At least there's a ready-made excuse to be made for Robert Griffin III. He was coming off a knee injury, was rusty after sitting out the preseason and perhaps was a bit too psyched for his own good.
His teammates can't say the same. The Washington Redskins came out of the gate unfocused and off-kilter in their season opener, deserting the fundamentals of sound football. Dropped passes. Penalties. Turnovers. Missed assignments. By the time they woke up, they were 26 points behind in the third quarter.
What a letdown. After their franchise player spent an entire offseason talking about how he was "all in for Week 1," all the Redskins got out of the season opener was a bunch of garbage-time points in a 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
"That's what's really disappointing about last night," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said Tuesday, "is we had a good game plan going in, and they didn't throw anything at us that we hadn't seen, but they out-executed us."
It's easy to say the Redskins drew a short straw, facing a fast-paced Eagles offense making its NFL debut under coach Chip Kelly, but coach Mike Shanahan said his team essentially knew what was coming.
"There's only one play we saw that we didn't practice against," Shanahan said.
Besides, the Redskins offense should have feasted on an overhauled Eagles defense that has plenty of issues. There were also intangibles that should have worked in Washington's favor: a home game on a Monday night, returning as NFC East champions against a division rival that went 4-12 last year. The sheer magnitude of Griffin's comeback from injury should have galvanized the team, but it didn't.
"We definitely was out of sync," said running back Alfred Morris, who lost a fumble and mishandled a pitch in the end zone for a safety.
Asked to explain why his team would hit such a collective funk, Shanahan was short on answers. He said the early miscues gave the Eagles momentum, but he declined to shed light on how there could have been so many early miscues in the first place.
Instead, Shanahan and his players did what coaches and players usually do -- talk about the positives and go from there. The Redskins scored three late touchdowns and had a good chance to recover an onside kick in the last two minutes, making the final score more respectable than it should've been.
"We did make some adjustments," Shanahan said. "And I was pleased with the way we came back in the second half."
Shanahan didn't want to discuss Griffin's performance, twice answering questions about his quarterback by declining to "critique players in the media." It was an answer of convenience as much as anything: A few moments later, the coach was more than willing to discuss how rookie Chris Thompson can improve as a punt returner.
Griffin's performance didn't require much explanation anyway. He looked exactly like what he was -- someone who hadn't played in a while. He tore up his knee in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks in January and didn't start running plays in a full team setting until late in training camp.
He appeared to have no overt problems with his knee Monday night, but he threw two interceptions in an NFL game for the first time, didn't have any explosive runs and was 5-for-11 passing at halftime.
"He had to knock the rust off," Morris said. "He hadn't played since that loss to Seattle. I was able to at least get some snaps in preseason; he had none."
Notes: Kerrigan passed concussion-related tests both Monday night and Tuesday morning and is cleared for practice. He left the game after taking a jarring hit in the fourth quarter. ... In a surprise move, the Redskins started E.J. Biggers at safety after Brandon Meriweather was ruled out with a strained groin. Biggers had worked almost exclusively at cornerback during training camp and the preseason, but Shanahan went with the speedier player over usual fill-in Reed Doughty. Meriweather has played in only one of 17 games because of various injuries since signing with the Redskins last year. "You're always disappointed when you have a football player that you think's going to be ready," Shanahan said, "and all of sudden he's not." The coach said he's hoping Meriweather can play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer
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