- - Sunday, September 8, 2019


PHILADELPHIAJay Gruden could take a video of the first half of Sunday’s Washington Redskins game against the Philadelphia Eagles and use it to impress the bosses for his next head coaching interview — after he gets fired in Washington.

He could say, “Look at this — 278 yards of offense against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles! We weren’t playing the Little Sister of the Poor … and I did this with Case Keenum completing 16 of 22 passes for 257 yards. Did I mention my quarterback was Case Keenum? That’s not Aaron Rodgers back there.”

It was such a glorious first half — a Gruden coaching clinic. Every play seemed like the right one. Philadelphia coaching genius Doug Pederson had no answers. The Redskins went into the locker room with a 20-7 lead, having rolled up 278 yards of offense, more than double what the Eagles managed to gain.

Of course, when they ask in that interview about the second half and the final outcome — a 32-27 Eagles win — Gruden will try to come up with something funny. Like when he was asked by reporters last week if 2018’s most valuable player on offense, running back Adrian Peterson, would be inactive for the game, and Gruden replied, “Ifs. You know — if the hurricane hits, then we won’t have a game. So I don’t know.”

Then, as Gruden takes his impressive Philadelphia first half video and slinks out the door, someone might ask, “Did you really not dress Adrian Peterson for that game?”

What is there to say? It seemed like a good idea at the time? He wouldn’t dare use that special teams rationale again, would he?

I know some will say Sunday’s opening season loss to Philadelphia came down to a number of things — the defense’s failure to contain former Redskin DeSean Jackson, who had two touchdown catches of 51 and 53 yards, or Keenum’s overthrow of Terry McLaurin in the third quarter for what would have likely been a touchdown after the Eagles had taken a 21-20 lead.

But I suspect the moment the game changed for Washington was so brief, most probably didn’t notice.

After the Eagles took possession at the start of the second half and went down the field in 12 plays for 75 yards, using up 7:10 of the clock, Washington still led 20-14 when they got the ball back on their own 25. First down — Derrius Guice, no gain. Then a false start penalty put the ball on the 20. Guice got the ball again and lost five yards. On third and 20, Keenum completed an 11-yard pass to Chris Thompson to move the ball to their 26, where Tress Way punted 44 yards to the Eagles 30, and Darren Sproles returned it 17 yards to their 47 yard line.

That sequence of plays took 2:18.

Philadelphia scored on their next possession quickly on the 53-yarder to Jackson to take the lead 21-20. Washington got the ball back on its 27 yard line. Three incomplete passes later, they were punting to the Eagles.

Time of possession for the Redskins offense in the third quarter? A grand total of 2:58, putting the defense on the field for more than 12 minutes — without an injured Jonathan Allen. So of course they wilted.

“We never had the ball,” were the first words out of Gruden’s mouth to reporters Sunday about what went wrong for his team in the second half. “They held the ball.”

All Washington needed in their first possession of that third quarter was to move the chains, grind it out a little, take some time away from the Eagles offense and give the Redskins defense a little more rest. Even if they went four and out on the next series or the series after that, they would have likely buried Philadelphia deep in their own territory with a Way punt — instead of at the 47, setting up the touchdown pass to Jackson.

Would Peterson have done that? I don’t know. But I know he has in the NFL — and Guice hasn’t.

“I can just control the things that I can control,” Peterson said after the game about his inactive status.

The Peterson benching was a disaster for Gruden, who does control such things. Guice carried the ball 10 times for 18 yards.

Washington won’t win many games this year if they have to rely solely on the arm of Keenum, who, nonetheless, had an impressive day Sunday, completing 30 of 45 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns.

Keenum has to be part of the plan. He can’t be the plan.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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