Three weeks ago, Washington was sitting pretty at 6-3, comfortably ahead of division rivals Philadelphia, Dallas and New York in the NFC East. But since then it’s been a bloodbath as the reeling Redskins have dropped three straight while losing their top two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries.
Needing a win to keep pace with the NFC East-leading Cowboys (who just upset the Saints in a Thursday night stunner), Washington traveled up I-95 to take on the defending world champs Monday night in Philadelphia. But the Eagles came prepared, staving off some early heroics from Adrian Peterson to capture a convincing 28-13 victory over the visiting Redskins. The Eagles were far from perfect, but on a night where blast-from-the-past Mark Sanchez got most of the reps at quarterback for Washington, they didn’t need to be.
Coming into Monday night, the Eagles had failed to score a single point in their previous five first quarters. But Philadelphia refused to get off to another slow start, wearing the Redskins down with an exhausting 12-play, 75-yard opening drive. Newcomer Golden Tate capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown, his first as an Eagle. Prior to Monday, Tate had been a relative non-factor for the Eagles, averaging a meager 32.3 yards per game since arriving at the trade deadline. But he ripped that narrative to shreds with a huge night against the Redskins, absorbing all seven of his targets from Carson Wentz for a team-high 85 yards as Philadelphia evened its record at 6-6.
No team is immune to injuries, but even by NFL standards, the Redskins have endured an insane level of carnage this year. Before the season was even underway Washington lost its top ball-carrier, second-round rookie Derrius Guice to an ACL tear over the summer. The Redskins plugged up their running back hole by taking a free-agent flyer on Adrian Peterson, but the hits kept coming with injuries to Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson, Rob Kelley, Trey Quinn (who luckily stayed healthy long enough to give us this Office-themed touchdown celebration), Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, Chris Thompson and most notably, starting quarterback Alex Smith. Notoriously fragile tight end Jordan Reed has somehow managed to stay healthy throughout the Redskins’ injury apocalypse.
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Even with all those losses, the resilient Redskins were humming right along until the Texans paid a visit to FedEx Field in Week 11. J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson got to Smith on a third-quarter jailbreak, sending him to the ground in a heap. X-rays confirmed a broken leg (not that there was much doubt), ending Smith’s debut season with the Redskins on a decidedly sour note. Replacing a running back or receiver is one thing, but passing the baton to a scarcely-used backup quarterback with a division title hanging in the balance? Well that’s not the easiest hill to climb.
Colt McCoy looked like he hadn’t started a game in four years (which was indeed the case) when he saw the field in Week 12, struggling to three turnovers in a Thanksgiving loss to Dallas. The former Texas Longhorn was off to a much better start Monday night (50 yards on 4-of-4 passing) before he limped off with an apparent leg injury early in the second quarter. McCoy headed to the locker room shortly after and was later diagnosed with a fractured right fibula, an injury that will surely end his season.
Journeyman Mark Sanchez predictably struggled in his Washington debut (the Giants are the only NFC East team he has yet to play for), completing 13-of-21 passes for 100 yards (4.8 yards per attempt) and an interception while taking two sacks for a loss of 13 yards. Signed off the street two weeks ago, Sanchez looked like the kid who forgot to study for his Algebra exam, showing little grasp of Jay Gruden’s offense while failing miserably in Monday’s baptism by fire. It’s understandable that it would take a few weeks for Sanchez to soak up the intricacies of Gruden’s scheme, but with Smith and McCoy both on crutches, there’s no time to waste. With the division-leading Cowboys picking up steam, it’s now or never for the struggling ‘Skins.
Meanwhile on the Eagles side, undrafted Notre Dame alum Josh Adams maintained his backfield stronghold, holding court with a career-high 85 yards on 20 carries. He’s led the team in rushing in each of his last five games as the Eagles have dialed back their “hot hand” approach in favor of a more traditional backfield setup. The Eagles won the time of possession battle handily, controlling the ball for 39 minutes and 19 seconds.
Zach Ertz continued his year-long dominance with another blistering effort, collecting nine catches for 83 yards on a game-high 10 targets. The sixth-year Stanford alum is up to 93 catches for the year, good for second-most in the league behind Bill Belichick nemesis Adam Thielen (98). With four games to go, Ertz has already topped Brian Westbrook’s franchise record for catches in a single season and is well on his way to breaking the tight end record currently held by Jason Witten (110).
Alshon Jeffery was a no-show for the Eagles, limping to 31 yards on three catches while facing blanket coverage from Josh Norman, who picked off Carson Wentz in the end zone for his third interception of 2018. Alshon got off to a hot start in his return from shoulder surgery but has faded quickly, averaging a lethargic 37.2 yards over his current five-game touchdown drought. Jeffery’s teammate, veteran Swiss Army knife Darren Sproles, was used sparingly in his return from a three-month absence (nine offensive snaps), but made the most of his light workload, turning four carries into 22 yards and a touchdown. Sproles also chipped in on special teams, adding 19 yards on three punt returns.
For the Redskins, Adrian Peterson broke loose for a career-long 90-yard touchdown dash in the second quarter but was otherwise silent, providing just eight yards on his other eight carries. Slot man Jamison Crowder (4-36-0 on four targets) and receiving back Chris Thompson (21 yards on six touches) both returned from injuries in Week 13, though neither were difference-makers. 2016 first-rounder Josh Doctson celebrated his 26th birthday by logging a team-high 51 yards in Monday’s defeat. Sanchez provided a moment of levity in the losing effort, following up his iconic Butt Fumble with his newest viral masterpiece, the Butt Recovery.
Quick Hits: Kareem Hunt passed through waivers unclaimed. Now a free agent, last year’s NFL rushing yards leader remains on the Commissioner’s Exempt List while the league decides on his punishment for shoving and kicking a woman outside his Cleveland hotel room earlier this year. Hunt was waived by Kansas City shortly after TMZ leaked footage of the incident … The Chiefs added Charcandrick West to their running back stable on Monday. Former Broncos and Panthers running back C.J. Anderson was also brought in for a tryout but the Chiefs instead settled on West, who has had multiple stints with Kansas City … Giants coach Pat Shurmur confirmed Eli Manning will remain the starter for Week 14 against the Redskins, though he left open the possibility of letting Kyle Lauletta play later in the year. The fourth-round rookie was active for the first time in Week 13 after being a healthy scratch for New York’s first 11 games … The 49ers will be without Matt Breida against the Broncos in Week 14. An ankle injury limited the second-year back to 10 offensive snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks. Undrafted rookie Jeff Wilson will fill in during Breida’s absence … The Bengals announced Monday that A.J. Green will undergo season-ending surgery to repair torn ligaments in his toe. The surgery will require a 3-4 month recovery. Assuming that timetable holds, Green should be ready by the time OTAs start up next spring … Christian Kirk will miss the remainder of 2018 after suffering a broken foot in Sunday’s win over Green Bay. He’ll be joined on IR by teammate Mike Iupati, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury. Kirk leads the Cardinals with 590 receiving yards, which ranks fourth among rookies … Carolina shook things up Monday by firing DL coach Brady Hoke and DBs coach Jeff Imamura. Head coach Ron Rivera will also be taking over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Eric Washington. The slumping Panthers have dropped four straight … James Conner hobbled off with a right leg contusion in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, though the injury isn’t thought to be serious. If Conner can’t go against the Raiders in Week 14, lead ball-carrier duties would fall to fifth-round rookie Jaylen Samuels … Cowboys OT Tyron Smith sat out Week 13 with a neck injury but is expected back for this week’s game against the Eagles. However, Smith’s teammate Travis Frederick is not expected to return this season. The All-Pro center was diagnosed with Guillan Barre Syndrome back in August … Mychal Kendricks will return this week following an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The Seahawks linebacker is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to insider trading earlier this year … Jamar Taylor is expected to join the Broncos after being let go by Arizona last month. The Broncos need help at cornerback after losing Chris Harris to a broken leg … Brandon Marshall is on track to return this week after missing the Broncos’ past four games with a knee injury. The seventh-year linebacker led Denver with 106 tackles last season … Browns cornerback Terrance Mitchell is back from injured reserve after missing the last eight games with a fractured arm. Mitchell’s return will push Briean Boddy-Calhoun back to the bench … Sam Darnold is expected to start Week 14 against Buffalo after missing the past three games with an injured foot. Josh McCown held down the fort at quarterback during his absence … The Chargers cut ties with veteran Joe Barksdale on Monday. The eighth-year tackle had been with Los Angeles since 2015 … NC State receiver Kelvin Harmon, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill and LSU cornerback Greedy Williams are among the underclassmen who have already declared for the NFL Draft. A first-team All-SEC selection last year, Williams is projected to go as a top-10 pick.