PHILADELPHIA – One last chance at glory lost, Robert Griffin III retreated to the Washington Redskins' sideline, his aimless wander reflective of the lifelessness his team put forward most of Sunday afternoon.
The Redskins had, once again, failed to make something out of the few opportunities they had, displaying a mystifying inability to correct the ails that plague them. Griffin sauntered toward the bench, the final seconds of the Redskins' 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles ticking away behind him, with a gaze demonstrating complete bafflement that everything continues to go so wrong so quickly.
What was once a season that could have been truly special is in increasing danger of being remembered for the wrong reasons. With another loss, their seventh in their first 10 games, the Redskins have not only established themselves as the worst team in their division, but they have seemingly done so with a litany of issues they cannot manage to correct.
"The feeling is just disappointment, frustration, sadness," said cornerback DeAngelo Hall. "Hell, I felt like I was about to cry on the sidelines, man. I just don't understand where we're falling apart, you know?"
Until the fourth quarter, when the Redskins managed to show some signs of life, they appeared headed toward what would have ranked as the worst loss in three-plus seasons under head coach Mike Shanahan. They had just four net passing yards at the end of the first half, when they were outscored 17-0, and had no answer for Eagles quarterback Nick Foles – a player who, just last year, looked skittish and lacked confidence in his two games against them.
Foles, making his fifth start in six games for injured quarterback Michael Vick, picked apart the Redskins defense over the first half. Despite his lack of quickness, he masterfully guided the zone-read option, a pillar of the Eagles' offense, and paced his teammates with a healthy vertical passing game.
Three weeks ago, the Redskins entered a stretch of games that seemed, for the first time, entirely winnable. They returned from a road trip to Denver on Oct. 27 with the perception that they needed to win at least two of their next three games to remain solidly in contention in the NFC East – including one against the Eagles, who entered Sunday with a hold on first place in the division.
Instead, they answered a late collapse in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 7 with what could kindly be considered a poor start. The Eagles, who soundly thrashed the Redskins in the season opener on Sept. 9, were more refined. The Eagles, who were missing several key players because of injuries, were more ready.
"It took us until the fourth quarter to make a couple plays," Shanahan said. "We had our opportunity there at the end. We just couldn't take advantage of it."
Much like in the opener, Griffin, who completed 17 of 35 passes for 264 yards, did most his damage in the second half. He delivered a pair of long touchdown strikes, first to fullback Darrel Young and then to little-used wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, and followed each play with successful two-point conversions.
What sent him into a daze was his late-game interception, a pass thrown off-balance and directly into the hands of Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin in the back of the end zone. Griffin had led the Redskins' offense from its own 4-yard line to the Eagles' 18 before the mistake.
The Eagles had not won at home this season. Foles, taking a knee with 24 seconds left, ensured not only that it would happen, but that the Redskins would find themselves farther back in the standings.
"I think in this situation, we have to look at ourselves critically and say, 'What can we do better moving forward?'" said tight end Logan Paulsen. "Thank God we're in an awful division. You never know. We've got to control what we can control, and see where it takes us."
Since 1990, when the NFL reconfigured the postseason, only 18 teams with a losing record after nine games have made the playoffs. The Redskins did so last year, though players have often cautioned the situations aren't the same.
Now, and increasingly, doing that again seems like a dream. The Redskins can't emerge from the haze.
"They always say fatigue makes cowards of men, and for me, and for this team, we have to come out here every week prepared," Griffin said. "We can't get down on ourselves. We can't look at our record and say, 'There's no chance.' All we have is the next week. ... It's seasons like this, or a streak like this – we're sitting here at 3-7 – that can make guys give up. But I don't believe that guys will give up. I believe, and that's all we need. We need guys to believe to have success."
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