Tuesday November 16, 2010 3:15 PM
By Rich Tandler
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Call it what you will. You can pick your description from any of dozens of headlined. Annihilated. Whipped. Butt kicking. It probably went beyond a rout (it was at that point 10 minutes into the game) or even a whipping. I never use the word massacre when talking about a football game (there are mass killings in real life) and I shy away from calling the result of a game a disaster because if you use that to describe a sporting event then what word is left for events like the earthquake in Haiti? All you really need to do to sum up Monday nights Eagles-Redskins game is the score, 58-28, and to know that the game was not as close as the final score might indicate. Not that salt will make a wound like that much more painful than it already is, but the Redskins had two weeks to prepare for the Eagles. The problem was, they were not very productive weeks thanks to Mike Shanahans decision to pull Donovan McNabb late in the game against the Lions on October 31 and then to come up with shifting explanations for why he did it. Usually, coaches hate to admit that anything is a distraction. For one thing, it gives the team a ready-made excuse for failure. But here is what Shanahan said on Thursday: I think for our whole football team, I think Donovan has done a good job this week getting ready to play, a lot of distractions. If Shanahan admitted that it was a distraction, it must have been pretty bad. The distraction was 100 percent a Mike Shanahan creation. While McNabb was struggling that game, there was zero chance that Rex Grossman was going to successfully lead the team to a touchdown. The inability to get his fabrications straight made the bye week and the week leading up to the Eagles game a firestorm. It seemed that the game against Philadelphia was an afterthought. And that is how they played. Eagles bold, Redskins timid In Philadelphia, the Eagles came out and played cautiously. Perhaps they were planning on opening things up for Michael Vick in the later going but after Vick went out and Kevin Kolb came in they stuck with short passes, mostly to running back LeSean McCoy. On Monday night, they opened things up and exploited their speed advantage from the get-go. On the first play from scrimmage, Vick stretched the field both horizontally by rolling out and vertically by launching a pass about 65 yards in the air on the money to DeSean Jackson. The Redskins response was tepid at best. Two runs by Keiland Williams set up a third and three situation. All year long the Redskins have been having difficulty on third down in part because they have been mostly in third and long. But they proved that they cant even convert the short-yardage situations by again handing off to their third-string running back, who was stuffed after a gain of one. The line of thinking there must have been somewhere along the lines that the Redskins couldnt keep up with their speedy opponents so their best bet was to keep the ball on the ground and keep it out of the hands of Vick. Still, that play contrasted with the Eagles 88-yard bomb told you all you needed to know about the contrasting approaches of the swashbuckling Vick and his swift teammates and the tight, plodding Redskins. This is a game that could shape the Redskins draft and free agent strategy for the next few years, assuming that Vick signs a new deal with the Eagles. They will need speed in the secondary and at linebacker to keep up with the Philly offense not to mention Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham of the Giants and Dez Bryant of the Cowboys. Third down misery The Williams run was only the start of the Redskins woes on third down for the game. Actually, given the Redskins 22 percent conversion rate for the year, that play was a continuation of their yearlong problems. After the Lions game, Shanahan bemoaned how long they had to go in third down situations. They averaged 9.6 yards to go on their 14 third downs. Only twice did they have fewer than seven yards to go and they were 0 for 2 on those. After the third and three on their initial drive, the Redskins had third and three and third and four on their next two drives. McNabb threw an interception on the first one and his pass for Chris Cooley on the second one fell incomplete. Later in the game the Redskins failed to convert third and four and third and seven. In all, McNabb threw three interceptions on third down. Im sure that there is some exotic football stat that would assign the Redskins a negative value for third down conversions. So it doesnt really matter how far they have to go. They just cant get it done. The situation was bad early in the season and it has gotten worse in the past three games. In the first half in Chicago on Oct. 24, the Redskins were successful on two of their first four third downs. They failed to convert on their final eight third downs the rest of that game. They went 2 for 14 in Detroit and then 0 for 10 on Monday. Add it up and you have two successes in their past 32 third down opportunities. That is 6.25 percent. Have the Redskins hit rock bottom? You would think so but we thought it couldnt get much worse when they went into the Chicago game with a 27 percent conversion rate. Nothing, with the exception of a four-interception game with one of them returned 92 yards for a touchdown, will allow the Redskins to be successful if they cant sustain drives. Fixing this issue has to be Mike and Kyle Shanahans first priority. You can reach Rich by email atRTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter@RealRedskins.