When the Washington Redskins hired Scot McCloughan to become their general manager last year, he envisioned a team that could run the football, play good defense and grind out victories. It’s an old-school formula that has historically proved it can work in the NFL, even in this pass-happy era.
This was the closest the Redskins have looked to McCloughan’s blueprint this season. Against a surprising Philadelphia Eagles squad, Washington relied on a balanced offense a stifling defense to reel off its fourth straight victory, 27-20, at FedEx Field on Sunday.
Washington gained a season-high 230 rushing yards against the Eagles, who entered the game with the NFL’s second-best run defense, allowing 73.3 yards per game. It held Philadelphia’s offense to just three field goals, marking the defense’s fourth straight game without allowing a second-half touchdown. The Redskins outgained the Eagles, 493-239, to go 2-1 in NFC East games this season.
The Redskins dominated in the first half, their best offensive half this season, but had just a seven-point lead, 21-14, at halftime. They’d gained more yards, 285, by halftime than the Eagles had allowed in any of their first four contests. Philadelphia had been allowing just 266.8 yards per game.
Washington used all three running backs – Matt Jones, Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson – to establish a ground game to complement Cousins. It gained 68 of its 126 rushing yards in the first half during on its fourth possession, with Kelley, an undrafted rookie, ripping off a 45-yard gain. That set up tight end Vernon Davis’s 13-yard touchdown catch five plays later to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. It was Davis’s first touchdown reception since the 2014 season.
That’s when Philadelphia crept back into the game. Davis was called for excessive celebration after the score, which didn’t allow place kicker Dustin Hopkins to boot the kickoff into the back of the end zone. The end result was an 86-yard return for a touchdown from running back Wendell Smallwood.
The Eagles tied the game on the ensuing possession as Cousins was intercepted by safety Malcolm Jenkins, who returned a play-action pass intended for Davis 64 yards for a touchdown. The Redskins regained the lead on a one-yard touchdown run from Jones with six seconds left before halftime, The Eagles’ offense only had one offensive play, a kneel down, during the final 13 minutes 26 seconds of the second quarter.
Philadelphia didn’t take another meaningful offensive snap until 8:40 remained in the third quarter – a span that lasted nearly 75 minutes of real time. The Eagles offense finished with just 48 offensive plays. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz made some impressive plays in his first game against the Redskins, but the defense was able to get off the field on third downs for the second straight game. The Eagles went 4 of 12 on third downs. After being ranked last on third-down defense heading into Week 5, the Redskins have held opponents to just 7 of 27 on third downs over the past two games.