Reporting David Elfin
Eleven months later, the nightmare lingers. Coming off their bye week and having just signed quarterback Donovan McNabb to a contract extension hours before kickoff, the Redskins welcomed McNabb’s old team, the Eagles, for the rematch of the game that Washington had won 17-12 in Philadelphia six weeks earlier after taking a quick 14-0 lead and then kayoing dangerous two-way threat quarterback Michael Vick with badly bruised ribs.
The home team was so pumped for a repeat of that victory last Nov. 15 that safety LaRon Landry got in the face of Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson during warm-ups.
And then came the big green deluge, the likes of which no Redskins fan under 60 had seen.
On the opening play, Jackson toasted Landry and DeAngelo Hall for an 88-yard touchdown catch. Less than 10 minutes later it was 21-0. Just nine seconds into the second quarter on their third touchdown of at least 48 yards, Vick and the Eagles led 35-0.
Washington won the final 44-plus minutes 28-24, but only because Philadelphia didn’t need to score more than 59 points to impress voters like a college team would. During their 80 NFL regular seasons, the Redskins have only once allowed more points than they did in that embarrassment at home on Monday Night Football.
“They could’ve scored 100,” said Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, whose beleaguered unit surrendered 425 yards (11.2 per play) in the first half.
The company line from coach Mike Shanahan, through Haslett, captain London Fletcher and on down is that Washington has a different defense (five new starters) and that it’s a new year.
That’s true, but the players who endured that humiliation haven’t forgotten and would enjoy gaining some revenge Sunday while trying to remain alone atop the NFC East at 4-1 and perhaps dealing a death blow to the 1-4 defending division champion Eagles’ season.
“You looked up (at the scoreboard) and it was ugly real quick,” said defensive end Adam Carriker, who said it reminded him of his awful high school teams whose rivals would take mercy on them after jumping to huge halftime leads. “It got out of control. You never want to have that happen to you again. That was embarrassing. We’re a much better team than that.”
The ever-emotional Landry said he doesn’t regret perhaps adding fuel to the Eagles’ fire before kickoff.
“Any loss you get is motivating,” Landry said. “It was embarrassing. (But) I don’t regret anything I do. DeSean’s a great player, a great guy. We chilled during the offseason. There’s no bad blood. We’re competitors. I try to learn from the past, but I don’t dwell on it.”
Fine, but there is this note from the franchise’s past. Seventy years before last season’s nationally televised disaster, the Redskins suffered the most lopsided loss in NFL history, getting crushed by the then-archrival Chicago Bears 73-0 in the 1940 Championship Game at Griffith Stadium.
The Bears scored on their second play, but after a long kickoff return, the Redskins should have tied the score only to have Charley Malone drop a sure touchdown pass from Sammy Baugh. After a missed field goal attempt, the rest of the day belonged to Chicago.
Asked afterwards how the game would have been different if Malone had made the catch, Baugh cracked, “It would have made the score 73-7.”
For the record, when the teams next played in Washington, the Redskins won 14-6 to claim the 1942 title. And after the franchise’s regular season record-setting 62-3 defeat in Cleveland in 1954, the Redskins opened 1955 by stunning the host Browns 27-17.
Maybe that kind of payback happens again on Sunday.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.