PHILADELPHIA – It was about an hour after kickoff Sunday, and boos rang throughout Lincoln Financial Field.
Philadelphia Eagles fans had just watch their hometown team give a long touchdown to a rookie wide receiver. Twenty minutes into the regular season opener, the Redskins scored 17 points and allowed none. The visitors were rolling, while their division rivals were sluggish.
A 20-7 halftime deficit prompted even more boos, though that would be the extent of the crowd’s displeasure. From the second-half kickoff until the final kneel down, those clad in black and green had plenty to cheer about.
The Redskins started fast but faltered down the stretch of a 32-27 defeat. Penalties led to offensive struggles, which put more pressure on a defense that failed to get any on quarterback Carson Wentz. Equipped with a steady running game, Wentz picked apart the secondary with the help of former Redskin DeSean Jackson. Plus, the Eagles were nearly automatic on third downs.
The result was 25 unanswered points, which not only wiped out the Redskins’ 13-point lead but placed them in an late-game hole they could not climb out of.
“There are some positives and stuff that we are going to learn from the film, but we have to win,” Keenum said. “Up 17-0 -- we have to win, especially division games. You can make excuses about being on the road, being first time in this offense, all of those certain things. We want to win, and that’s hands down what it’s about.”
Keenum understood the challenge the Redskins faced going into Philadelphia for Week 1. "That crowd is a really, really tough crowd," he said earlier in the week. "It's a hostile environment to go play." Then add in the Eagles' recent success and their high expectations for 2019. As for the Redskins, "nobody is talking about us, nobody expects much from us," he acknowledged.
And Keenum is perfectly OK with that. He noted the team's youth but emphasized its fight -- especially on the offensive side of the ball -- and was excited to prove its potential, starting with Sunday's NFC East showdown.
In the first half, the Redskins not only accomplished that mission but delivered a statement. Keenum completed 16 of his 22 passes for 257 yards a pair of touchdowns, the first coming on a SportsCenter Top-10 worthy effort from tight end Vernon Davis and the second a 69-yard bomb to rookie speedster Terry McLaurin.
Defensively, the Redskins limited an explosive Eagles attack to seven points. And on special teams, kicker Dustin Hopkins drilled a pair of 40-plus-yard field goals. All of the sudden, the Eagles were on the wrong side of a 20-7 game.
"The first half we came out and we were really explosive. We did everything we planned to do," Davis said.
"Then the second half, we were not quite there and the synergy was probably missing a bit. It is no one’s fault, it just happens that way sometimes. But we have to do a better job with being able to stay consistent when it comes to playing this game because you know how it is. You can be up, and then you come back out and play against a good team like the Philadelphia Eagles and then all of a sudden it can be all over for you.”
The Eagles immediately closed the deficit to start the second half, stringing together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes of game time. On 3rd-and-goal, Wentz connected with Alshon Jeffrey for a five-yard touchdown. The Redskins were still ahead, but Philadelphia was gaining steam.
With a chance to silence a raucous crowd on their next drive, the Redskins instead fed into the Eagles' momentum. Derrius Guice (10 carries for 18 yards) rushed for no gain and then was swallowed up for a five-yard loss following a false start.
The Eagles offense returned to the field after the punt, and three plays later they completed their comeback. A miscommunication allowed Jackson to run free down the right side, and by the time safety Montae Nicholson came over to help, it was too late. Jackson, who torched the Redskins for 154 yards and two scores, celebrated his game-tying play by doing somersaults across the end zone. The ensuing extra point gave the hosts their first advantage.
"It’s the first game. so we are going to learn from it and we are going to get it corrected," corner Josh Norman said about squandering a 17-point advantage. "It’s a good thing that it did happen early so we can get that corrected, because when we get out like that, you have to put guys away. You have to shut the door.”
Washington nearly struck back on the first play of its next drive, but Keenum barely overthrew a streaking McLaurin down the middle of the field. It was one of a few miscues for Keenum during an otherwise promising Redskins debut, but in the moment it was a connection he needed to make. After subsequent drops from Paul Richardson and Davis, Tress Way punted again.
Philadelphia added to its advantage on the first play of the fourth quarter, then forced another three-and-out and put the game out of reach with a nine-minute field goal drive, which included four third-down conversions.
Overall, the Eagles went 8-for-10 on third downs in the second half, which helped extend drives and dominate time of possession. On 44 offensive plays after halftime, they scored 25 points, gained 302 yards and used 21 minutes, 8 seconds of game time.
"Not good enough," Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said about the team's effort. "It's a 60-minute game. We had a great 30 minutes, but didn't finish. That was disappointing today."