The 5th Quarter: Redskins 27 Eagles 20

THE GAME TURNED…

on two plays, one on each side of the 2-minute warning. With the Eagles trailing 27-20, but driving to tie the game and across midfield, Redskins DE Ricky Jean-Francois pushed his way through the Eagles offensive line and sacked rookie QB Carson Wentz for a nine-yard loss on 2nd down and 6 yards to go. RJF would say after the game that he had no idea where he was on his rush until he actually reached the QB. On the other side of the 2-minute warning, with the Eagles facing a 3rd and 15, Washington’s two young outside linebackers not named Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy and Preston Smith, met at the rookie passer and dropped him again for another nine yard loss. That made it 4th and 24 and forced the Eagles to punt with 1 minute and 44 seconds left. They would never get the ball back.

THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN…

after that Eagles punt, the Skins took over at their own 23-yard line with 1 minute and 38 seconds remaining. Wanting to just kill the clock and force Philadelphia to use its timeouts on defense, Washington would hand the ball to Matt Jones three straight times. The first two times gained a total of three yards. But on 3rd and 7, Jones rumbled 57 yards over the left side before being brought down at the Philadelphia 17-yard line. The best run of Matt Jones best game of the season effectively ended the game.

THE GOOD

The Redskins dominated the line of scrimmage on offense, rushing for 230 yards on 33 carries or 7 yards a pop. The offensive line also kept the pocket — and Kirk Cousins’ jersey — clean, allowing no sacks.

On the defensive side of the line of scrimmage, the Skins sacked Carson Wentz five times, with OLB Ryan Kerrigan leading the way with two sacks.

While Kerrigan had a terrific game, let’s not overlook the team’s leading sacker, OLB Trent Murphy. While he only accounted for half a sack, Murphy knocked Wentz down three times and did something very few passrushers have done over the last decade — provide a credible attack against 8-time All Pro left tackle Jason Peters. I don’t know if it is just more work or the added weight or some combination of both, but Murphy is just a different — superior — player this season. The injury to Junior Galette, however sad, has allowed Murphy to shine.

Though he tends to get overlooked by fans and the media, WR Pierre Garcon had a very nice game on Sunday. He caught no touchdowns, but repeatedly made big plays for first down and finished first in the game with 6 catches for 77 yards. He got some of the plays that TE Jordan Reed (injured-concussion) would normally get, which allowed Washington’s passing offense to thrive despite missing it’s most reliable receiver.

That strong running game allowed the Skins to have excellent balance, running the ball 33 times and passing 34 times. This is particularly important to Washington, as Kirk Cousins is most comfortable in play-action.

Kirk Cousins made a number of good throws on Sunday (and a few not-so-good ones), but my favorite play from Captain Kirk on Sunday came with his legs, not his arm. Facing a third down and seven yards to go from their own 13 yard line with 11:54 left in the second quarter, Cousins dropped back to pass. Not seeing what he wanted to see downfield, he took off and beat the Philly pass rush to the far sideline, picking up nine yards and a first down to extend the drive. That drive eventually resulted in a 13-yard touchdown pass to TE Vernon Davis. I loved Cousins’ moxie and determination to get a first down on that play. We need to see more of that.

Nice, hard running from all three backs against Philly. Of course, Matt Jones led the way, of course, with 135 yards and 1 TD on 16 carries, but backups Rob Kelly (5 for 57) and Chris Thompson (9 for 37) did their part, too. I saw a desire for contact and an unwillingness to go down easy from the backs and it was very encouraging.

Plenty of stats to like from this game. Washington ran up a very impressive 493 yards of offense, compared to only 239 for Philly. The Skins had 26 first downs compared to only 12 for the Eagles. Philadelphia converted only 4 of 12 third downs, while the Skins turned 7 of 13 third downs into first downs. That’s a major improvement for both the offense and the defense.

Washington’s rushing attack allowed them to dominate the ball, with an eight-and-a-half minute advantage in time of possession, as well as running 19 more offensive plays.

The Skins are not a great defense and won’t become one any time soon, but they gave up no touchdowns to an offense that looked good coming in to the game. One thing I liked in particular, apart from the pass rush, was the tackling. It’s not like the Eagles couldn’t make plays, it’s just that if there was room for them to run for five yards, they got five yards, instead of eight or nine yards as a result of a broken tackle or two. Washington’s defense swarmed to the ball better and used more solid technique. I thought safety Duke Ihenacho had a strong game and made a good case for him to keep that job.

It didn’t take new safety Donte Whitner long to fit in: He led the Skins with tackles against the Eagles. I thought he made several strong plays near the line of scrimmage and didn’t hurt the team in coverage.

THE BAD

Philadelphia’s 13 penalties for 114 yards will get a lot of attention. Unfortunately, it will probably overshadow the fact that the Skins were sloppy, too, getting flagged nine times for 75 yards. Washington needs to clean that up, since it won’t always be blessed with opponents like Philadelphia.

The unsportsmanlike penalty on TE Vernon Davis for “shooting” the football through the uprights after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter was just terrible. It wasn’t a bad call, unfortunately, it was the correct call. The problem is the anti-celebration rules in the NFL have gone too far. It’s one thing to ban celebrations that delay the game or taunt the opposing team — I agree with bans on those things. But shooting the ball through the uprights does not delay the game or taunt the opposing team. It’s just a penalty against exuberance rather than a penalty against poor sportsmanship. It’s time for the NFL to fix that. Long past time, actually.

Are Jay Gruden and Sean McVay getting bonus payments for every fade route TD pass? Because they’re calling that play like they’ve got money on it. Enough already. You can’t throw the fade. Stop throwing the fade. Throw a slant from time to time. Or maybe just run the ball.

THE UGLY

Yeesh, that interception by Cousins was terrible. Cousins felt pressure and tried to make a play where no play existed. The interception by Malcolm Jenkins, which was returned for a touchdown, was virtually inevitable. In a situation like that one, Cousins has to either throw the ball away or just take the sack. Cousins was able to virtually eliminate those plays during the last 10 games of the 2015 season, but they have crept back into his play and the results are often calamitous. Cousins needs to clean that up and do a better job of eliminating those intensely negative plays.

GAME MVP

Matt Jones – 16 carries, 135 yards, 1 TD.

I could have gone with Ryan Kerrigan or the entire offensive line, but let’s give it to Jones, who finally looked like the back he is supposed to be. If he keeps running hard and maintains proper pad level, this should  not be the last 100-yard game of the season for Jones.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS

Washington has won four in a row and taken over second place in the NFC East, which suddenly looks like a pretty good division, against all odds. The Skins should be 5-1 (they outplayed the Cowboys, but destroyed themselves with red zone failures they appear to have corrected), but hopefully they’ve learned from the failures of the first two weeks. The defense has not allowed a touchdown in the second half of the game since week two and the running game appears to be alive and perhaps even occasionally dangerous.

Better than all that, though, is the resilience we have seen. The Skins took two bad blows in the second quarter, when the Eagles scored 14 points in four minutes without their offense ever touching the ball. Instead of getting down, Cousins rallied back and led a touchdown drive just before halftime to take the lead back and the defense continued its smothering, dominant performance. The Eagles were supposed to be a good team. How good are the Redskins?

WHAT’S NEXT?

Washington travels to Detroit to take on the 3-3 Lions, winners of their last two. From there, the Skins travel to England to play the 2-4 Cincinnati Bengals. If Washington can come out of this with two more wins and a 6-2 record midway through the season, they’ll be in  good shape for the rough schedule they will face in November and December.