Redskins plagued by slow starts

Redskins plagued by slow starts
November 18, 2013, 11:00 am
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Mike Shanahan on the loss to the Eagles

Washington Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen scrambles to recover a fumble during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field.

(John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)

Among all the things that have gone wrong for the Redskins this season—the list is long and, unfortunately, growing—the most confounding issue has been the team’s inability to get off to a strong start.

 On Sunday, the Redskins lost 24-16 in Philadelphia to one of the NFL’s hottest quarterbacks and an Eagles’ team that’s clearly on the rise.

 That wasn’t the inexcusable part. What was inexcusable was Washington’s first half performance. In a game the Redskins had to have, they came out flat, struggled to execute and make timely adjustments on both sides of the ball, and simply dug a hole that was too deep to climb out of.

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 By halftime, the score was 17-0. Robert Griffin III and Co. had netted four yards through the air. Nick Foles and the Eagles had 217.

 “We didn’t get it going until the fourth quarter, a little bit in the third quarter,” Coach Mike Shanahan said of the failed comeback bid. “That was disappointing.”

 “Disappointing” would be a good word to describe a one time event. Or, maybe, had the Redskins struggled out of the gates on a couple of occasions. But in this case, “troubling” would be a more accurate description of the slow starts that have plagued Washington in 2013.

 In the season opener against the Eagles, the Redskins trailed 26-7 after two quarters. They were down 24-0 a week later in Green Bay. The next three games were better, but Washington still found itself behind at halftime.

 Overall, Sunday’s first half deficit marked the seventh time in 10 games the Redskins trailed at the intermission and the second time they had been shut out in the opening 30 minutes. In fact, they entered the game with the second-worst first half scoring differential (minus-48) in the NFL.

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 The only team with a worse differential? The one-win Jaguars. 

 Is it the game plan? If so, that falls on the coaching staff.

 Is it a scenario where the locker room leaders are not getting the group in the right frame of mind on game day? If that’s the problem, new leaders must emerge.

 Or is it a case-by-case situation in which some players (and perhaps coaches) come to the stadium primed, prepared and ready to perform and others do not? If that’s the issue, management’s got the next six weeks to weed out the individuals who are dragging everyone else down.

 What makes it such a difficult diagnosis is the fact that this is essentially the same lineup and staff that ran the table a year ago and won the NFC East. They believe they’ve still got enough talent to compete. They say practices resemble those of a team making a playoff push, not a team that’s on the verge of falling apart.

 But … then game day arrives and, before the Redskins know what hit them, they’re picking themselves up off the mat. Again.

 After Sunday’s loss at Lincoln Financial Field dropped the Redskins to 3-7 (and perhaps sealed their postseason fate), there were a lot of shoulder shrugs and blank stares as the reality of another missed opportunity began to sink in.

 “Maybe it takes [us] a while to get going,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “I have no idea. It’s hard to answer what happens with 11 guys, you know? At the start of the game, I feel good. It’s hard to say what’s wrong with everybody. But we have to play better, no doubt about it.”

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 Griffin said the Eagles’ defense almost seemed to know what the Redskins were going to run before the ball was snapped, particularly on pass plays.

 “They did a good job of scheming us up," he said. "Obviously, we were able to run the ball effectively (160 yards in the first half), but in the passing game; they kind of had us. They kind of knew what was coming before it was coming and, like I said, that is disheartening. But we still have to find ways and … we just weren’t able to do that in the first half.”

 Fullback Darrel Young added: “I don’t get it. During the week, you look at the practices, you make a mistake and guys are [peeved] at each other. It’s, ‘Man, we’ve got to do better than that. Repeat the play, repeat the play.’ Stuff like that. You don’t see that from a team that’s 3-7. I don’t know why we’re not winning.”

 Indeed, there are a number of reasons the Redskins are not winning. But the one reason that will likely haunt the players and coaches months from now is why it often took them so long for them to get going on Sundays. 

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