EAGLES OVERCOME MISTAKES, BEAT WASHINGTON 30-17
LANDOVER: It was anything but pretty. But this Eagles team will take the win regardless.
The Birds (1-0) traveled to the nation’s capital Sunday and walked away with a 30-17 victory over the Washington Redskins (0-1), a team that had beaten them five consecutive times.
How bad did the Eagles want this game? Several players got together as the game was ending and gave their coach a Gatorade bath. Doug Pederson took it is stride, smiled and admitted the losing streak was on everyone’s mind.
“I think it’s just something that, we’ve been talking about all week about kind of getting the monkey of our back with that one there against the Redskins,” Pederson said. “And particularly on the road. We haven’t done so well [against them], particularly last year. Just all week we kept talking about it and talking about it. It was just the old set up on the sideline and I got the bath. So, appreciative of it, but, yeah.”
Pederson said his offense scored 30 points yes, but he can’t hope his quarterback and offense can free lance and get lucky every week.
“(We were) just OK,” the second year head coach said of his offense. “We made some plays, alot of them broken plays. We obviously have to look at the film and make the correction. It wasn’t perfect. Too any breakdowns in crucial situations, some drive killers, whether it be a penalty or a sack. Those are things we have to take a look at. But all in all, we had some opportunities – some opportunities down the field – which is exciting. Those are things moving forward we will address and try to fix.”
What was for real was the Eagles defense. Led by a secondary and front seven that looked in mid-season form, the Birds sacked Kirk Cousins four times, forced and recovered three fumbles and harassed Cousins to a 23 of 40 passing afternoon for 240 yards and a crucial interception in end zone by Jalen Mills that killed a drive that threatened to put the Redskins on top with 12:30 left in the fourth quarter.
At the time the Eagles held a 19-17 lead. Washington head coach Jay Gruden could barely get the words out to describe the impact of that play.
“Not good,” Gruden said. “We’re down two. We’re down two. We have to protect the ball there. Protect the ball.”
Cousins had started the drive at the Washington 36-yard line and as moving the ball well hitting Ryan Grant for 16 yards, then consecutive completions Terrelle Pryor Sr. for 18 yards and four yards respectively, giving the home team a second and six at the Eagles 14-yard line.
After an incomplete pass aimed at tight end Jordan Reed, Cousins seemed to float the ball toward the end zone for no one in particular.
Mills picked off the pass easily and returned it 15 yards.
The second-year back defensive back said he knew he had to step up after the Eagles lost starting cornerback Ronald Darby to what looked like a severe leg injury earlier in the game.
“Even when I got the pick, I pointed to all the guys and said ‘That was for Darby,’” said Mills, who led the Eagles with nine total tackles and two defended passes. “He’s been grinding since he got here. As far as the injury goes, I really don’t know about it but I hope he has a speedy recovery because we’re going to need him at the end of the season for sure.”
Cousins talked about his interception after the game.
“There’s a play there to be made to Jamison [Crowder] and that’s the frustrating part,” Cousins said. “We can hit that, but I was trying to take Terrelle [Pryor Sr.] to a spot that I shouldn’t be trying to take him. My eyes were in the wrong place and it leads to what you saw. It’s disappointing. You’ve got to be able to make that play there. I think if we do, we probably get the first down to Jamison [Crowder], if not, he scores and it’s a different ball game. Those are the plays you look at and say, ‘I’ve got to be better.’”
The Eagles would add insult to injury late in the fourth quarter when Brandon Graham sacked Cousins, forcing a fumble that Fletcher Cox recovered and rumbled into the end zone to make the score 30-17.
Cox heaped all the praise on Graham, who finished with four combined tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
“We are always talking about rushing edges,” said Cox, who was only credited with one tackle but set up his teammates all afternoon. “Brandon did an awesome job with rushing edges. They blocked us one-on-one, me and Brandon. Brandon beat me around the edge and that means I’ve have to go inside. It’s a lot of stuff we work on…by playing with Brandon so much, having the timing down, it plays a big part in it (getting the turnover and score).”
The Eagles won the toss and deferred. The decision paid off as the Birds allowed the Redskins a first down but otherwise dominated line of scrimmage.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham broke up third and 11 pass intended for Pryor and forced the Redskins to punt.
Wentz ‘ first pass was a bomb to Torrey Smith that was nearly intercepted by Josh Norman.
On second down, Carson Wentz was sacked by linebacker Preston Smith for a two-yard loss. It looked like 2016 may be happening all over again.
But on third and 12, Wentz went back to pass only to see every receiver was covered. Wentz somehow eluded two would-be defenders to find wide receiver Nelson Agholor wide open on the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown.
It was that kind of day. The defense and special teams played with a scheme and purpose, while the offense ran like a truck barreling down a crowded street with no driver.
They caused a lot of damage but ended up where they needed to go.
LeGarrette Blount rushed 14 times for 46 yards. He scored on a one-yard pass from Wentz in the second quarter. The extra point was missed by Caleb Sturgis and the Eagles led 13-0.
After forcing the Redskins to punt, The Eagles started a drive on their own six-yard line. After completing a pass to Alshon Jeffery for a 14-yard gain, Wentz threw brick of a pass to linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (off a deflection). Kerrigan returned it 24 yards untouched to the end zone. It was his third career interception…all three returned for scores. The Redskins closed the gap to 13-7.
After the Eagles ensuing drive stalled at their own 37-yard line, Cousins executed his best drive of the day. The Redskins marched 69 yards on eight plays with Chris Thompson scoring on a bad-ass, tackle-breaking 29-yard completion from Cousins, giving Washington a 14-13 lead with 1:17 left in half.
Wentz and Pederson then pulled off their best drive of the day, somehow squeezing out a 10-play, 43-yard drive that ended with Sturgis hitting a 50-yard field goal as time expired in the half to give Birds a 16-14 lead they would not give up.
Wentz finished the game 26 of 39 for 307 yards, two touchdown passes, the interception to Kerrigan and a quarterback rating of 96.8. He was sacked twice.
As a team the Eagles rushed 24 times for just 58 yards.
Wentz said the Eagles offense was far from perfect, but will get better.
“Yeah, at the end of the day we won, you know, we made enough plays to win,” Wentz said. “Were there other things that we left on the field? Totally. We made some mistakes. The turnovers, some different things here and there – we have to get those fixed. But, we made enough plays to win so we’re going to enjoy that.”
Cox echoed his quarterback’s take on the game.
“We need to go watch the film and build from today,” Cox said. “This game wasn’t perfect. We gave up a few plays were we could have been better as a group. But at the end of the day we finished the game with a turnover and we won. And that’s the important thing.”
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii