Hope fading for ’Skins after critical loss
Washington’s path to playoffs narrows
PHILADELPHIA – Washington Redskins players didn’t need to hear the diagnosis. They knew there was no way in the world Colt McCoy would leave the game and head to the locker room with a team doctor if it wasn’t necessary.
For years, McCoy had waited for his chance to lead a team, but as the backup to well-established veteran quarterbacks, the opportunities never really came. Until two weeks ago. That’s when Alex Smith broke two bones in his leg, needing emergency surgery to repair. McCoy took over as starter, embracing the chance to prove he could keep Washington atop the NFC East standings and help secure a playoff berth.
But then it all ended for McCoy, not even two quarters into his second start, as he slipped awkwardly while trying to elude a defender.
“I know Colt pretty well and I seen him on the sideline and I seen all the doctors around him, and if Colt had all the doctors around him, I knew something was up,” Washington linebacker Mason Foster recalled. “It’s a horrible feeling to see one of your friends, your brothers go down like that, and the look on his face, I knew he was really hurt.”
The doctors’ findings revealed a broken right fibula for McCoy, meaning for the second time in three weeks Washington had lost a starting quarterback for the season because of a broken leg.
Backup Mark Sanchez, signed two weeks earlier and the recipient of zero first-team snaps the previous week, failed to do enough to keep the Redskins’ offense rolling. Meanwhile, the defense failed to do enough to neutralize an Eagles’ offense that gained 436 yards, and Washington fell 28-13, their third consecutive defeat, and dropped to 6-6.
It’s crazy how quickly things can change in this league. Three weeks ago, the Redskins led the NFC East and seemed to be gaining momentum. But two broken quarterback legs and three consecutive subpar defensive outings later, the squad is in danger of falling out of playoff contention and just might struggle to win another game this season.
“I can’t even describe it,” tight end Jordan Reed told USA TODAY. “It’s like a slap in the face how it all hits you at one time out of nowhere. You lose Alex and then lose Colt, this injury. You want to make the most out of the situation, so you try to stay positive and believe that we can still be in this thing. As competitors, we have to.”
Believing and actually doing are two different things. Doing so with their third quarterback — a guy so new he doesn’t even fully know the playbook, and a man who confessed he didn’t even know the names of all of the teammates who came up to him offering words of encouragement after the loss — is as Sanchez put it, “a tall task, no doubt.”
But further complicating Washington’s efforts is the fact that McCoy became the 15th Redskins player to suffer a season-ending injury. Washington is trying to make do with their third and fourth options at right and left guard and with two tackles who are playing at less than 100 percent health.
Defensively, Washington has looked nothing like the squad that ranked among the league leaders early in the season. Instead, the Redskins have surrendered 400-plus yards to opposing offenses in four of the last five games. Unlike the offense, injuries are not to blame for the frequent defensive shortcomings.
Coach Jay Gruden and defensive players all agreed Monday night that they have to play better and provide greater support for the battered offense. But no one can provide specific reasons for the regression.
Finding answers on defense is a must if Washington truly expects to have a chance. It’s possible to win games (playoff matchups even) despite having a quarterback with significant limitations. Just ask Buffalo and Jacksonville, which reached the playoffs last year although each of their quarterbacks averaged less than 300 passing yards per contest. But those teams had dominant defenses that forced turnovers, got off the field on third downs and put the offense in position to thrive. Washington’s defense currently is not that.
Washington will host another round of quarterback workouts so they can have two healthy passers on the roster. For now, Sanchez is the starter.
“We do have four games left, and it’s my job to be as optimistic as possible and try to get this team ready for the Giants,” Gruden said. “And that’s the only thing we can do. We made a big point that we cannot feel sorry for ourselves.”
Hope is fading fast for the Redskins. But for now, they aim to cling to one another, hoping that helps them defy the odds.
After the loss of two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries, the Redskins’ playoff hopes ride on Mark Sanchez.