- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2018

LANDOVER — On the very first offensive snap of the game, Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson unleashed a deep ball that was underthrown and intercepted. What followed was a loud eruption of cheers — despite the game taking place at FedEx Field.

Throughout Sunday’s 24-0 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins heard chants of “E-A-G-L-E-S.” Players could look into the stands and see seats packed with Eagles fans in green and black.

If they had taken a walk around the parking lot beforehand, the Redskins would have even seen two young fans of the reigning Super Bowl champs holding a banner that read, “You’re in Eagles Country.”

It was hard to argue otherwise.

The Redskins, dominated by an Eagles team fighting for a playoff spot, saw another snake-bit season end, mercifully, on Sunday. With the loss, the Redskins finished below .500, at 7-9, for a second straight season.

They were also shut out for the first time since Dec. 7, 2014.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, clinched a playoff spot — with an assist from Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings laying an egg against the Chicago Bears.

“I really think we were on to something good and then injuries just really take its toll,” running back Chris Thompson said. “To go out like that just sucks. … It’s just tough for me in the end to basically feel like I let a lot of people down.”

Washington now enters the offseason with a pressing list of questions. Will coach Jay Gruden be brought back? The same will be asked about team president Bruce Allen. Gruden told reporters he had nothing to say about 2019 “right now.”

The Redskins also have many needs, including at quarterback with Alex Smith (leg) not expected to be ready for the start of next season.

Inside the locker room, players were remorseful over how the season slipped away. Before Smith’s injury in mid-November, the Redskins were 6-3 and had a two-game division lead in the NFC East. Washington went on to lose six of its last seven — with 24 players ending the season on injured reserve. That number surpassed last season’s total of 23.

After the game, running back Adrian Peterson addressed his teammates, telling them to be passionate about what they do. Gruden and Johnson had a conversation that ended with the coach patting his quarterback on the shoulders. Other teammates embraced and wished each other luck in the future.

Peterson, who will be a free agent in the spring, said the Redskins continued to fight even as the season fell apart.

“That’s what I love about this team,” Peterson said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to break .500, but when I look back and see how this season played out with the injuries to the side, it’s like we had opportunities. … So for me, that speaks value to what we can be as a team once we all get it together.”

Against the Eagles, Washington looked completely overmatched. With Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles at quarterback, the Eagles controlled time of possession (43:19-16:41) and worked their way up and down the field.

In the second quarter, the Eagles scored their first touchdown of the game with a churning 19-play, 87-yard drive that lasted an astonishing 11:49 of game time — the longest by any team since 2015. Philadelphia scored when Foles hit wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for a 2-yard touchdown to take a 10-0 lead.

The Redskins, meanwhile, were unable to generate anything offensively. They finished with just 89 total yards (including sacks) and Johnson completed just 44.4 percent of his passes, throwing for 91 yards.

Johnson, of course, was the Redskins’ fourth quarterback of the season, making his third consecutive start. The 32-year-old will be a free agent in the spring and it remains to be seen if the Redskins will bring him back for next season.

On Wednesday, Johnson said he wasn’t thinking about his future, adding “this is all fun for me.”

But it wasn’t fun for the Redskins fans who actually attended the team’s finale.

They even had to watch Nate Sudfeld, Washington’s former third-string quarterback who was released in 2017, lead an Eagles touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

Sudfeld replaced Foles, who left the game with a chest injury.

At one point deep into the fourth quarter, a group of Eagles fans led a “Let’s Go Bears” chant. They got their wish as the Bears won 24-10.

With the Eagles in the playoffs, Washington ended another season without making the playoffs. The Redskins now have the coming months to figure out how to improve.

“It’s disappointing for sure because it’s my job to make sure the fans come here and put a product on the field,” Gruden said. “We’re playing Week 17. … Overall, it just wasn’t good enough of a year for us. Hopefully, we’ll regain that support sometime soon, very very soon.

“Until then, we have a lot of work to do.”

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