It ended before it started for the Redskins. Or, more correctly, it started for the Philadelphia Eagles and it never stopped.
On the night the Redskins declared their undying (for the next few years, anyway) allegiance to Donovan McNabb, in a game televised nationally, the home team took the field and rolled over like your last pet goldfish.
Belly up. Dead in the water. Putting the fin in finished.
The Eagles scored on their first play, an 88-yard heave from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson, and set both the tone and the tempo with that stab to the gut. They scored and they scored and they scored some more. They led 28-0 before the Redskins discovered that their end of the field also included an end zone and the Eagles (6-3) danced out of a damp FedExField reveling in a 59-28 humiliation of their NFC East rivals.
"I don't think I've ever been beat that badly, not even in Little League," defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth said.
The Eagles set team records for yards (592), points in a half (45) and owned the biggest lead after the first quarter (28-0) of any road team since at least 1950.
The Redskins (4-5), two weeks removed from an ugly loss to the Detroit Lions and theoretically refreshed by their bye, found themselves completely bamboozled by the multi-talented Vick. Vick had a hand (or feet) in six touchdowns, throwing for four and dashing for two.
"Really a big-time game," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.
To say he eclipsed Donovan McNabb, his friend, mentor and benefactor, understates the case. McNabb helped convince the Eagles to sign Vick a year ago, helped teach him the finer points of film study and dedication to his craft and apparently did way too good a job at it.
The night should have belonged to McNabb. His seemingly never-ending saga took a turn for the weird late Monday afternoon when reports began to surface that he and the Redskins agreed to terms on a contract extension of sizeable value and duration.
This, on the eve of the game against the Eagles, McNabb's former club. On the eve of the Redskins' first game in two weeks, and first since McNabb's unceremonious benching at the end of the loss to the Lions.
After explanations for the benching that meandered down numerous byways – McNabb's knowledge of the playbook and ability to cope with the mental demands of the two-minute offense, to his cardio-vascular conditioning to a coach's gut feel in a desperate situation, a new deal seemed somewhere down a bumpy road, if it was coming at all.
McNabb continued to insist publicly that all was well and that his chances of staying with the Redskins were "100 percent."
He didn't get much traction selling that. In a national conference call with reporters last week, ESPN's Ron Jaworski, an old Philly quarterback himself, said his gut told him McNabb would probably be elsewhere next season after all that had transpired.
Bob Dylan was wrong. You DO need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
"As we've said for months now, we had ongoing talks and once the regular season started, we really were aiming toward the bye week and it came together," general manager Bruce Allen said.
So the past was prologue. The Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins, the Redskins extended McNabb's contract, reportedly for five years, and then the Eagles and Redskins took the field. Watch out for that last step. It's a doozie.
How ridiculous was what ensued? The Redskins were further behind after they began scoring than before. They trailed 28-0 in the first quarter before they'd made a single first down, scored twice in the second quarter and yet found themselves down 45-14. The Eagles scored touchdowns on each of their first five possessions.
"It just kind of snowballed," McNabb said.
McNabb threw three interceptions, two setting up scores and the third returned for a touchdown. He also fumbled and recovered a shotgun snap. The usual spotty protection and free runners gunning for him created the same dynamic witnessed in recent weeks, of chaos and desperation in his passes and his attempts to find open receivers. The Redskins did not convert a single one of their 10 third-down tries.
Once again the Redskins left themselves with only two active running backs. Ryan Torain, expected to start, aggravated his hamstring in pregame warmups and never took a snap. Rookie Keiland Williams ran and caught the ball well (not so good on blitz pickup) and had a night to remember – three touchdowns, 89 rushing yards – on a night to forget.
Everything that ever went wrong this season for the Redskins defense reappeared against the Eagles. Terrible tackling, no pressure on the quarterback, inability to get off the field on third down, allowing monster runs – how much time do you have here?
"We got really outplayed, outcoached, in every area," Shanahan said. "I take responsibility for it. I should have had them prepared better than I did."
The rains came and the crowd went. Expectations turned to expectorations. The fans cheered the end of the quarters, booed the multitude of mistakes and made their way to the parking lot.
"We were just never in the game at all," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.
So much for the grand hopes raised by McNabb's new contract. So much for a rebound from the debacle in Detroit. So much for healing and renewing during the bye.
"It's embarrassing to go out there and play the way we played," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "It felt like somebody was playing a video game out there."
Somebody other than the Redskins.
Blowouts happen in the NFL. They don't necessarily signal the end of civilization. They can, in fact, become a rallying point. A year ago, the Tennessee Titans absorbed a 59-0 beating by the New England Patriots, sending them to an 0-6 start to the season. They then won their next five games. Who's next on the Redskins' docket? The Titans.
The Redskins continue to say they are a work in progress. They must hope it is forward progress and that it hasn't ended before it has truly begun.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.