- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

The day was a perfect for football at the House That Jack Built. The weather was positively balmy for mid-December. An NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, was in town.

But while the weather was delightful, the results were, if not frightful, just not good. Yes, the Redskins did some things well against the Eagles yesterday.

Ladell Betts, two days after re-upping with the team, established a career high in rushing for the second straight game. The offensive line opened large holes for Betts and gave young quarterback Jason Campbell plenty of time to throw. Antwaan Randle El made a gorgeous catch for a touchdown and found Brandon Lloyd for a 40-yard gain on an option pass. Rock Cartwright returned three kickoffs for 79 yards. Khary Campbell and Ade Jimoh teamed to force a fumble on special teams. New kicker Shaun Suisham made four field goals.

All those pretty pieces, however, didn’t add up to a completed puzzle.

Donte Stallworth caught a 3-yard pass from Jeff Garcia for a touchdown that put the Eagles up 21-3 in the second quarter. That touchdown marked the end of a four-quarter stretch, dating to the midpoint of the second quarter of their loss to the Falcons last week, in which the Redskins were outscored 45-3.

The Redskins still had their chances to win. But all three of their drives inside the Philadelphia 30-yard line in the final 35 minutes produced only field goals. The end result was a 21-19 defeat that means the Redskins will have their fourth losing season in five years.

Q: A playoff berth never seemed likely after their loss to the Bucs a month ago, but the Redskins did appear to have turned things around when they led the Falcons 14-0 after the first quarter last week. What the heck happened?

A: The defense resumed its special service for opposing teams — who ordered the big play? — after temporarily discontinuing it two weeks ago in a victory over the Panthers. And few young quarterbacks play like Ben Roethlisberger or Tom Brady right away.

The first interception Campbell threw yesterday was symptomatic of a young guy feeling his way. The touchdown throw he made to Antwaan Randle El, however, was a big-time play. Campbell posted a 57.9 rating yesterday, but he was much steadier than he was against either the Panthers (74.2 rating) or the Falcons (52.3). Campbell also made a couple of plays with his legs.

Q: How come Ladell Betts didn’t get the ball regularly before this?

A: You can’t sit a healthy Clinton Portis, one of the league’s most dynamic backs. However, Joe Gibbs didn’t realize what he had in Betts when he returned to the Redskins two years ago. Imagine how much better the defense would be if it still had Champ Bailey, the great cornerback Gibbs traded to the Broncos to obtain Portis. Betts had missed much of the previous season with a broken forearm, and Gibbs thought he was merely a third-down back.

Q: So can the Redskins trade Portis in the offseason for defensive help?

A: Portis has a huge contract, and he isn’t expected to recover from shoulder surgery until July. So both Portis and Betts will be back next season and probably will get a more balanced ratio of carries.

Q: The Redskins, trailing 21-16, faced first-and-goal at the Eagles 3 in the fourth quarter. A touchdown there probably would have won the game. What went wrong?

A: Gibbs and playcaller Al Saunders want T.J. Duckett to be their short-yardage back. The 254-pound Duckett, unfortunately for the Redskins, keeps coming up small.

Duckett was stopped for no gain on first down, and Campbell threw the ball away on second down. The Redskins then were penalized five yards for having too many men on the field when extra offensive lineman Jim Molinaro couldn’t get off in time. On third down, blitzing safety Brian Dawkins came in free and sacked Campbell for a 9-yard loss.

The Monday Morning Quarterback suspects that, had the Redskins scored a touchdown, the Eagles would have driven into Washington territory and kicked a field goal for a 24-23 victory.

Q: How come Coach Joe didn’t declare troublemaker Brandon “No Regrets” Lloyd inactive for yesterday’s game and let receiver David Patten, who seems like a good guy, play for the first time in two months?

A: Gibbs has put up with bigger headcases than Lloyd. Remember Dexter Manley, John Riggins and Markus Koch? And unlike defensive boss Gregg Williams, who washed his hands of free agent safety bust Adam Archuleta during the bye week, Gibbs and Saunders believe they can get something out of Lloyd in the future.

You’re right about Patten, however. As poorly as he played last year, Patten still produced more than Lloyd has this season, and he’s a quality guy, too. However, he’s 32 and can’t stay healthy. His career might be over. Lloyd did make a big play on Randle El’s option pass on Washington’s final drive.

Q: So what happens next week in New Orleans?

A: The Saints are hoping to win the NFC South. The Redskins are hoping to avoid a 10-loss season. You make the call.

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