They made it interesting at the end, but with a 24-16 win over the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles finally halted a 10-game losing streak at home that was over one full calendar year in the making. The Birds are above .500 for the first time since Week 1, improving their record to 6-5 on the season, and have taken sole possession of first place in the NFC East from idle Dallas.
Philadelphia is riding a three-game winning streak and now has a bye week to get its roster rested and healed for the stretch run. The question is quickly shifting from, “Can this team sneak into the playoffs?" to, “How far could it go?”
The Eagles are firing on all cylinders right now. This marks the seventh week in a row the defense has held its opponent to 21 or fewer points. The offense has found stability under center in Nick Foles. The club has managed to avoid suffering numerous devastating injuries to key players.
Most importantly, the Eagles are getting hot at the right time of the year.
If their recent success carries over after the bye, they’ll be tough to beat in December—and nobody will be looking forward to facing them come January.
But Chip Kelly insisted his squad won’t look forward at all during the head coach’s postgame press conference. From Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "We put ourselves in a situation where those five games in December are meaningful. We're going to pick our heads up on December 29 to figure out where we are."
After dropping both games in the season series, Washington certainly is glad to be done with Philly. The Skins fell behind 24-0 through three quarters before attempting to mount a desperate fourth-quarter comeback. It came up short when Robert Griffin III heaved a bad interception in the game’s final minute.
There was a play before RG3’s pick, however, that really helped seal the deal for the Birds. More on that ahead, plus plenty of other takeaways from a big win in South Philly.
Would it be going too far to describe Donnie Jones’ 70-yard punt in the fourth quarter as the play of the game?
Jones’ punt rolled out of bounds at Washington’s 4-yard line with 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, leaving the 'Skins with a 96-yard field to score what would’ve been a game-tying touchdown.
Washington’s march fell short when Robert Griffin III was intercepted by Brandon Boykin in the end zone.
Per the Philadelphia Eagles’ Twitter account, it was the longest punt by an Eagle since Randall Cunningham booted an 80-yarder at Dallas in 1994.
Give Washington returner Nick Williams some of the credit. Playing in his first NFL game, Williams had already muffed one punt on the afternoon, and he wasn’t about to do it again. Had the rookie fielded the punt, he would have given the offense reasonable field position—at least compared to being pinned in their own end.
Still, it was a perfect kick by Jones, one of four the Eagles downed inside the 20.
In the week leading up to the game, Robert Griffin III was billed as vastly improved compared to when the Eagles met Washington in Week 1. That’s not surprising given that Griffin played that first game without participating in any preseason snaps.
Yet for whatever reason, the quarterback for Washington didn’t resemble the RG3 of old at all. Griffin was indecisive and downright afraid to throw the football.
After three quarters, Washington had just eight net yards of passing offense.
Griffin started to cut it loose late in the game because his team was trailing and he had to. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year finished 17-of-35 for 264 yards with two touchdowns. He added 44 more yards on the ground. But RG3 was sacked four times, one of which resulted in a fumble lost, and he heaved an awful interception to end the game.
Credit the Eagles defense for making Griffin uncomfortable in the pocket. That said, this is a quarterback who clearly does not trust what he sees down the field right now.
There was a scary moment for the Eagles in a fourth quarter chock-full of them. It started when Trent Cole collided with safety Patrick Chung to help break open Washington’s scoring, as it allowed fullback Darrel Young to take Robert Griffin’s pass 62 yards to the house.
Cole left the game and underwent testing for a concussion. Somewhat surprisingly, the ninth-year veteran returned to the field before it was over.
Cole has been having a fine season, especially considering his transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in Philadelphia’s 3-4. That said, he hadn’t necessarily had much success rushing the passer, entering the week with just one sack on the season.
He finished with two on Sunday, so it seems Cole is okay in more ways than one.
The Eagles’ defense had three starters inactive due to injury.
No matter. They still managed to hold an opposing offense to 21 or fewer points for the ninth time in 11 games this season. Kudos to the reserves that filled in, all of whom did a solid job.
Najee Goode finished with five tackles, a sack and a pass deflection in relief of Mychal Kendricks—not to mention Goode aided in the critical role of spying quarterback Robert Griffin.
Although he did surrender a 41-yard touchdown, Roc Carmichael was effective most of the day at cornerback in place of Bradley Fletcher, while Patrick Chung didn’t make any major mistakes in Earl Wolff’s spot at safety either.
Against an offense featuring the league’s third-leading rusher in Alfred Morris and seventh-leading receiver in Pierre Garcon, plus a mobile quarterback at the helm in RG3, it would've been understandable if the Eagles had struggled this week defensively with so many backups playing.
But despite a pair of late scores, Philly’s D held strong.
With each successive week, doubts over whether Nick Foles can be the Eagles’ franchise quarterback are being eased. The second-year signal-caller had yet another excellent performance Sunday, and his record as a starter improved to 4-1 on the season.
Foles completed 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards for a healthy 11.5 yards per attempt and a quality 104.3 rating. He also added a rushing touchdown.
Most of all, Foles once again took tremendous care to eliminate negative plays. He was sacked just three times while committing zero turnovers. According to Reuben Frank for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, the 24-year-old now owns the second-longest streak in Eagles history without an interception, and he could pass Michael Vick’s 224 attempts as early as next week.
Simply put, Foles continues to get the job done on a weekly basis. It’s really hard to imagine Philadelphia drafting a quarterback come May, especially with their draft position weakening with every big win.
If you think Chip Kelly’s offense requires a mobile quarterback, you would be wrong. Nick Foles may not be the fastest, but he can still run when called upon.
In fact, Foles posted a career day on the ground against Washington. Minus a kneel-down at the end, Foles took off with the football a whopping eight times for 48 yards, including a touchdown.
Some of those were Nick making plays on his own when everything broke down around him. Some were designed read-option keepers, proving those plays don’t necessarily need to go for huge gains to be successful. If Foles can average 5.2 yards per carry like he did on Sunday, he’ll be okay.
Foles spoke to reporters about this at his postgame press conference, as transcribed by Martin Frank of the Delaware News Journal, claiming, "If I get five yards, it's a great play." Hard to argue with that line of thinking.
For a brief period in the second quarter, it was looking like LeSean McCoy’s day was over when he went down clutching his hamstring. But Shady emerged from the locker room with the rest of his teammates after halftime looking no worse for the wear.
McCoy finished the game with 150 total yards from scrimmage—77 on the ground, 73 through the air. He punched in two touchdowns by himself, and he set up another score with a 49-yard catch-and-run off of a wheel route.
Shady also eclipsed the 1,000-rushing yard milestone in just his 11th game of the season. It’s shaping up to be another All-Pro season for the fifth-year back provided he can stay healthy for the Eagles down the stretch.
It may be temporary, but with the win over Washington, Philadelphia took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
The Eagles are idle next week, which means with a win, the Cowboys will be right back even (ahead based on tiebreakers) in the standings, but if nothing else the pressure is on Dallas now to keep pace.
Not just next week, either. The Birds will be there to put pressure on the Cowboys the rest of the way, perhaps up until the two teams meet in Dallas in Week 17. Could that matchup decide who will be crowned division champions?
It’s too early to tell, but not many people had the Eagles in the playoff hunt this season. For the first time in three years, the Birds will be in the thick of the race when the calendar turns over to December. What a great feeling for Philadelphia fans.