SEABROOK – Midway through the second quarter, the Washington Redskins were ready to break the assumptions about their team: a journeyman quarterback who cannot throw, no-name wide receivers who cannot get open and a fading offensive line.
Then quarterback Case Keenum stepped up in a clean pocket and sailed a 69-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Terry McLaurin to give the Redskins a 17-point lead over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 8.
In just a little over one-quarter in the first game of the season, Washington had a three-score lead on a hated division rival.
It seemed like it was too good to be true — and it was.
After a 17-point lead, the Eagles (1-0) fought their way back and defeated the Redskins (0-1) 32-27 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Keenum went 30 of 44, for 380 yards and three touchdowns, while McLaurin had five receptions for 125 yards and one touchdown.
The short and unexpected offensive explosion was not enough.
For the Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden, the game was a bit of deja vu as the team’s struggles Sunday were reminiscent of last season: a team with a lot of promise that quickly faded at the end.
“Yeah it’s, you know, eerie, the second half was eerie of our performance late in the game defensively and offensively,” Gruden said. “So, that’s something I got to count on: coaches doing a better job and the players doing a better job — period.”
The game was a tale of two halves. At the end of the first half, Washington enjoyed a 20-7 lead and it seemed like they were in control.
Keenum was clicking with new receivers and an almost perfect Redskins defensive effort, until a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson before halftime, the Redskins were dominating the game.
But then came the second half.
On the first drive the third quarter, the Eagles went 75 yards on 12 plays, capped off by a five-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Alshon Jeffery to cut the lead to six points.
After a Redskins three and out on the ensuing drive, the Eagles went back to work moving against a Redskins defense, now with defensive end Jonathan Allen, who left the game in the second quarter with a Medial Collateral Ligament sprain.
It was another long touchdown pass to Jackson, this one 53 yards, that gave Philadelphia a 21-20 lead that they never lost.
While Washington seemingly controlled the game in the first half, the Eagles second half offense dominated time of possession with 34:27 total for the game compared to the Redskins with 25:33.
“We never had the ball,” Gruden said. “They held the ball. We kickoff to them, they go down and score a touchdown and hold the ball for eight or nine minutes.”
The Redskins had just four possessions in the second half, and before their desperate, last-ditch drive down by 12 points, Washington ran just 10 plays in the second half. Much of the offensive ineptitude was due to penalties, which derailed Washington’s few drives in the second half.
In total, the Redskins had 12 penalties for 95 yards, compared to just six penalties for 55 yards for Philadelphia.
Down just one, midway through the third quarter, Gruden wanted to remain aggressive. Just like he had done in the previous quarter, Keenum faked a handoff, stepped up in the pocket and launched a deep pass into the middle of the field for McLaurin.
But unlike the previous long pass, Keenum’s throw did not land in McLaurin’s outstretched hand, but rather two yards in front of him on the grass. The Redskins would have to punt three plays later.
“I just let it go probably a hair too soon and, you know, it’s close…yeah, I want that one back,” Keenum said of the throw.
The Eagles did not miss an opportunity to score, as they finished off an 8:55, 19 play drive with a touchdown and a two-point conversion to make the score 29-20.
After an Eagles field goal, Washington got the ball back, down 12 points with little more than three minutes left in the game. Keenum led the team down the field on a 16-play drive ending with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Trey Quinn with just six seconds left. It was not enough time for the Redskins to mount a comeback.
Next week Washington plays the Dallas Cowboys (1-0) in the home opener, at 1 p.m. at FedExField.