LANDOVER, Md. -- Ten observations from the Redskins' 33-27 loss to Philadelphia:
1. The Redskins did not look like a team intent on defending the NFC East title. Not on this night. Yes, they showed something by rallying to make the final score close and forcing Philadelphia to recover an onside kick to clinch the win. Sure, that’s good. But a heck of a lot more was expected than for fans to go home saying, “Well, at least they were resilient and didn’t quit.” This quality does matter, and it’s why they rallied from a 3-6 record in 2012 to make the postseason. And it’ll matter if they go into Green Bay and win on Sunday. It’ll also matter in future weeks. OK, so you can’t question their attitudes. But they didn’t solve a lot of questions, either, about the secondary or about where Robert Griffin III is at with his game. You can’t go crazy drawing grand conclusions from one game, but you also can’t assume you’ll bounce back the same way you did last year. I don't think the Redskins think they're guaranteed the same thing will happen; I do think they're confident in what they can and still will accomplish.
2. Griffin had the expected rust after an offseason of not much practice and no games. That’s fine. What I didn’t expect was a sloppy effort on the run game. Running back Alfred Morris gained only 45 yards on 12 carries and fumbled twice. Morris looked good in camp. But he and the run game needed to let Griffin ease into the game and couldn’t do so. His yards weren’t the issue; had the score been different he probably would have finished with good numbers. But the fumbles were a problem and led to nine points. The one in the end zone was about concentration.
3. It didn’t help that Washington started 10 of its 13 drives inside the 20. The Redskins did not start a drive outside their 20 until their second possession of the third quarter. Did it make a difference? Of the 10 drives that began at the 20 or worse, the Redskins scored once. They managed 12 first downs on those drives, but nine occurred in the final two series. In comparison, Philly started five of 14 drives at its 20 or worse. Only one of those drives ended in points (a second would have if not for Michael Vick’s lateral returned for a touchdown by a heads-up DeAngelo Hall).
4. A big problem for the run defense was simply about numbers. Eagles coach Chip Kelly does a terrific job of putting his offense in favorable spots, and as long as his blockers make their block, a big play can follow. It really was left to the Redskins' front seven to get off blocks and make plays, and when they did, they stopped the Eagles. It just didn’t happen enough early. It didn’t help that Washington’s offense couldn’t do anything, which meant the defense was always on the field (53 of the Eagles’ 75 plays came in the first half). Blame the defense for some bad play, but they were put in many bad situations. Philly started four drives in Redskins' territory and scored touchdowns on three of them. This offense is too dangerous to give such breaks.
5. Back to the Eagles’ offense. The first touchdown of the second half is a perfect example. The Redskins had six defenders in the box; the Eagles countered with six blockers. The problem is Philadelphia forces teams to honor the ball to where it appears it’s going. On this play, if they were going to run, based on LeSean McCoy's alignment (to the left of Vick and a bit behind) it would have been an inside zone to the right. On the handoff, tackle Barry Cofield slides to his left to cover the gap and linebacker Perry Riley races to the outside. But tackle Stephen Bowen was blocked to the back side and linebacker London Fletcher had to wait, but that bought time for yet another blocker to arrive. A huge gap was created. It didn’t help that the safeties -- corner E.J. Biggers was playing strong safety -- couldn’t stop him. If McCoy gets to the third level, forget it.
6. Another sequence showed how Kelly’s offense operates. Actually, it was the second and third plays from scrimmage. Vick connected with tight end Brent Celek off a zone read fake; slot corner Josh Wilson scrambled to catch up. It was a 28-yard gain. On the next play, the Eagles had the numbers to the left. Wilson was in the slot, but showing blitz. That left two receivers to block two corners -- and no one on Jackson. A bubble screen turned into a 16-yard gain. “They did a good job with their run-pass numbers,” Fletcher said. “If the numbers weren’t to their liking as far as whether they would run the ball, then they would throw it and vice versa. They did a good job with that.”
7. It left the Redskins’ defense stressed. And if they did not make one-on-one plays, then they were in trouble. The key for any good defense is to swarm to the ball. But the Eagles made that tough the way they spread the field and forced Washington to honor every intention. There was one time in which Brian Orakpo tripped up McCoy in the backfield for a short gain. Had he not gotten him down, McCoy would have run for 20 yards. The hole was that big. It happened time and again. The scheme is good, but the talent really makes it work. When you have McCoy, Jackson and Vick, you have players well-suited to playing in space.
8. The defense knew what was coming much of the time. They just couldn’t stop it. The same cannot be said for the offense, particularly early. Receiver Pierre Garcon said the Eagles threw looks at them they had not practiced against or had seen before. At least the offense had plenty of Oregon tape to study to prepare for Kelly -- and they knew the offensive talent better. The offense had to go back three years to Arizona’s film to try and guess what Eagles’ defensive coordinator Bill Davis would do. “It’s hard to prepare for that,” Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “We still have rules that should work against anything. We just didn’t execute as well as should have.”
9. The Eagles were unconventional at times, sending two defenders through the B gap for example. It was by design. They caught the Redskins on an inside zone with the perfect blitz to handle the play. They caught them on an outside zone with a call perfect for that run. “They did things that had it gone a different way we could have made them pay for being unsound sometimes,” Lichtensteiger said. “But we didn’t, so they look like geniuses and here we are.”
10. The secondary had a rough night tackling. Rookie Bacarri Rambo missed Celek on his 28-yard catch and run (wrong angle perhaps)? He also missed Vick in the open field, getting juked outside. I don’t know this for sure, but Hall said the coverage was busted on the 25-yard touchdown pass to Jackson. There was no safety deep. Rambo was playing up. “There was supposed to have been a couple guys back there,” Hall said. “I don’t know exactly what went wrong, but there was definitely supposed to be a couple guys.” Biggers was playing out of position (I saw him work at strong safety during one practice) and missed an open-field tackle on McCoy. Join the club. Again, give Hall credit for a heads-up play, and rookie corner David Amerson did a solid job, even undercutting a route for a breakup and near interception.