There will be plenty of soul searching around the Washington Redskins after blowing a 17-point lead to the Philadelphia Eagles in a 32-27 loss not nearly as close as the final score indicated.
Quarterback Case Keenum and the offense went from surprisingly effective to dormant, and coach Jay Gruden didn't match Eagles counterpart Doug Pederson's adjustments. The result was the kind of Jekyll and Hyde performances in the first and second half that lead to more questions than answers with the Dallas Cowboys in town for the home opener Sunday.
The defense, despite giving up so many points. It's full of playmakers and can be incredibly effective when not worn down by too much time on the field. It hurt to lose defensive lineman Jonathan Allen to a knee injury, and that the offense couldn't hold on to the ball.
"I'm tired," cornerback Josh Norman said. "We forced some plays, some three-and-outs early on. We played solid defense, fine football, and as the game went on we started to damage communication. I feel like we weren't all in sync."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offense, despite scoring 17 consecutive points to start the game. Specifically, the running game is an issue exacerbated by veteran Adrian Peterson's healthy scratch that put the onus on Derrius Guice to shoulder the load.
In his NFL debut 13 months since tearing the ACL in his left knee, Guice injured his right knee and underwent an MRI Monday morning. The knee injury at least partially explains why Guice was limited to 18 yards on 10 carries.
"I thought that (Guice) did a great job of making plays when there wasn't much there at times," Keenum said. "Sometimes those 1- or 2-yard runs that aren't necessarily negative runs are good, but I thought Guice played a great game and was in the right spot."
The lack of an effective ground attack stunted Washington's opportunities to produce through the air .
"(Philadelphia) is a team that loads up the box," Gruden said. "We tried some runs that didn't work, a couple traps, a couple toss and cracks, things of that nature. ... I thought our attack was sound. We just had three or four penalties that took us off some critical drives."
Rookie receiver Terry McLaurin caught seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown and is already the Redskins' top receiver. That was evident in training camp, and keeping the third-round pick out of Ohio State on the sideline during the preseason didn't stunt his development and perhaps made his breakout debut a bit of a surprise.
The rest of Washington's receivers combined for 10 catches, with third-down back Chris Thompson the most popular target with seven receptions. Between veteran Paul Richardson, second-year player Trey Quinn and rookie Kelvin Harmon, someone else is going to have to step up to take the heat off McLaurin.
Guice's isn't the only key player to worry about. Allen is considered week to week with the knee injury, and that's a big blow given how much he can affect the game in the pass rush and run stopping.
Caleb Brantley suffered an ankle injury, too, so the depth of a very young defensive line could be tested earlier than anyone with the Redskins hoped for.
Washington had the ball for just 5:47 during the first 26:50 of the second half against Philadelphia. The Eagles outscored the Redskins 25-0 in that span.
Peterson figures to get his starting job back with Guice out, though it's too early to tell what kind of off-field damage the Redskins did by scratching him. Peterson knew he wouldn't be the No. 1 running back, but not being in uniform could be seen as a slap in the face.
Figuring out how to compensative for the loss of Allen and how to better mitigate in-game adjustments are all part of a full platter. Potentially getting tight end Jordan Reed back after another concussion should only help, but the film of Dallas shredding the New York Giants in Week 1 will make this a busy week for the coaching staff.