LANDOVER, Md. — After Michael Vick kneeled down for the final time, having sapped the life out of the Robert Griffin III welcome back party, the exhausted Philadelphia Eagles offense exchanged the usual pleasantries with the even-more-spent Washington Redskins defense.
“The Redskins were like, ‘Next time we play you guys, you need to slow it down a bit,”’ Eagles center Jason Kelce said.
Good luck with that. RG3 and the Redskins just couldn’t keep up with Vick, LeSean McCoy and the frenetic offense unleashed by coach Chip Kelly on the NFL on Monday night. The Eagles crammed 53 plays into a 30-minute first half, took a 26-point lead in the third quarter and held on for a 33-27 upset of the defending NFC East champs.
“You have great dreams and you have nightmares,” said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, describing the first half. “That was a great dream.”
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, Vick completed 15 of 25 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and he also ran nine times for 56 yards and a score. McCoy piled up 184 yards on 31 carries, including a 34-yard TD. DeSean Jackson had seven catches for 104 yards and a TD.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like it,” Vick said. “When the first quarter was over, I thought we was about to go into halftime. It was unreal. The only thing I could tell myself was, ‘It’s going to be a long season.”’
Perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment by 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 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.
Griffin 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.
That’s the sort of attention that Vick once commanded. And, when the game began, Vick was the better quarterback. At 33, he’s 10 years older than Griffin and had to fight for his starting job in training camp, but he’s still got game. It would have been a bigger rout if Vick’s lateral on first-and-goal at the 4 hadn’t been tipped by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and returned 75 yards for a Redskins touchdown.
Meanwhile, the masses didn’t get 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.
Washington didn’t run a play in Philadelphia territory until the second half. At one point, the Eagles were outgaining the Redskins 146-3. 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.
“Had a serious case of the can’t-get-rights,” Griffin said. “Penalties, hurting ourselves. I don’t throw picks, Alfred doesn’t fumble, and Kai doesn’t miss field goals. All three of those happened tonight. So we’ll get better, no doubt.”
There was a moment in the second quarter when the weary Redskins defense had more cramps (two) than their offense had first downs (one).
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.
“That was the first time I’ve used oxygen since college. It wears on you, but I think it wears on the defense a lot more,” Kelce said. “I think we’ll see a few more guys coming up with cramps, regardless of whether those are real or not.”
NOTES: Kerrigan left in the fourth quarter with concussion symptoms. ... McCoy finished one yard shy of his career high in yards rushing. ... Redskins S Brandon Meriweather missed the game with a groin injury.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP