Redskins vs. Eagles: Washington Defense Beginning to Shine Approaching Playoffs

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 23, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 23: Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles meets with head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins after the Redskins defeated the Eagles 27-20 at Lincoln Financial Field on December 23, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

This is the season of RG3. Nobody in Washington, D.C. will overshadow Robert Griffin III. Maybe not even the man in the White House. But during this stretch, the Redskins' first six-game regular-season winning streak since 1996, it's become apparent that this team goes far beyond the No. 2 overall pick and leading rookie-of-the-year candidate. 

Sunday in Philadelphia, it was confirmed that the Redskins' improving defense is good enough to support Griffin and the offense as they approach a playoff run. The Eagles might not be an elite opponent, but the Redskins matched a season high with five sacks, registered two takeaways, limited the Eagles to only three third-down conversions and surrendered only 20 points. 

And now a defense that held opponents to 21 or fewer points in just three of its first 13 games has done so twice in a row. Despite leading the league in penalties headed into Sunday, the Redskins had zero defensive penalties against Philadelphia. A unit that had given up 53 20-yard completions and 11 40-yard completions (both ranking in the bottom five in football) through 15 weeks was beaten for only two and zero, respectively, in the victory.

What's maybe most encouraging, though, is that Ryan Kerrigan has finally begun to make plays despite not having the support Brian Orakpo provided in 2011. The second-year pass-rushing specialist was Washington's best defensive player in Philly, recording two sacks, several other pressures and a forced fumble on Nick Foles. 

Jim Haslett has his guys attacking in a whole new way. It's refreshing and startling, and opposing offenses don't seem to know what to do about it. Running's often a good option to counter such aggressiveness, and some teams have had success on the ground lately against the 'Skins, but on Sunday they held LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown to only 63 yards on 17 carries. 

The rookie offensive duo of Griffin and Alfred Morris is still the featured film in Washington. This team can't succeed in January without RG3 and Morris at their best. But there was a long stretch where it appeared even that wouldn't be enough.

Now, there's really no telling how far this team might be able to go.