- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2018

PHILADELPHIA — When the Washington Redskins signed Mark Sanchez last month, they hoped the quarterback would never have to play. The team was comfortable with backup Colt McCoy taking over for Alex Smith, who suffered a season-ending leg injury. 

The Redskins, though, didn’t have a choice Monday.

McCoy suffered a season-ending broken leg of his own — and the game but rusty Sanchez didn’t have enough to keep the Redskins competitive in a 28-13 loss to the Eagles. With the defeat, Washington falls to 6-6 and its playoff hopes are now in major question — given the team is on its third quarterback of the season.

Washington hasn’t played three quarterbacks in a season since 2014, a year in which it finished 4-12.

In place of McCoy, Sanchez went 13 of 21 for 100 yards and threw an interception.

The Redskins are now a full game back of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East and are losing a tiebreaker with the Eagles. They’ve also lost three straight.

“This is a tough blow,” coach Jay Gruden said. “Losing Alex was one thing. He was a great leader, great quarterback. Put a lot of time in with him. Then Colt finally gets his golden opportunity and he gets kicked in the leg and breaks it. So, heartbroken for both those guys, really. Just got to get Mark ready to go.”

McCoy, who was making just his second start since 2014, was hurt at the end of the first quarter when his leg awkwardly hit Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins on a scramble. McCoy, who was 4 for 4 for 50 yards, finished the rest of the drive, but he was soon headed to the locker room.

That opened the door for Sanchez, who hadn’t taken a regular season snap since 2016. The Redskins had signed the 32-year-old veteran because of his familiarity with some of the Redskins‘ coaching staff from his days with the New York Jets.

In the immediate aftermath of the McCoy injury, the Redskins actually jumped out to a 10-7 lead, thanks to a 90-yard rushing touchdown from Adrian Peterson on their first play with Sanchez under center. The burst was a career-long for Peterson and the longest run in franchise history. 

The Eagles answered with a three-play, 40-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown from running back Darren Sproles.

The score left Sanchez with 1:19 left in the half, enough time to lead a drive that resulted in a Dustin Hopkins’ 47-yard field goal. At the half, the Redskins were down 14-13.

But Sanchez’s limitations were hard to miss in the second half.

The Redskins gained just 36 net yards in the last two quarters, which includes yardage lost.

Sanchez was sacked two times overall and he threw an interception in the fourth quarter. After halftime, Sanchez went 7 of 12 for 38 yards. For the whole game, he averaged just 4.8 yards per attempt. 

Washington was particularly ineffective on third down, converting just 20 percent of those plays (2-of-10). 

“It was a tall task, no doubt,” Sanchez said. “But there’s no excuses to make. You just do your very best. I’m grateful for the opportunity. … You just never want it under these circumstances.”

The Redskins’ defense, again, was carved up. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz threw for 306 yards and Philadelphia had 436 offensive yards total. The Eagles had 28 first downs and went 7 of 13 on third down.

Washington did pick off Wentz in the third, but couldn’t use the momentum to generate points. Instead, the Redskins punted and the Eagles responded with an 11-play, 85-yard drive, ending when Wentz found receiver Jordan Matthews for a 4-yard strike. 

“Teams are just going to attack you,” linebacker Mason Foster said. “They figure out a way to get at us. Until we put the fire out, you know what I mean, you open a can of worms. I think anytime you see a game like this, it’s a common theme. They’re attacking us a certain way and we’ve got to put it out or they’re going to keep doing it until we find a way to stop it.”

The Redskins didn’t. Matthews’ score proved to be the difference maker as Philadelphia converted a two-point play, which allowed the Eagles to go up two scores (22-13). Philadelphia added a pair of field goals before the end of regulation. 

McCoy’s broken leg, meanwhile, wasn’t the only injury for the Redskins. Left guard Jonathan Cooper tore his biceps and is done for the year, while right guard Tony Bergstrom battled through an ankle injury. He returned to the game, but was on crutches and in a walking boot afterward.

Cooper and Bergstrom, of course, were the Redskins’ starting guards — who were already filling in for starters Shawn Lauvao (ACL) and Brandon Scherff.

“This is a tough, physical sport, and this is something you can never really prepare for,” Gruden said, “but as a coach, you have to adjust when these things happen, and we didn’t do a good enough job tonight adjusting to the personnel that we had.”

Defenders Ryan Anderson (hamstring) and Fabian Moreau (knee) were also hurt, though Moreau came back.

Washington returns Sunday to FedEx Field to take on the New York Giants.

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