The Philadelphia Eagles spoiled the Washington Redskins' season opener at FedEx Field on Monday night, jumping out to a magnificent start and staving off a furious rally to win, 33-27.
The hosts opened the scoring with a momentous fumble recovery by DeAngelo Hall, who picked up a batted pass that was ruled to be a lateral and ran 75 yards for a touchdown.
Otherwise, Washington didn't put up much resistance in the first half, as the Eagles' fast-paced offense orchestrated by head coach Chip Kelly ran a whopping 53 plays by the close of the second quarter.
To give that some context, NFL Network's Rich Eisen noted that Philadelphia ran the same number of plays that the Pittsburgh Steelers did in their entire first contest:
Eagles superstar running back LeSean McCoy led the charge with a career night, and by halftime, he had accumulated 20 carries for 115 yards, which led the league in rushing even at that stage:
Not long after the midway point, he ran for a 34-yard touchdown, knifing through the opposition and making multiple defenders miss in the open field on his way to the end zone.
It turned out to be an historic performance, as McCoy totaled the most yards on the ground by a player in a road opener since 2000:
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was extremely rusty in the first half, as his team was offensively inept and his stupendous running ability was nowhere to be found.
To accentuate the out-of-sync nature of the league's reigning No. 1 rushing attack, Alfred Morris had only 45 yards and dropped a pitch in his own end zone, giving the Eagles an early 12-7 lead on the safety:
Morris' miscue was sandwiched by touchdown passes from Vick to speedy receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek to give the Eagles command over the game that they wouldn't relinquish. Jackson led the Eagles with seven catches for 104 yards and the 25-yard touchdown that put Philadelphia up for good.
Miami Heat superstar LeBron James couldn't resist poking fun at Oklahoma City Thunder stud Kevin Durant, and also praised Vick, who finished 15-of-25 passing for 203 yards and two scores:
However, the tide turned drastically for Griffin in the second half when he began to show improved mechanics and threw with far better accuracy. Griffin put together an eight-play, 66-yard drive near the end of the third quarter, capped off by a five-yard touchdown run by fellow second-year stud Morris.
The score cut the massive Eagles lead to 33-14, stopping a run of 33 unanswered points by the visitors.
A fumble by Eagles receiver Jason Avant shortly thereafter gave the Redskins great field position, and Griffin continued to play like the reigning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Griffin fired a 10-yard scoring strike to Leonard Hankerson, and even though a subsequent two-point conversion failed, Washington was back in the game.
Although the Washington defense stifled the potent Eagles and kept them off the board on later drives, the deficit was a bit too much to overcome. Griffin tossed a second TD to Hankerson, capping a nine-play, 94-yard drive to cut it to six as the final minute approached.
Unfortunately for the home team, an onside-kick attempt failed, effectively ending the game.
This is a big win for the Eagles in Kelly's debut, as his team took it to the defending NFC East champions on their home field.
Let's take a look at some player grades from some of the game's biggest contributors, as well as what is ahead for each team in Week 2.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: A+
A career night for McCoy saw him run for a whopping 184 yards on 31 carries, highlighted by the spectacular touchdown run.
McCoy seems to be fitting into Kelly's new scheme nicely, and it looks as though his workload will be much heavier than it had been previously. His average of 16 carries last year was nearly doubled, and was matched very early on:
The receiving ability of McCoy wasn't tapped into very much, as he caught only one pass for five yards. However, it should become just another facet of the Eagles offense that took Washington by storm.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins: B
A lack of reps in the preseason seemed to hurt Griffin early, because he clearly wasn't the same player the league has come to know.
Griffin barely ran the ball at all, and the team elected not to deploy the read-option concept presumably to protect him. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how off Griffin was early in the game:
However, the signal-caller did show improvement as the game progressed, salvaging stats of five carries for 24 yards and 30-of-49 passing for 329 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Considering he came in off of major knee surgery, Griffin looks to be on the rise heading into next week.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: A-
Cutting down on mistakes is definitely an encouraging sign for Vick, who was also able to show off his running ability on a 36-yard scamper to further melt the clock late.
This offense seems to cater well to Vick's strengths, and its multifaceted nature in terms of formations and emphasis on the running game gives him the opportunity to exploit defenses down the field.
Ryan Kerrigan, LB, Washington Redskins: A
The huge deflection gave the home fans something to cheer about in the early going in putting Washington up 7-0, but it unfortunately didn't translate to a fast start beyond that point.
Kerrigan did rack up eight total tackles and two for a loss, including a sack in a very stellar outing. This Eagles tempo was unlike anything the NFL had ever seen, and Kerrigan and Co. adjusted reasonably well in the second half.
The Eagles will look to keep up the momentum in taking on the San Diego Chargers in their first contest at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Meanwhile, Washington will have to travel to take on the Green Bay Packers, who are sure to be eager to bounce back after also starting 0-1.
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