- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Maybe all the hoopla will die down now, and the Redskins can get on with their season. When you get taken apart the way they did last night, losing 37-7 at home to the Eagles on "Monday Night Football," it puts a lot of things in perspective.

The first revelation, of course, is that Steve Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun, as currently constituted, poses no grave threat to the better defenses in the league. Actually, we got a glimpse of this in the preseason, when the Steelers' and Patriots' first-teamers had little trouble with the offense. But last night's game brought it more clearly into focus. The Redskins barely crossed midfield in the first half, never mind denting the goal line. The only reason the scoreboard read 23-7 and not 23-0 is that Jacquez Green ran a punt back 90 yards for a touchdown.

In another situation, Green's play might have been the match that lit the fuse. The FedEx crowd of 84,982 certainly whooped it up long and hard. But on this night, it was just statistical diversion the second-longest such return in club history. After the noise died down, Philly went back to slapping the Redskins silly.

"I apologize to the Redskins fans," Spurrier said. "We had a full house tonight, and they were ready to cheer and scream and root for the home team, and we didn't give them anything to cheer about one punt return, that was it."

The Eagles let one get away in Week 1, blowing a 24-10 lead against Tennessee, and they were in no mood to start the season 0-2. Not when they have designs on the NFC championship. So they came out in the first quarter, forced the Redskins to punt twice, and went 80 and 65 yards for TDs to go up 14-0.

These were no nickel-and-dime drives either. There were three completions of 22 yards or more. And Donovan McNabb, throughout, was magnificent. McNabb doesn't play the way he did against the Redskins every week, but when he does whew! It was bad enough that he was 12-for-13 passing at one point, but when he looks for opportunities to scramble, too and coach Andy Reid even mixes in a couple of quarterback keepers well, there's almost no defense that can stop him.

Certainly not the Redskins'. You had to figure Spurrier's offense would struggle at times, given what he has to work with, but few saw the defense's problems coming. After all, with Dan Snyder's millions bringing Jeremiah Trotter and Jessie Armstead to Washington along with defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis the unit appeared to have the makings of one of the NFL's best.

But in the first two games of the season, holes have popped up everywhere. The Cardinals made surprising offensive headway, given their unexceptional personnel, and the Eagles pretty much picked the Redskins clean. McNabb found tight ends unattended, running backs unattended and, most glaringly, former Redskin James Thrash unattended after blowing by David Terrell for a 39-yard touchdown that made it 30-7 early in the third quarter.

Yup, while the authorities are busy searching for Bison Dele, they might want to look for the Washington defense as well. Because the Redskins will run into far more formidable offenses down the road (e.g. Green Bay, Indianapolis and St. Louis in a six-week stretch).

They probably won't run into a team, though, that's more ready to play them than Philly was. The Eagles exposed every Washington weakness from the shakiness of the offensive line (the middle of it, anyway) to the ordinariness of the quarterbacks and receivers (Rod Gardner aside) to the defense's lack of a pass rush and general uncertainty. Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel looked hopelessly overmatched, so much so that there almost didn't seem to be any point in having Stephen Davis out there. Even a Pro Bowl running back needs some passing threat to be effective, but the Redskins simply didn't have one.

It also appears that Mr. Spurrier has a thing or two to learn about NFL strategy. I'm all for thinking outside the box, but what was the logic of going for it on fourth-and-10 at the Philadelphia 40 near the end of the first half? Granted, the Redskins were trailing 20-7, but when they failed to convert and got Matthews hurt in the process the Eagles had nearly a minute (and great field position) to move downfield for another field goal. Thanks for the free three points, Steve.

"Obviously, there are some areas where we could be a little stronger, but I don't want to blame it on the players," Spurrier said. "We've got what we've got."

This was as complete a tail-whipping as you're likely to see, as thorough as the back-to-back-to-back bludgeonings to begin last season. The Redskins were outcoached, outplayed, out-everythinged. And the brief interruption in the fourth quarter after a fight broke out in the stands police used pepper spray, and it wafted onto the Eagles' side of the field just made it seem more surreal.

This couldn't be happening, could it?

Yes, it could.


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