- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2018

LANDOVER — This week, the Redskins didn’t need an injury to force a change at quarterback. Mark Sanchez gave them enough reasons to pull the plug.

Josh Johnson replaced Sanchez in Sunday’s 40-16 blowout loss to the New York Giants, making him the fourth signal-caller to take a snap under center for Washington this season.

The Redskins fell to 6-7 and looked far removed from the team that held a two-game lead in the NFC East just last month.

Sanchez was benched with 5:31 left in the third quarter with the Redskins trailing by 40. To that point, the 32-year-old was just 6-for-14 for 38 yards and two interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Washington has now lost four straight. Each loss puts the playoffs further out of reach.

“There was nothing that worked,” coach Jay Gruden said about Sanchez before adding later, “When you talk about a quarterback who just got here and you ask me why everything went wrong, there’s a lot of different reasons. But we do understand how difficult it is for him to come in with a short amount of time to play.”

The Redskins had hoped Sanchez and his playoff experience could help them to their own postseason run — despite the fact the veteran had not made a start since 2015.

Sanchez, who was signed Nov. 19 after Alex Smith suffered a season-ending leg injury, was forced into action last week when Colt McCoy broke his leg against the Philadelphia Eagles.

On Sunday, Sanchez was rarely in sync with the offense. His passes were batted at the line of scrimmage. He was sacked five times. Gruden said he thought Sanchez misread coverages and missed a couple of throws.

The Redskins, Gruden said, will now have to get Johnson, the quarterback signed to back up Sanchez, ready for next week’s game against Jacksonville Jaguars.

Johnson went 11 of 16 for 195 yards, throwing a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for an eight-yard score.

“Listen, it was tough sledding, for sure,” Sanchez said. “That’s easy to figure out. … We kind of just ran into a buzz saw there.”

The loss didn’t fall solely on quarterback play — not when the defense gave up more than 400 yards for the fifth time in six games.

As has been the case during the team’s losing streak, Washington’s defense was, again, easily exploited.

The unit gave up 24 points in the second quarter. Running back Saquon Barkley finished with 170 yards on just 14 carries.

When the Redskins defense was at their best earlier this season, it was a unit that could shut down the run and get to the quarterback. Their October meeting with the Giants was a perfect example: Barkley was held to 38 yards rushing and quarterback Eli Manning was sacked seven times.

But on Sunday, Manning threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns — even with star Odell Beckham out with a quadriceps injury. Barkley also ripped off a 78-yard score.

The Giants piled on points in the first half and led 34-0 at halftime. The deficit was the team’s largest ever at FedEx Field.

“You can’t say it’s the players, man because we the same players,” safety D.J. Swearinger said. “We’re putting in the same work. Defense, we’re practicing hard.”

The topic of preparation, though, became another talking point after the game.

While Gruden said the result wasn’t a reflection of the team’s practices in the lead-up to the game, Swearinger replied “no comment” when asked about his coach’s observation.

Cornerback Josh Norman also issued a “no comment” after he was asked if the team was ready for kickoff.

At times, the Redskins seem undisciplined. They committed 15 penalties for 175 yards against the Giants, and Washington entered the game as the third-most penalized team in football, according to The Football Database.

On the team’s very first drive, Washington had two drops off the hands of Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder.

The Redskins also appeared to struggle with offensive linemen Ty Nsekhe and Austin Howard starting at guard. Both players are natural tackles, though Washington has had to adapt after both starting guards when down in Philadelphia. Howard was later benched.

Washington failed to generate anything on the ground or through the air. By the end of the first quarter, Tress Way had punted four times.

But the game spiraled out of control for the Redskins from the moment Sanchez threw his first pick-6.

Backed up to the 1-yard line, Sanchez had his pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and it fell into the hands of safety Curtis Riley — who easily walked into the end zone.

Gruden called the play “a punch in the gut for everybody.”

“That product we put on the field today was not a reflection of the guys work during the week and practice,” Gruden said. “However it did look bad. It’s a reflection of all of us.”

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