In a season that's already been a daunting battle of attrition for the Redskins, Monday night against the Eagles proved more bad fortune was still possible.
Two weeks after starting quarterback Alex Smith's season ended with a broken leg against the Texans, his backup Colt McCoy suffered his own leg fracture early in the second quarter, forcing quarterback Mark Sanchez, signed 14 days previously, into action.
Following the Redskins' 28-13 loss in Philadelphia, head coach Jay Gruden told reporters that McCoy had broken his fibula, that his season would be over and that the team would do its best with limited time to finish the year preparing Sanchez the best it can.
"He hasn't had many days here so it's been pretty difficult," Gruden said. "But, it's our job to get him ready, find a package of plays that he's comfortable with and can handle and we've got to play great football around him which we didn't do tonight. We have to play great defense, we have to play great special teams and then our running game and our offense has to step up around and make it easier for him."
The injury occurred near the end of the first quarter, when McCoy was sacked by safety Malcolm Jenkins and came up hobbling after being kicked in the leg. Two pass plays later, doctors tended to him on the sideline and then escorted him to the locker room.
Left guard Jonathan Cooper had exited just prior after tearing his bicep, an injury Gruden confirmed after the game, and right guard Tony Bergstrom injured his ankle in the third quarter and didn't return. That made Sanchez's night even more challenging.
"It was a tall task, no doubt," Sanchez said. "There's no excuses to make, you just do your very best. I'm grateful for the opportunity, I was praying for an opportunity and I thank God for the opportunity. You just never want it under these circumstances."
It's a particularly devastating blow, both for the Redskins, whose playoff chances remain alive but now dwindle with their third consecutive loss, and for McCoy, who had been preparing and waiting patiently for four years to have an opportunity to start again. The disappointment -- in both the season outlook and the inconceivable reality that another starting quarterback would be lost for the year – permeated the locker room following the game.
Running back Chris Thompson kept shaking his head, unable to explain it. Left tackle Trent Williams had trouble finding the words to describe the situation.
"You worry about the person more than the football player," Williams said. "We're all out here putting it on the line. When you see one of your fellow comrades go down, it really hurts."
"I knew something was probably up and it's a horrible feeling to see one of your friends, your brothers go down like that," linebacker Mason Foster said. "And just the look on his face when I knew he was really hurt. It sucks man, we've just got to keep it rolling for Colt."
Sanchez had some positives in the early going. On his first snap he handed the ball off to Adrian Peterson who sprinted 90 yards for a touchdown. Later down by four points, he led a two-minute drill to get the Redskins into field goal range and within one point before the half. But the success was unsustainable, and as the Eagles increased their lead, it became more challenging for Sanchez using a limited playbook with only a week and a half of information.
"For me to go in and play was an emergency situation, those things happen," Sanchez said. "Now it goes from contingency plan to game plan. We got another tough task next week, good thing we're at home. On a short week too. But like I said at the beginning, there's no excuses. To be totally honest, nobody cares. Nobody cares. You're charged with a job, you get paid to play this game, and you get paid to go win. That's what people expect. That's the kind of pressure we put on ourselves, much more than outside our building. I can't tell you how much I respect all those guys in there."
Sanchez finished passing 13-of-21 for 100 yards and an interception, which effectively finished any Redskins hope for a comeback in the fourth quarter. The defense, gutted by McCoy's absence just the same, couldn't elevate its play enough to keep the offense within striking distance in the final quarter.
"This is a tough blow," Gruden said. "Losing Alex is one thing, great leader great quarterback, put a lot of time in with him. And then Colt finally gets his golden opportunity and he gets kicked in the leg and breaks it. So, heartbroken for both those guys really.
He added: "We do have four more games left and it's my job to be as optimistic as possible and try to get this team ready for the Giants and that's the only thing we can do. I made a big point that we cannot feel sorry for ourselves, we have to go out and compete and I know the type of guys we have, the veteran type of guys and the young guys that we have. I think they'll come back here Wednesday and get ready for the plan and compete against the Giants."