PHILADELPHIA — Making his return after a sprained ligament in his right knee forced him to miss last week’s game, quarterback Robert Griffin III paced the Washington Redskins to a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, advancing their hopes of winning the NFC East and reaching the postseason.
The Redskins offense put together productive second and third quarters and was backed by a defense that forced multiple turnovers for a third consecutive week. The defense held on to deny the Eagles a potential game-tying touchdown with just seconds remaining in the game.
The Redskins (9-6) extended their win streak to six consecutive games to take over sole possession of first place in the division and set up a season finale Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys that could seal their first NFC East title since 1999, and their first playoff berth since 2007.
“It’s guys fighting for a full 60 minutes and finding a way get it done,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “That’s what I told everybody — I was really proud with the way they finished. You’ve got to find ways to win those tight games, and they’re not easy unless everybody’s on the same page.”
The current six-game run marks the Redskins’ longest during the regular season since 1996, when they didn’t lose in a seven-game stretch after a season-opening loss. It’s the first six-game streak since the Redskins closed out the 2005 season with five regular season victories and another in the wild-card round.
“Six good wins really feels good, and there’s not much to say,” said wide receiver Santana Moss, a member of the 2005 and 2007 playoff teams, who had two catches for 26 yards and a touchdown Sunday. “What I enjoy about this team is they just keep fighting until the end. We still have another game to play, and we haven’t accomplished our goals till we get to the Super Bowl and win.”
On Sunday, the Redskins fought through a sluggish start on offense before drawing strength from turnovers forced by their defense. The offense recovered to produce 313 yards and score 27 points (the team’s season average is 27.2) although Griffin wasn’t 100 percent healthy. Washington played without starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus, who was out with a concussion and was replaced by second-year pro Maurice Hurt, who had never played a game at that position.
Wearing a bulky, black brace on the right knee he sprained two weeks earlier against Baltimore, Griffin rushed just twice for four yards. But he displayed enough mobility to avoid several sacks, and did the work with his arm, completing 16 of 24 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and a fourth-quarter interception off the hands of wide receiver Josh Morgan.
Providing support for the quarterback were running back Alfred Morris, who rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and topped the 1,400-yard mark for the season; wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who had seven catches for 89 yards; Moss, and Morgan, who had two catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. Despite not having Polumbus, and playing battered starters Will Montgomery (sprained left MCL) at center and Trent Williams (thigh bruise) at left tackle, the line surrendered only one sack.
“Everybody stepped up big,” said Griffin, who threw his 19th and 20th touchdown passes of the season and went over the 3,000-yard mark. “I was able to go out there and hit guys that were wide open because they ran the routes the right way, the offensive line gave me time to [throw], and Alfred got us all those tough yards running the ball. It all accumulates and eventually you’re going to break through, and we did in the third.”
A slow start forced the Redskins to settle for two field goals early in the game, a 45-yarder and a 42-yarder by first-year place kicker Kai Forbath. That improved his season mark to 17-for-17 and gave him the NFL record for consecutive field goals to start a career.
The Redskins offense received a second-quarter spark on an interception by London Fletcher and the team took its first lead on an 11-yard touchdown catch by Morgan for a 13-10 lead at halftime.
The momentum carried over into the second half. Griffin marched Washington downfield for another score on their first possession. The five-play, 72-yard drive began with a 29-yard out-route to Garcon, and was capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by Morris, his 10th of the season, giving . Washington a 20-10 lead
The Eagles pulled within a touchdown on a 30-yard field goal by Alex Henery, and after an exchange of possessions between the two teams, the Redskins scored again.
On third and 10 from the Eagles’ 22-yard line, Griffin took the snap out of the shotgun, hung tough in the pocket and fired the ball to the left corner of the end zone. Moss beat safety Colt Anderson, hauled in the pass, and dragged his toes as he went out of bounds for the completion, putting Washington up, 27-13.
It marked Moss’s eighth touchdown catch of the season (a team high), and his 45th with the Redskins, making him the seventh player in the history of the franchise to reach that milestone.
But Washington’s second-half surge was halted early in the fourth quarter. A Griffin pass intended for Morgan in the middle of the field sailed high and bounced off Morgan’s hands, into the arms of Anderson.
Washington’s defense suffered a letdown of its own, offering little resistance as the Eagles went 61 yards in six plays and scored on a 17-yard run by backup Dion Lewis. With the successful point-after attempt, Philadelphia cut the lead to 27-20 with 9 minutes 1 second left in the game.
Needing a game-clinching drive, Washington’s offense chewed up nearly five minutes of clock, but elected to take a delay of game penalty and punt on fourth down.
When the Eagles got the ball back with 4:15 left, the Redskins went into prevent mode, and Philadelphia moved to the Washington 5-yard line. Nick Foles underthrew a pass to an open Jeremy Maclin in the end zone, and with eight seconds left took the snap and looked for a receiver. He came under pressure from defensive end Stephen Bowen and tried to throw the ball away, but was called for intentional grounding, ending the game.
“I just tried to get an open space to get to him, and he tried to throw the ball and it was intentional grounding, 10-second run-off,” Bowen said. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to tighten up, but I was still glad to get the win.”
More on the Redskins and the NFL :
Takeaway: Adding up to more than III
Gallery: Scenes from Lincoln Financial Field