Washington Redskins: 4 Reasons Behind the Loss to the Philadelphia Eagles
The Redskins have let another division game get away from them.
Against the Eagles on Sunday, quarterback Rex Grossman wasted another strong showing from his defense by throwing four interceptions in three quarters, as the Redskins lost 20-13 in front of their home crowd.
Instead of sitting at 4-1 atop the division and effectively ending Philadelphia's season, Washington is now 3-2 and tangled up in the middle of a tight NFC East race.
Here are the four biggest factors contributing to this ugly division loss.
Reason No. 1: Rex Grossman
Grossman had his worst game of the season, and was replaced by backup John Beck after his fourth interception.
Each one of these slides should probably be devoted to a different Rex Grossman mistake. It is impossible to win when your quarterback throws four interceptions. On Sunday, Grossman gave the Eagles the game by doing just that.
But the interceptions alone do not adequately measure just how negative his impact was on the game.
Rex was 9-for-22 for 143 yards, zero touchdowns and the four picks, two of which were thrown from inside Philadelphia's 40-yard line.
He averaged only four plays in each of his nine possessions, and the offense as a whole averaged an impressive .89 first downs and 19 yards per Grossman possession. Yes, he actually managed less than one first down per drive.
The low point came with 11 minutes left in the third, just after an interception of Vince Young by DeAngelo Hall that put the Redskins on the Eagles' 18-yard line.
On 2nd and 12 from the 20, Grossman threw a floater to a covered Fred Davis that was easily picked off by safety Kurt Coleman. One possession later Grossman politely tossed his fourth interception of the game (his third to Coleman), and was replaced by John Beck for the entire fourth quarter.
Head coach Mike Shanahan had no choice but to bench Grossman after such a miserable performance. It is not yet clear who will start in Week 7, and Shanahan plans to wait until Wednesday to decide.
What Grossman has clearly proven is that he is still very capable of the disastrous games he was known for in Chicago, and he cannot continue to play at this level if he intends to start.
Reason No. 2: Injuries
Starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger suffered a knee injury on the first drive of the game.
Injuries happen in the NFL, and they can never excuse a loss. That being said, the Redskins were missing some key players for Sunday's game.
Shanahan entered the game without two starters: running back Tim Hightower and cornerback Philip Buchanon. Hightower's replacement, Ryan Torrain, had 10 carries for only 22 yards, and the Redskins could never establish a running game (which is actually probably Grossman's fault as well).
Buchanon was replaced by nickelback Josh Wilson, and Kevin Barnes moved into Wilson's spot. The Redskins struggled in pass defense early, and gave up a much higher percentage of third-down conversions than they had all season: 37 percent on Sunday compared to a league-leading 26 percent entering the game.
Also hampering the Redskins' defense was the toe injury of free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who was listed as probable on the NFL injury report entering Week 6. Atogwe played but did not appear able to run at full speed, and was spelled by backup Reed Doughty later in the game.
Atogwe has had a terrific season, but his ineffectiveness on Sunday contributed to the problems in coverage.
The Redskins' offense took a huge blow when tight end Chris Cooley was injured during Washington's second possession, another bad play Grossman can take credit for.
On a 3rd and 2, Cooley was led by Grossman right into a massive hit delivered by Philadelphia corner Nnamdi Asomugha. The play resulted in a one-yard loss, but more importantly Cooley broke his index finger on the play and could miss up to several weeks.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's game plan included lots of two tight end sets designed to exploit the weak linebackers of the Eagles, and the loss of Cooley limited his ability to do so.
The Redskins also lost starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who went down with a knee injury on the first drive of the game, and later lost left tackle Trent Williams to a high ankle sprain.
Reason No. 3: Andy Reid and LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy ran all over the Redskins defense for 126 yards on 28 carries.
It is hard to blame the Washington defense for anything. They entered the game giving up 15.8 points per game, third best in the NFL, so giving up 20 to the high-powered Eagles offense still constitutes a solid effort.
But the Eagles got off to a hot start and scored all 20 of their points in the first half, thanks to some terrific play calling by Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid.
Knowing that Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett would be primarily concerned with Mike Vick and his athletic receivers, Reid gave the ball to running back LeSean McCoy 17 times in the first half—the most carries he's had in any half this season. McCoy marched the offense down the field on his way to 78 yards and a touchdown through two quarters, and gave Vick more opportunities by forcing the defense to adjust.
The Redskins did make changes in the second half, during which McCoy had only 11 carries for 48 yards and the Eagles were held scoreless. Grossman's turnovers proved too costly, however, and the Eagles used McCoy to run out the clock at the end of the game.
Reid would do well to commit to the running game on a more consistent basis, if not just to keep defenses off balance and give Vick some better chances on play-action bootlegs and other formations that highlight Vick's unique skill set.
Reason No. 4: Penalties
The Redskins had 9 penalties for 75 yards on Sunday.
Shanahan's team strategy has been clear so far in 2011.
His objectives are to play great defense, run the ball, minimize turnovers, and win field-position battles. Signing punter Sav Rocca in the offseason has helped the Skins consistently get good field position all year, but that strategy requires a disciplined team that does not attract the attention of the referees.
Washington had seven flags for 95 yards against the Eagles; 95 yards that the Redskins desperately needed.
Despite getting outplayed offensively all game, the Redskins still only lost by a touchdown and were one stop away from getting the ball back with 1:20 left in the game.
In this type of close, low-scoring game, field position can be everything, and the Redskins kept themselves out of Eagles territory by turning the ball over and committing penalties.
The Eagles were lucky to win this game.
Considering Grossman's spectacularly terrible play, they should have won by much more than seven. That being said, the Redskins lost because of their own mistakes.
Shanahan's emphasis on defense, clock management, and field position undoubtedly suits his group best.
As it has been executed through five games, it has given the Redskins a chance to win every week. It does rely on smart play and discipline, however, and four picks and 95 yards worth of penalties do not qualify as either.
Their game in Carolina next week needs to be much cleaner, or Redskins fans may be forced to watch another excruciating loss.