On this site, you will read a lot of very educated football analysis. Some guys break down film and other guys are experts with Xs and Os. All I can offer is my perspective based on what I watched live.
1) This opening match up was an ambush similar to what the Redskins did to the Saints last year. Serving as Chip Kelly’s guinea pig, the defense seemed to play on their heels right from the start. The realist in me believes that any defense was going to struggle early against the fast break approach. Even a lot of the winning Redskin predictions assumed that the offense would need to score points early to keep up.
2) The pressure was on the rusty offense right from the start, and the team did not respond. The DeAngelo Hall touchdown put points on the board, but also put the defense right back on the field. By the time Robert Griffin III and company took the field, the Eagles had two full drives. The Alfred Morris fumble, Griffin’s interception, and the ugly safety on a botched pitch all contributed to the offense never getting in synch. Those plays seemed to be a mix of rust and a team pressing to keep pace and prove that last year was not a fluke.
3) As I mentioned earlier, the glaring mistakes were not the only issue with offense in the first half. Most people realized that, unless Kelly was a complete disaster, the Eagles were going to put points on the board early while our defense adjusted. But the offense did nothing to take the pressue off Jim Haslett and his players. Morris seemed tentative and missed some cutback lanes. Too often he seemed to string his runs wide, toward the sideline which does not play to his strengths. Griffin did not seem nearly as accurate as he was last year and also seemed unaware of some of the pass rush around him. Lastly, with Griffin either not being allowed or not being ready to run the ball, a crucial element of the read-option was absent. Much of what made the offense move last year was that opposing defenses had to play honest. Last night, the Eagles almost dared Griffin to run and keyed on Morris. This contributed to some of the failed drives as well.
4) I’ve been lenient on the defense so far, but they are not completely innocent. I give them a pass on the first couple drives since they really did not know what to expect. And, in fact, the first two drives ended with a defensive score and a long Philly field goal, so they held up decently. Also, from time to time in key situations, the front seven did seem able to pressure/sack Michael Vick. But, the tackling was awful. My hope is that the number of plays piled up and they lost some focus…but they won’t beat anyone tackling like they did last night. I’ll be very anxious to see how the defense looks against a traditional offense. If they can tighten up the fundamentals, that would certainly help.
5) The second half was encouraging. In my opinion, previous teams may have rolled over after falling behind 26-7 at half time. Previous teams certainly would have packed it in after Griffin threw his second interception to start the third quarter leading to a 33-7 deficit. Luckily, this is still a good team and they made some improvements after that. The question we will be chewing on all week is this: How much of the second half improvement was due to adjustments/improved play and how much was a result of the Eagles calling off the dogs. In my opinion, that’s only part of the equation. When Griffin started just playing football, he looked like he settled in. Even if the defense was different, his throws looked sharper and more accurate. One particular play that occurred midway through the fourth quarter gave me a glimpse of the old Griffin returning. Trailing 33-20 and facing a third and 10, Griffin stepped away from pressure to his left, stepped up in the pocket rolling to his right, and then threw a pass on the run to Leonard Hankerson. The two didn’t connect on that play, but that showed me that Griffin can still be agile in the pocket, make plays with his legs, and hurt teams with his arm. In my hopeful opinion, he and his teammates needed to face live bullets together so that they could shake off the rust and he could learn to trust his knee again.
In summary, this was an Imperfect Storm for the Redskins. The Eagles were probably the worst opponent the team could have faced given that Griffin would be taking his first live snaps in 8 months. The offense could not afford to come out slow, and that is exactly what happened across the board: rust, turnovers, drops, bad decisions, penalties, etc. I will be anxious to see how this team plays next week in Green Bay. If they can avoid the negative plays, get Morris and the running game going, and sustain some scoring drives I think they can look much closer to last year’s NFC East champions. I will also be interested to see if teams continue to disregard Griffin as a running threat. That seems like it was a key to last year’s offensive success in opening holes for Morris and buying Griffin time in the pocket to pass. As he gets more comfortable and trusts his knee more, I look for him to keep opposing defenses honest by running a couple times per game.
My modest goal as a fan is for the team to figure out a way to be 2-2 at the bye. With the Packers, Lions, and Raiders coming up, that won’t be an easy task. The Packers are tough, especially at home and coming off a loss. The Lions offense looked very explosive and Reggie Bush could give the defense fits if they don’t clean up the tackling. Even the Raiders gave the Colts all they could handle in week 1.
The season is a marathon and this is a very good Redskin team. I still believe that they can compete all year and can beat any team on the schedule. It will be a grind given that they play mostly good teams this year. The division seems wide open with no clear-cut favorite. I’m still hopeful for a winning season and a shot at the post-season for a second straight year.