LANDOVER, Md. (CBSDC/AP) — Robert Griffin III’s long-awaited return from reconstructive knee surgery didn’t go according to plan.
Griffin and company couldn’t keep up with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and the Philadelphia Eagles Monday night.
Playing at a frenetic pace that left the Redskins bumbling and stumbling, the Eagles unleashed coach Chip Kelly’s offense on the NFL and crammed 77 plays into 60 minutes of football. They had their share of miscues, of course, but they held on for a 33-27 upset of the defending NFC East champs.
Vick, running the don’t-take-a-breath attack that won 87 percent of the time during Kelly’s four years at the University of Oregon, completed 15 of 25 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran nine times for 56 yards and a score. McCoy had 31 carries for 184 yards, including a 34-yard TD. DeSean Jackson piled up 104 yards on seven catches.
Vick hit Jackson for a 25-yard touchdown and Brent Celek for a 28-yard score, then found the end zone himself on a 3-yard run — and that was just the first half. It would have been a bigger rout if Vick hadn’t missed three open receivers in the first quarter, or if his sideways lateral on first-and-goal at the 4 hadn’t been tipped by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and returned 75 yards for a Redskins touchdown.
Perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment by Vick, McCoy, Kelly and the Eagles: They managed to upstage Griffin. The game was played eight months to the day since the Redskins quarterback had major knee surgery, and his return Monday was the culmination of a dedicated, high-profile rehab that included a public clash with Washington coach Mike Shanahan that barely put a dent in the fans’ fervent adoration for their franchise player.
As it turned out, they didn’t have much of a chance to chant “R-G-3!” — because the Redskins offense couldn’t stay on the field. Their first seven plays: lost fumble by Alfred Morris, 3-yard loss by Morris, penalty for illegal shift, screen to Morris that got back some yards, interception thrown by Griffin into triple coverage, pass dropped by fullback Darrel Young, safety that occurred when Morris bobbled a pitch in the end zone.
The Redskins were trailing 33-7 late in the third quarter before three consecutive touchdowns — the last coming with 1:14 to play — made the score more respectable.
Wearing a brace on his right knee, Griffin completed 30 of 49 passes for 329 yards, but 169 yards came in the fourth after the Eagles had taken control. He was also intercepted twice — the first multi-interception game of his career. He ran only five times for 24 yards. He reached down to touch his knee after he was slammed down by Mychal Kendricks late in the second quarter — Griffin was flagged for intentional grounding on the play — but the quarterback remained in the game.
Washington didn’t run a play in Philadelphia territory until the second half. At one point, the Eagles were outgaining the Redskins 146-3. There was a moment in the second quarter when the weary defense had more cramps (two) than the offense had first downs (one). Even Kai Forbath, who made 17 of 18 field goals in his rookie year, was wide right in the third quarter. Shanahan’s team also committed 10 penalties for 75 yards. Kerrigan left in the fourth quarter with concussion symptoms.
The first-half stats resembled something from an Oregon opener against a creampuff, not a game between NFC East rivals. Total yards: 322-75. First downs: 21-3. Time of possession: 20:20-9:40. Philadelphia’s 53 plays were the second-most in a first half by any NFL team since 1991.
Both teams entered the season with concerns about pass defense. The Eagles, with three new starters in the secondary, fared well in the debut of their new 3-4 scheme. The Redskins, again without safety Brandon Meriweather (groin) and with two rookies getting extended playing time, have much work to do.
As for Griffin, he was the undisputed star of the show — at least until kickoff. He arrived at the stadium wearing an autographed T-shirt from Les Dauphins de Nice, the American football team in France that welcomed him for a workout during his honeymoon in July. When he threw warm-up passes at the 45-yard line, three camera crews were at the 40. He led a team huddle at the 10, just 5 yards from the spot where his knee gave out in January. He was greeted by baseball legend Tommy Lasorda on the sideline, then made a spectacle of an entrance when the starting lineups were announced, carrying the Redskins flag all the way to the end zone for an extended kneel-down for all to see.
Then the game began, and Vick was the better quarterback.
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