FADE PAT­TERN

‘Dis­ap­point­ment, frus­tra­tion, sad­ness’ as Red­skins fall short once again, drop to last in East

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY ZAC BOYER

PHILADEL­PHIA | One last chance at glory lost, Robert Grif­fin III re­treated to the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ side­line, his aim­less wan­der re­flec­tive of the life­less­ness his team put for­ward most of Sun­day af­ter­noon.

The Red­skins had, once again, failed to make some­thing out of the few op­por­tu­ni­ties they had, dis­play­ing a mys­ti­fy­ing in­abil­ity to cor­rect the ills that plague them. Grif­fin saun­tered to­ward the bench, the fi­nal sec­onds of the Red­skins’ 24-16 loss to the Philadel­phia Ea­gles tick­ing away be­hind him, with a gaze demon­strat­ing com­plete bafflement that ev­ery­thing con­tin­ues to go so wrong so quickly.

What was once a sea­son that could have been truly spe­cial is in in­creas­ing dan­ger of be­ing re­mem­bered for the wrong rea­sons. With another loss, their sev­enth in their first 10 games, the Red­skins have not only es­tab­lished them­selves as the worst team in their di­vi­sion, but they have seem­ingly done so with a litany of is­sues they can­not man­age to cor­rect.

“The feel­ing is just dis­ap­point­ment, frus­tra­tion, sad­ness,” cor­ner­back DeAn­gelo Hall said. “Hell, I felt like I was about to cry on the side­lines, man. I just don’t un­der­stand where we’re fall­ing apart, you know?”

Un­til the fourth quar­ter, when the Red­skins man­aged to show some signs of life, they ap­peared headed to­ward what would have ranked as the worst loss in three-plus sea­sons un­der head coach Mike Shana­han. They had just four net pass­ing yards at the end of the first half, when they were outscored 17-0, and had no an­swer for Ea­gles quar­ter­back Nick Foles — a player who, just last year, looked skit­tish and lacked con­fi­dence in his two games against them.

Foles, mak­ing his fifth start in six games for in­jured quar­ter­back Michael Vick, picked apart the Red­skins de­fense in the first half. De­spite his lack of quick­ness, he mas­ter­fully guided the zone-read op­tion, a pil­lar of the Ea­gles’ of­fense, and paced his team­mates with a healthy ver­ti­cal pass­ing game.

Three weeks ago, the Red­skins en­tered a stretch of games that seemed, for the first time, en­tirely winnable. They re­turned from a road trip to Den­ver on Oct. 27 with the per­cep­tion that they needed to win at least two of their next three games to re­main solidly in con­tention in the NFC East — in­clud­ing the one against the Ea­gles, who en­tered Sun­day with a hold on first place in the di­vi­sion.

In­stead, they an­swered a late col­lapse in a loss to the Min­nesota Vik­ings on Nov. 7 with what could kindly be con­sid­ered a poor start. The Ea­gles, who soundly thrashed the Red­skins

still con­fi­dent. All the tired, empty phrases los­ing teams trot out that make for pleas­ant sound bytes and don’t mean any­thing.

In­stead of an­swers, Trent Wil­liams ac­cused a game of­fi­cial of di­rect­ing a stream of ob­scen­i­ties at him. Af­ter last week’s loss to the Vik­ings in Min­neapo­lis, mul­ti­ple play­ers com­plained about the ref­er­ees, too.

Never mind that the Red­skins were flagged for only four penal­ties Sun­day. Never mind, too, that Wil­liams’ an­gry words sidestepped the fes­ter­ing is­sue of Grif­fin’s pro­tec­tion. The Ea­gles con­tacted the quar­ter­back to the turf 13 times, in­clud­ing four sacks and re­peated shots that hurt to watch.

Grif­fin’s fre­quent scram­bles for his life helped to neuter any at­tempt to throw the ball in the first half against the NFL’s sec­ond-worst pass de­fense. The Red­skins man­aged four net yards pass­ing in the half. Yes, four.

Yet Wil­liams com­plained about of­fi­ci­at­ing.

In­stead of an­swers, Grif­fin barked at of­fi­cials af­ter a failed drive in the third quar­ter and waved his arms as he pleaded for a flag on another play.

In­stead of an­swers, Brian Orakpo per­formed his post-sack dance af­ter pulling down Ea­gles quar­ter­back Nick Foles in the sec­ond quar­ter. Orakpo’s team trailed 24-0. Yet he danced.

This, for bet­ter or (mostly) worse, is Red­skins foot­ball.

In a small room near the locker room, Mike Shana­han gripped the sides of a podium and di­rected his pierc­ing gaze at the dirty gray car­pet. The coach didn’t make eye con­tact as he an­swered ques­tions. An un­touched bot­tle of wa­ter rested next to his right hand.

Shana­han’s words were fa­mil­iar, too. We’ve heard this news con­fer­ence. We’ve read th­ese ex­pla­na­tions from the coach in the fourth sea­son of a five-year con­tract. Take your pick of this sea­son’s de­ba­cles and the post-mortem is the same.

They had a great week of prac­tice. When haven’t they?

They want to keep im­prov­ing. Did the flurry of missed tack­les — even tak­ing the easy path to blame LeSean McCoy’s shifty run­ning — look like im­prove­ment? Did the spe­cial teams er­rors — like new re­turn man Nick Wil­liams muff­ing one punt and al­low­ing another to go be­fore it stopped af­ter 70 yards — look like im­prove­ment?

They need to play a full 60 min­utes. Why is that game­l­ong fo­cus still a prob­lem 2 1⁄2 months into the sea­son with the NFL’s sec­ond-old­est 53-man ros­ter?

They kept com­pet­ing. They fought hard. They al­most pulled the game out. They didn’t take ad­van­tage of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Throw out all the cliches you want. Shana­han did. They can’t ob­scure the ugly re­sult against the medi­ocre Ea­gles and their for­mer backup quar­ter­back who looked more like an All-Pro against the Red­skins. They can’t ob­scure that sport’s ul­ti­mate mea­sure, wins and losses, says the Red­skins aren’t close to as good of foot­ball team as they may think.

Sure, the Grif­fin-di­rected come­back with the 16-point fourth quar­ter will be held up as the lat­est sign that bet­ter days are ahead, that, some­how, one of th­ese days the Red­skins will step onto the field and — poof! — be trans­formed into an up­per-di­vi­sion foot­ball team.

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