Manning reverted to the form that will put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And that Redskins defense? The veteran sliced apart the group for 354 yards to help the Broncos score 31 points in the fourth quarter.
Robert Griffin III missed wide-open receivers and forced throws in an error-plagued second half. Never mind numbers that insist the Broncos own the NFL’s worst pass defense. The Redskins made them look like a swarming band of playmakers. The second-year quarterback was left rolling around on the turf grabbing his left leg with 5:43 remaining — the injury wasn’t believed to be serious — which thrust backup Kirk Cousins into the game in time to throw two interceptions.
Welcome home, coach.
The game represented much of the Shanahan era in Washington. Enough hope to tempt you into believing this time was different. Then disappointment. Signs of progress, other than the seven-game win streak to end the 2012 regular season, are fleeting. This stadium isn’t an easy place to visit. But the all-out debacle that turned a 14-point Redskins lead into a blowout loss made this season’s incessant talk of corners turned and positives in the midst of defeat more hollow than before.
Shanahan is a pedestrian 23-32 in charge of the Redskins. The 138-86 mark he rolled up with the Broncos is memory consigned to pregame tributes. Even that record is deceptive. The Broncos fired Shanahan in 2008 after not making the playoffs in three straight seasons; he’s won one postseason game since John Elway retired after the 1998 season.
Before time expired Sunday, thousands of Broncos supporters decked out in No. 18 Manning jerseys streamed out of their blue seats toward the exits. The welcome cheers that greeted Shanahan three and a half hours earlier weren’t over. They had moved on to celebrating another victory.
“Hopefully we can bring some of those memories back to the fans in Washington like we did in Denver,” Shanahan said after the game. “That’s what we’re working for and hopefully we can do that.”
The 61-year-old coach was left with another loss in a troubled season.
Shanahan’s legacy in Denver is clear. How his story ends in Washington isn’t.