Apparently, two months wasn't long enough for the Washington Redskins to figure out Chip Kelly's high-octane offense.
Nick Foles threw for 298 yards, LeSean McCoy rushed for two touchdowns, and the Eagles held on late to hand Washington a 24-16 defeat at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday in Week 11.
Down eight points and with the ball at his own 4-yard line with 3:26 remaining, Robert Griffin III nearly embarked on a game-tying drive to cap off an improbable comeback. The Redskins opened the fourth quarter down 24-0, only to roar back with two touchdowns and two-point conversions and quickly try moving their way to another.
Griffin took advantage of a gassed Philadelphia defense, going 78 yards on 16 plays to set up a 3rd-and-1 at the Eagles' 18. Pressured as he had been all game, Griffin uncorked a floated pass into the end zone that landed right into the arms of Brandon Boykin to cap off the contest.
The victory puts the Eagles (6-5) in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Philadelphia holds a half-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys, who are idle this week. Dallas will get a chance to even the division next week when the Eagles take their bye.
McCoy noted that it's not just been the offense—but a total team effort—leading to the Eagles' resurgence:
They certainly are on a roll. The Eagles, winners of three straight games, had no troubles torching a struggling Washington defense for a second time this season. They compiled 402 total yards and started the game with 24 unanswered points, mirroring the early dominance of their 33-27 win over Washington in Week 1. In that contest, the Eagles got off to a 33-7 lead before allowing the Redskins back into the game late.
A similar scenario nearly played out this time. Making his third consecutive start since returning from injury, Foles got the Eagles off to a sterling start. He drove 68 yards in just four plays on their second drive of the game, capping off the festivities with a four-yard score to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter.
Within about three-and-a-half minutes, Philadelphia was up two touchdowns. Again taking advantage of the Redskins' defensive breakdowns, Foles connected with Brent Celek for a 42-yard gain that initially looked like a touchdown but was overturned upon further review. No worries, though, as McCoy scampered in from one yard out on the next play for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.
The Eagles would later go up 17-0 heading into halftime on a 24-yard Alex Henery field goal with 3:55 remaining before break. McCoy gave the Eagles a scare on that drive, coming up lame with a hamstring injury, but it proved minor.
He was back into the lineup to open the third quarter, helping lead the Eagles on a 13-play, 80-yard jaunt that ended with his second touchdown. McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher, finished the game with 77 yards on 20 carries.
After McCoy's touchdown, the Eagles were ahead 24-0 early in the third quarter and had seemingly put the game away. The Redskins offense proved just as dysfunctional as their defense. Though they were having success running the ball with Alfred Morris, each drive had two steps back for every one forward. They walked into halftime scoreless despite having only one three-and-out, going on two 10-plus-play drives and spending a good amount of time in Eagles territory.
Even Washington's best-laid plans resulted in mistakes. Griffin lost a fumble on a strip-sack from Connor Barwin deep inside the Philadelphia red zone in the second quarter, and the Redskins' inability to protect their quarterback played a huge factor in their struggles. Philadelphia recorded four sacks, hit Griffin an additional three times and played generally stifling defense against receivers on the outside.
The third quarter saw the Redskins offense completely grind to a halt, with no drive going longer than 19 yards. Washington even turned the ball over once on downs, usually a sign of a team flailing for momentum.
But as soon as the fourth quarter hit, something took off. Griffin hit fullback Darrel Young on a 62-yard pitch and catch with 13:08 remaining and threw the two-point conversion to make the score 24-8. After a struggling Eagles offense gave the ball back, Aldrick Robinson was the recipient of Griffin's second touchdown pass from 41 yards out.
Despite looking dreadful for three quarters, Griffin had suddenly come alive. He finished the game with a respectable 264 passing yards and two touchdowns. Only his resurgence came too late. The Redskins, a year removed from winning seven straight games to capture the NFC East, can almost write themselves out of contention.
The Eagles were too good too early, and one final mistake from the second-year signal-caller gave his division rivals arguably the most critical win of their season.
Nick Foles (QB, Philadelphia Eagles): A-
It might be about time to start quelling all those talks of Kelly making a push for a more mobile quarterback this offseason. No matter his physical limitations, it seems Nick Foles has acquitted himself just fine with the attack.
Foles, maligned during his rookie season in Philadelphia, has looked Pro Bowl-worthy in all but one of his appearances thus far—the dreadful Oct. 20 loss to Dallas that had some wondering whether Kelly's offense was viable in the long term. Since returning from injury three weeks ago, though, Foles has come back stronger than ever and has led the Eagles right back into the playoff hunt.
This game was no different. Selling read-option fakes well, making smart decisions with his throws and accurately hitting targets downfield, Foles looked every bit the prototypical Kelly quarterback. Heck, he looked like the prototypical NFL quarterback.
While Foles didn't play all that well in the second half, it felt more because of a conservative outlook from Kelly preserving the lead than anything.
LeSean McCoy (RB, Philadelphia Eagles): B
McCoy would get a sterling grade even if "toughness" were the only thing factored in. By and large, hamstring injuries are usually damaging enough to keep a running back out for the remainder of a game. Hamstrings are historically easy to reaggravate even when they start to feel good, and with the Eagles up 17-0 at halftime, it would have been understandable to put McCoy on ice.
Instead, he received the first carry of the second half, scored the Eagles' opening touchdown and cobbled together another stellar outing. McCoy has been liberated this season in Kelly's system, as his versatility and ability to make defenders miss in the open field make him a perfect match for the wide-open offense.
Calvin Johnson is very likely the favorite for Offensive Player of the Year honors at this point, but if McCoy keeps this up and the Eagles continue winning, the conversation could get pretty interesting down the stretch.
Robert Griffin III (QB, Washington Redskins): C
Yikes—that's about all that can be said about Griffin at this juncture. It was easy to excuse his slow start to 2013, with the Redskins protecting him with kid gloves by consigning him to pocket-passer duty.
We're now six weeks after Washington's bye—the point in which Mike and Kyle Shanahan began "unleashing" their quarterback. Things haven't gone well. Griffin has regressed in every single facet of his game. He's wildly inaccurate as a passer at times, has struggled all season sensing oncoming rushes and has rushed 50 yards or more only twice through 10 games.
Facing an Eagles defense that hemorrhages points, this seemed like a perfect matchup for Griffin to continue the solid stretch of play that began in last week's loss to Minnesota. Instead, nothing worked. Philadelphia pressured him in the pocket, pressed up against the receivers and forced Griffin into a series of rushed throws for minimal gains.
The Redskins had a good time making a game of it at the end, but the first three quarters speak for themselves. The remainder of 2013 needs to be one long learning experience for Griffin, just one year removed from being the NFL's golden boy.
Redskins Defense: C-
Because it's impossible to single out one player who most deserves derision, we'll look at this whole group. Jim Haslett's defensive scheme was ineffective from the opening whistle, the players' execution was abysmal, and even basics like tackling seemingly went out the window.
It was almost like the coaching staff learned nothing from Philadelphia's first-half onslaught in Week 1. The same problems that existed then existed in this contest, only with Michael Vick holding a clipboard and Foles serving under center.
Strangely, the Redskins have defended Kelly's offense well in the second half both times. It just makes one wonder what they were doing in practice all week.
The Eagles are off next Sunday before hosting the Arizona Cardinals and their top-flight passing defense in Week 13. Washington will look to avoid its second three-game losing streak of 2013 when the San Francisco 49ers come to FedEx Field next Monday.
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