Sunday's loss was difficult to bear. The Eagles were beat in just about every way imaginable. This is the kind of loss that will eat at fans until next Sunday. It will not fade away very quickly. Players and coaches will bounce back quicker. They have to.
Fans have the burden of wallowing in the aftermath of a tough loss. Players will review the game tape with the coaches and discuss what went wrong. Then it is back to practice and preparing for the next game. Fans are outsiders in this process. That leaves them stuck on the loss.
Newspapers will write about the game. The airwaves will be full of non-stop chatter about the game. Friends, neighbors and co-workers will all offer opinions on what went wrong. Players will have already moved on to the San Francisco 49ers, our next opponent. It isn't that the players don't care. Of course they do. There just isn't anything to be gained by obsessing on a game that is over, whether a win or a loss.
Players and coaches who spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror will pay the price. They have to focus on the game ahead of them. That is the game that something can be done about. Trust me when I tell you that Andy Reid, his assistants, and the players will stew over this game for a day or so. Then it is time to move on. That's the way it is and the way it should be.
Let's talk about the game and some of what went on. The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead and then Washington took over. They dominated the game. They outscored us 23-3 from that point on. I'd love to tell you that Washington got some lucky breaks or that there was some reason for why things went wrong. Not so.
The Redskins simply outplayed the Eagles. They won the battle at the line of scrimmage and made key plays when they were needed. As much as people will want to blame an Eagles player or coach, you have to give the Redskins credit. They played great.
The real key to the game was Washington's ability to sustain long drives. They only had one three-and-out series all game long. They wore down the Eagles defense and kept McNabb and the offense on the sideline. People will see the Eagles only getting 254 yards on offense and assume the offense was completely ineffective. The offense certainly struggled, but they didn't have many chances. The Redskins ran 75 plays to the Eagles' 47. That is an amazing discrepancy. Most teams average about 60 plays a game.
Third downs just killed us. Washington was 11-of-19 on converting them. It didn't matter what the distance was. They converted short, medium and long situations. They ran the ball. They threw to tight end Chris Cooley and various wide receivers. It was a combination of great playcalling and great execution. Jim Johnson tried various things to shut them down, but nothing worked.
None of the defensive linemen were able to get pressure on quarterback Jason Campbell. The defense got some hits on him early, but it was safeties and linebackers blitzing. Even that pressure stopped after the first couple of drives. Washington's success at running the ball made their play-action passes very effective. It also wore down the defense and made them less effective on those plays where Campbell just dropped back to pass.
Run defense had been a major strength prior to this game. What went wrong? Jim Johnson decided his priority in this game was to control receiver Santana Moss. He was going to keep the safeties back most of the game in order to limit what Moss could do. When you do that, you need the front seven to be able to shut down the run. Our guys had played the run very well so that strategy made complete sense.
The front seven has to deal with seven blockers. There are the five offensive linemen, a fullback and a tight end. When you don't outnumber them, you have to win individual battles. That didn't happen on Sunday. Trent Cole may have had the roughest day. Normally, he gets a lot of pressure on the passer and plays the run very well. Left tackle Chris Samuels controlled him all day. The Redskins ran to the left side very effectively. Cole wasn't able to set the edge, nor was he able to make hustle plays, one of his big strengths.
The outside linebackers didn't help the situation. Neither Chris Gocong nor Omar Gaither was credited with a solo tackle of Clinton Portis. I was shocked when I realized that. Portis carried the ball 29 times. There is no way the outside linebackers should be shutout when it came to tackling Portis. Those guys have to get off blocks and make tackles.
I thought the defensive tackles and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley played OK. Washington didn't run up the middle very well until late in the game when the guys were simply worn down. Bradley and Mike Patterson each had 10 tackles. Brodrick Bunkley had four. They didn't shut down the middle of the field, but they kept it under control. The edges were a different story.
Johnson did mix in some eight-man fronts. He got as creative as he could. When we did slow down the running game, it put the Redskins into third down situations. Normally, that is a good thing, but not on Sunday. Third downs were not a problem for Washington.
The offense looked great early on. Brian Westbrook played well in his return to action. McNabb had the passing game clicking. Late in the first quarter, the Eagles led 14-0. The ball was inside Washington's 40-yard line. The Eagles faced third-and-five. McNabb dropped back. He saw an open receiver and sent the ball Greg Lewis' way. The pass was a bit high, but very catchable. Lewis jumped up to catch it, but the ball basically went through his hands. That play changed the game. David Akers missed a 50-yard field goal on the next play. For some reason, things just fell apart from then on.
The big problem for the offense was third downs. Unlike the Redskins, McNabb and company could not stay on the field. The Eagles offense did not convert one single third down opportunity in the second or third quarters. That took the offense off the field and put the defense right back on it. I think we all know how well that worked out.
As tough a game as that was, there were a few positives:
• DeSean Jackson returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown. He is a big-time playmaker.
• Reggie Brown had a good game. He caught four passes for 84 yards.
• The defense did shut down Moss. He didn't catch a single pass.
• Sav Rocca had a great game. He averaged more than 50 yards per punt.
• The pass blocking was good. McNabb wasn't sacked. I'm not even sure if he was hit.