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LANDOVER – The look on Washington Redskins’ quarterback Josh Johnson’s face told the story of Sunday’s shutout loss against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, a loss that closed out a season destroyed by injuries, and a loss that dropped the Redskins to third place in the NFC East for the third year in a row.
Philadelphia defensive tackle Fletcher Cox sacked Johnson three consecutive times, and Johnson rose from the turf, stone-faced, with dirt on his uniform and his shoulder pads askew, poking out from beneath his jersey. Johnson’s emotionless expression spoke to a game in which the offense struggled from the very beginning. Washington didn’t convert a single third down, and usually prolific running back Adrian Peterson was rendered a non-factor as he finished the game with zero yards on four carries. Johnson went 12 for 27 for 91 yards and an interception.
Sunday’s 24-0 disaster was Washington’s first shutout since 2014, when the Redskins lost to the then-St. Louis Rams by the same score in the first week of December. A Washington win would have kept the defending champion Eagles out of the playoffs; instead, the Redskins dropped to a 7-9 record for the second year in a row. Philadelphia shut out Washington for the first time since 1980; ironically, the final score was also 24-0.
Finishing at 7-9 was unfathomable as recently as the first week of November, when the 6-3 Redskins sat at the top of the NFC East and Peterson was running roughshod over opposing teams. However, a devastating, season-ending injury to starting quarterback Alex Smith in Week 11 against the Houston Texans turned the tide, and Washington would lose six of its last seven games. The injury bug would continue to make its way through the Redskins’ locker room, as backup quarterback Colt McCoy, tight end Jordan Reed, guard Shawn Lauvao and receiver Paul Richardson all were placed on injured reserve.
“We put a lot of work in, and we hate to see it end like this,” said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. “In order to get past the hump, we have to do a lot of things better. Obviously, penalties, that’s number one. Obviously, there’s some issues injury-wise that we can’t control, but we have to overcome those and overcome adversity a little bit better.”
Meanwhile, Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles made sure Philadelphia was in prime position for a postseason berth. The Chicago Bears knocked the Minnesota Vikings out of playoff contention, and Philadelphia cruised to the sixth seed in the NFC and will face Chicago next Sunday during Wild Card Weekend.
The Eagles controlled the time of possession, with extended drives dominated by running backs Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Josh Adams. Halfway through the third quarter, Philadelphia’s offense had registered a whopping 34 minutes on the field, which was a stark contrast to the Redskins offense, who had been on the field for just under eight minutes.
Even though Sunday’s matchup was an away game for Philadelphia, the Eagles fans in the stands at FedEx Field appeared to outnumber the Redskins fans, especially as the afternoon wore on and the score continued to increase in Philadelphia’s favor.
“It’s disappointing for sure, because it’s my job to make sure the fans come here; put a product on the field on Week 17 where we’re playing to get in the playoffs or clinching a berth,” said Gruden. “Overall, it just wasn’t a good- enough year for us. Hopefully we’ll regain that support sometime soon; until then, we have a lot of work to do.”
The pair of positive moments for the Redskins came courtesy of the defense. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton earned his first full career sack when he dropped Foles for a five-yard loss. Ryan Kerrigan notched his 128th straight regular season game and now owns the longest active streak for a linebacker.
“I take pride in it in the sense that I take pride in my preparation and I take pride in taking care of my body, not just during the season but in the [off-season] too,” said Kerrigan. “I want to be there for the team and be there every outing.”