- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 8, 2019

PHILADELPHIA — Quinton Dunbar hurried off the field Sunday, in no mood to catch up with former teammate DeSean Jackson or talk to anyone else for that matter. The Redskins cornerback was still seething over what had transpired over the course of the afternoon.

There was a lot for Dunbar to digest, but it left him angry all the same. Not only did the Redskins lose 32-27 to the Eagles, but Washington blew a 17-point lead in the process. Dunbar was mad over two botched coverages — which, not surprisingly, led to Jackson breaking free for 50-yard-plus touchdowns each time. Dunbar said he felt the Redskins got complacent, particularly in the second half.

And in speaking to reporters, he uttered then words that seem almost impossible to comprehend — especially when considering the fact this is only Week 1 of a brand new season.

“They just wanted it more than us,” Dunbar said.

How? How does that happen?

The proof, Dunbar said, was in the results. The difference between the two halves, he said, was “unacceptable.” At halftime, when the Redskins led 20-7, the Eagles had just 134 yards. They finished with 436. Philadelphia, too, controlled the ball for all but 8:52 of the second half.

Simply put: Washington’s defense couldn’t get off the field.

The Redskins’ defense was supposed to be Washington’s strength. They added All-Pro safety Landon Collins in free agency. They traded up for pass rusher Montez Sweat, giving them another first-rounder along the defensive line. The new pieces were supposed to gel with last year’s young stars.

But in Sunday’s opener, familiar problems — specifically coverage breakdowns — remained.

“Defensively, we have too good of personnel to play like that,” coach Jay Gruden said.

The Redskins made the kind of devastating mistakes that shouldn’t happen in the first game of a new season.

On Jackson’s touchdowns, for instance, Redskins defenders, who harped on better communication going into this year, weren’t on the same page.

On the speedy wideout’s 51-yard score that gave Philadelphia its first points, the Redskins mixed up the zone coverage — leaving cornerback Josh Norman with no safety help over the top.

On the catch that gave the Eagles the lead in the third, the Redskins failed to communicate a check properly before the play was snapped, and Jackson blew past rookie Jimmy Moreland and safety Montae Nicholson for a 53-yard touchdown.

“We kind of just fell apart,” Nicholson said of the second-half collapse. “Plain and simple. This goes back to maintaining our composure and staying together. It’s the game endurance that we still have to pick up.”

The Redskins knew what they were facing. Jackson, after all, spent two seasons with Washington before leaving as a free agent in 2017. They also faced Jackson for years with the Eagles prior to the wideout reuniting with Philadelphia this offseason.

Even at 32, Jackson has blazing speed — he finished with eight catches and 154 yards, and his playmaking ultimately made the difference as Washington couldn’t hold on to a 17-point lead.

Before Jackson took over, the Redskins seemed well on their way to an upset.

Entering the year with an unproven group of playmakers, the Redskins had players like Terry McLaurin (five catches,125 yards) and Trey Quinn (four catches, 38 yards) step up. Washington was missing both tight end Jordan Reed, who is in the concussion protocol, and running back Adrian Peterson, who was inactive.

Quarterback Case Keenum got into a rhythm early and wasn’t afraid to take shots down the field. Washington connected on a number of big plays — something desperately missing from the offense last year.

The Redskins first got on the board with a 48-yard touchdown from tight end Vernon Davis, who hurdled Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby in a remarkable feat of athleticism. Later, to go up 17-0, McLaurin hauled in a 70-yard bomb off a play-action pass from Keenum.

By the end of the game, Keenum had 380 yards — more than Alex Smith had in any game last season.

Still, the offense stalled in the second half. Gruden called the unit’s problems eerily similar to last season, when the Redskins also failed to put points up in the second half of games.

The defensive meltdown, though, was more troubling.

The Redskins have high hopes for the unit, and Washington now has a week to clean up its miscues as Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, 35-17 winners over the New York Giants, come to town for the home opener at FedEx Field. Washington could also be without defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who suffered a knee sprain against the Eagles.

“We beat ourselves,” Dunbar said. “For the most part, I felt like the guys went out there and competed well. We just got to get better at communicating, especially when it’s DeSean Jackson, one of the best deep threat players in the game.

“You can’t bust or have slip-ups like that because he’s going to kill you, just like what he did.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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