Redskins vs. Eagles: Washington’s defense stands tall to lock up win

Robert Griffin III led the Washington Redskins to a 27-20 victory over the struggling Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Griffin returned after being held out of last week’s game because of a right knee sprain. (The Washington Post)
December 23, 2012

The Washington Redskins got the stop on defense that they needed Sunday to beat the Eagles and move within one victory of winning the NFC East.

But they certainly made it interesting first.

The Eagles, trailing by a touchdown, drove to the Redskins 5-yard line in the final seconds. But a dropped pass and then a last-play intentional grounding penalty on Philadelphia’s rookie quarterback, Nick Foles, allowed the Redskins to hold on— barely — for a 27-20 triumph at Lincoln Financial Field.

“This shows the growth of this team of finding a way to make a play at the end of the game,” Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “That’s what we’ve done these last six games and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do that moving forward.”

Foles and the Eagles got the ball at their 15-yard line with 4 minutes 15 seconds to play. The Eagles moved steadily toward a touchdown that would have given them a chance to tie the score with an extra point or, on a day when Coach Andy Reid showed a willingness to take fourth-down gambles, perhaps win it with a successful two-point conversion.

But the Redskins toughened on defense at the very end, and also benefited from some good fortune. On a third-and-two play from the Redskins 17, Foles had wide receiver Jeremy Maclin open in the end zone. But Foles’s throw was low and bounced in front of Maclin for an incompletion with 18 seconds to go.

“He was open,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “Thank goodness the ball didn’t get there.”

Tailback LeSean McCoy turned a short pass from Foles into a 12-yard gain on a fourth-and-two play, giving the Eagles a first down at the 5-yard line and getting out of bounds to stop the clock with 11 seconds left. Tight end Evan Moore got open but dropped Foles’s first-and-goal pass near the goal line with eight seconds to go.

That set up the final play on which Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen, playing with torn biceps tendon in his left arm, hit Foles as he was readying to throw the ball. Foles got rid of the pass but it fell to the turf with one second on the clock. The officials ruled that the ball didn’t reach the line of scrimmage and called intentional grounding on Foles, resulting in the final second being run off the clock and the game being declared over.

“We called a play with Barry [Cofield, the Redskins’ nose tackle] dropped out into coverage and I come in the middle to balance the rush,” Bowen said. “So basically I’m just trying to find a way to get to him. Guys on the outside, I think it was Ryan and Lorenzo, did a good job of causing him to move his feet. And then I just found a way in that little open space to try to get to him.”

Redskins players had mixed views on whether they knew the game was over the moment that Foles’s final pass hit the turf.

“I’m a pessimist,” Cofield said. “So I’m always assuming that we’re going to have to line up again and make another stop. But it was good to see it work out for us. We’re right where we want to be.”

Said cornerback Josh Wilson: “As soon as he threw that ball, I knew there was nobody in the vicinity. I’m ready to take my helmet off and walk off the field, get this 10-second runoff even though you’ve got that home-town clock [operator] that left that one second on there. But I knew the rules and as soon as he threw the ball, I knew the game was over.”

The last-second stop capped a defensive performance in which the Redskins allowed Foles to throw for 345 yards and a touchdown, a 27-yard strike to Maclin in the first quarter. But the Redskins also sacked Foles five times and forced him to throw an interception and lose a fumble.

“We did a good job getting pressure on him early,” said Kerrigan, who had two of the sacks. “And then you saw later in the game he started to hesitate a little bit. We had gotten good pressure early in the game. That might have caused some errant throws later.”

By the numbers

2

Turnovers forced by the Redskins, who scored 10 points off one interception and one fumble recovery

.250

Eagles’ conversion rate in the red zone. The Redskins, meantime, scored both times in the red zone.

25

First downs allowed by Redskins, who managed 18 themselves

.750

Eagles’
fourth-down conversion rate

75

Total plays by the Eagles, 22 more than the Redskins ran

411

Total yards allowed by the Redskins, who finished with 313 yards of total offense

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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