It’s not hard to identify when the Washington Redskins season veered into the wrong lane. It coincided with quarterback Alex Smith being carted off the field Nov. 18 with a broken leg.
Then on Monday night, Smith’s replacement, Colt McCoy, left Washington’s loss in Philadelphia with his own broken leg.
Yes, that can dampen your day.
From 6-3 and the promise of a possible NFC East title, the Redskins have lost three straight and are now in a panicked scramble with the Minnesota Vikings (7-5-1), Philadelphia Eagles (6-6), Carolina Panthers (6-6) and Seattle Seahawks (7-5) to make the postseason.
And now on Sunday, while the Eagles play at Dallas (7-5), the Redskins will host the New York Giants and begin the next phase when Mark Sanchez gets his first NFL start since 2015.
The Redskins signed Sanchez the day after Smith’s injury hoping he’d have time to acclimate before he was needed. That didn’t happen. When McCoy was hurt, Sanchez hurriedly stepped in, completing 13-of-21 passes for 100 yards and one interception.
Now it’s up to Sanchez to lead the Redskins to the playoffs. He will make just his 11th start since 2012 when he was still the Jets No. 1 guy. This week, they signed Josh Johnson to back him up.
“You work for something, you pray for something and then it finally happens,” said Sanchez earlier this week. “You don’t care what the circumstances are, you’re just happy to get a shot … It’s a great situation. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Sanchez, the fifth-overall pick in the 2009 draft by the New York Jets, has bounced around to the Eagles, Denver Broncos, Cowboys and Bears, for whom he played in 2017. But in April, at that point a free agent, he was suspended for four games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
Meanwhile, the news this week about Smith is not good. Still hospitalized, he has developed an infection in his leg some speculated might lead to the end of his career.
The Redskins issued this statement: “On behalf of Alex Smith, we appreciate all of the concerns and prayers over the injury he incurred on November 18. Although this is a serious injury, Alex and his family remain strong. We would ask that everyone please honor the Smith family’s request for privacy at this time.”
Henry Exposes Jagged Edge On Defense
After watching Jacksonville’s defense detonate during Thursday Night’s 30-9 loss in Tennessee, you really have to wonder how it managed to shut out Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts last week.
Titans halfback Derrick Henry was spectacular, particularly on a 99-yard TD run in the second quarter when he literally shoved away multiple tacklers with stiff arms and leg strength.
The inability of the Jags defense to bring Henry down was startling, but emblematic of a season in which the 2017 AFC finalist has crumbled in every imaginable way.
“Well, I think when you go to look at the film, I don’t think you’re going to see the effort,” Jags coach Doug Marrone said. “You’re going to say, ‘Why you got stiff-armed on the tackle.’
“We just didn’t get him down. I mean, there were guys around him. You see a hit, he goes on, another guy is running, guys running from the other side of the field, guys running from behind. We just didn’t tackle. When you look at the film, that’s what you’re going to see.”
The film will show the missed tackles belong to A.J. Bouye and linebackers Leon Jacobs and Myles Jack.
Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama, became just the second NFL player with a 99-yard TD run, joining another Heisman winner, Tony Dorsett, in 1983. Henry ended with a franchise-record 238 yards on just 17 carries (14.0 average) and four TDs. He is the first player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to have more than 200 yards and four TDs on 20 or fewer carries.
“I would say very impressive,” said Titans coach Mike Vrabel.
Meanwhile, the Jags, who started the season 2-0 after beating New England, are now 4-9.
“It’s tough and it’s frustrating. And, you know, I don’t have the answers, man,” said safety Tashaun Gipson, Jr. “I don’t think nobody had the answers. I don’t think the coaches have the answers. I truly don’t know, man.”
Moving On Without McCarthy
Green Bay hosts the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, a game you can now get a seat for as little as $40 on StubHub.
Both teams have disappointed and after last week’s 20-17 home loss to Arizona, the Pack’s third straight and fifth in their last sixth, they fired head coach Mike McCarthy after 13 seasons.
But in a classy move, the organization and interim head coach Joe Philbin, himself fired as head coach four games into the 2015 season by the Miami Dolphins, allowed McCarthy to say goodbye to his players and assistants in separate meetings Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We all saw him as a staff, which was great,” Philbin told ESPN. “Then we talked, and he wanted an opportunity to speak with the team. I was 100 percent, fully supportive of [it], and he did a fantastic job talking to the team. Not just about football and winning football games, but his passion. His passion for the game, his love for the players was clearly evident. I’m sure it was emotional for him and everybody in the room. It was awesome. I thought he did a great job.”
As you might expect, McCarthy is likely to be a favored candidate to fill one of the many head coaching vacancies to come following the season.
Gordon And Patriots Doing Well
The Pats can their eighth straight divisional title Sunday by beating the Miami Dolphins. Considering the current path of both teams, that doesn’t seem like an insurmountable task, does it? If the Pats (9-3) run the table over the last four weeks, they will earn a postseason bye and at least one home game.
Not bad for a team that was 1-2 in September.
If they do, that will mean receiver Josh Gordon will finally have his chance to play in the postseason. And Gordon will have earned it since the Pats acquired him from the Cleveland Browns in September.
Gordon’s behavioral problems and reputation as a substance abuser seem to have quieted, no doubt, in part, to being assigned a locker next to Tom Brady.
“It’s good to be able to be in such close proximity to learn from him. I look up to the guy,” said Gordon. “He’s done everything right, so I just enjoy the time being around him.”
After playing only in 10 games for the Browns in four seasons (2014-17), he has emerged as a big weapon. He has started nine games for New England with 34 catches for 605 yards and three TDs.
Gordon has teamed with Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett to give Brady options during the absence of injured tight end Rob Gronkowski.
In their win over the Vikings last week, Gordon caught three balls for 58 yards and a TD and coaxed the secondary into a 20-yard pass interference call.
Papa Bear Returns
With a 1 ½-game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North, the Chicago Bears (8-4), with one of the league’s fiercest defenses, have a major challenge Sunday Night against the Los Angles Rams at Soldier Field.
You figure the Bears are going to need a lot of points to beat the Rams (11-1), who are tied with the New Orleans Saints (419 points) for second in scoring to the Kansas City Chiefs (444) this season. The Rams are also tied for second in scoring (34.9) and net yards (439.9).
So, its fortunate that Mitchell Trubisky is expected to return after missing two weeks with a sore right shoulder. He was injured in the Bears’ 25-20 win over the Vikings on Nov. 18.
“I feel really close, feel really close. Feel good,” said Trubisky. “Hopefully, they will let me go because I feel I can.”
Chase Daniel has played the last two weeks. He performed well at Detroit on Thanksgiving, a 23-16 win. But there was some regression in last week’s 30-27 loss to the New York Giants at MetLIfe Stadium
“It’s different than any other injury because it’s my throwing shoulder,” said Trubisky said. “It’s something that I’m going to need for the rest of my career, obviously. Anytime there’s any pain, I’m just communicating that and being smart about it.”
One of the top storylines about the game is Trubisky lived and trained during the offseason with Rams QB Jared Goff. Goff, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016, has thrown for 3,754 yards, 27 touchdowns this season. Trubisky, the second overall pick in 2017, has 2,832 yards with 23 TDs.