD reception in the first half. Philadelphia committed nine penalties of its own.
The good news is Washington prevailed in a must-win between two desperate NFC East foes. And another game with the Eagles remains. The bad news is that the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will be as just as desperate when they play Washington, but not nearly as inept as Philadelphia was.
“Guys have to be honest with themselves, go back and be honest,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “We can’t overlook things we wouldn’t allow in defeat. …I’m sure there are areas we can play a little more consistent in.”
We know RG3 is a consistent threat to make something out of nothing, but his magic had been waning entering Sunday. Relying on his heroics — like the four TD passes he threw Sunday — is risky business. And the Redskins can’t continue to nearly kill themselves with false start and holding penalties. That formula worked against Philadelphia, which hasn’t been the model of stability on defense, but it doesn’t bode well down the line.
And while the defense bent without breaking, for a change, being gashed on several long plays remains a concern. There are no more rookie quarterbacks to feast on down the stretch (unless Foles starts again on Dec. 23).
The Redskins got the win, which is all that counts in many ways. But there’s still room to question whether they’re good enough to keep it up, instead of returning to the same-old, same old.