Another week, another set of potential stumbling blocks. But the Washington Redskins again found a way to compensate for their deficiencies and win.
With a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday that was their most well-rounded performance of the season, the Redskins won their fourth in a row and moved into second place in the NFC East division.
The Redskins continued to find ways to overcome the types of transgressions that had cost them much-needed victories in years past. Mistakes led to a pair of Eagles touchdowns in a four-minute span — neither scored by the offense — and meant Washington had allowed a 14-0 lead to evaporate for the second time in three weeks.
However, Kirk Cousins and Co. regrouped after a costly turnover, the defense harassed Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz much of the game and the Redskins emerged victorious and as owners of a 4-2 record for the first time since 2008.
“It shows they put in the work, and they’re resilient, and we understand situational football pretty well: the importance of each down and the next down,” said Coach Jay Gruden, whose team has won eight of its past 11 games dating from last season. “We can overcome things that happen. You know, we give up a kickoff return [for a touchdown] and then an interception return [for a touchdown] back-to-back. Guys staying resilient. Just kept working, kept grinding. That’s pretty much the motto of our team right now.”
An aggressive pass rush set the tone on defense and kept rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles from finding their rhythm. Wentz entered the game with a 103.5 quarterback rating (sixth best in the league) and a completion percentage of 67.4. But the Redskins swarmed him, sacking him five times and holding him to 11 completions, 179 yards and no touchdowns on 22 attempts for a passer rating of 77.7 .
Meanwhile, Washington’s offense got the job done by producing its best rushing performance of the season — 230 yards and a touchdown on an Eagles defense that had held opponents to just 73.3 rushing yards per game — and two red-zone touchdown passes from Kirk Cousins.
The efforts on defense and offense redeemed two big transgressions — an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Philadelphia’s Wendell Smallwood and a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Malcolm Jenkins during that four-minute span in the second quarter.
The Redskins didn’t flinch.
“Bunch of veterans in the room, so we know that things happen, but you’ve got to keep working hard,” said wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who had six catches for a season-high 77 yards and helped compensate for the absence of tight end Jordan Reed , who was out with a concussion. “Got a bunch of coaches preaching the same thing. Don’t let one bad thing destroy you. Learn from mistakes and keep moving forward.”
The Redskins did move forward, closing out the second quarter by stringing together a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped by a rushing touchdown by Matt Jones.
And once the offense put the Redskins back in front, the defense did its part, keeping its opponent out of the end zone in the second half for a fourth straight game . The Eagles moved the ball in the fourth quarter, with Wentz passing for 125 yards, but Philadelphia scored just six points after going scoreless in the third quarter .
Injuries along the offensive line and secondary had threatened to derail the Redskins early this season. But Washington has managed to compensate. Players and coaches have displayed no signs of panic over a mounting injury count or poor performances.
The defense has improved after resembling a sieve against the run and on third downs. And the offense has become effective both on third downs and running the ball.
“We’re learning how to win,” Garcon added.
Said left guard Shawn Lauvao, “I think a lot of times, man, people get so focused on the product as opposed to the process. I think for us, we’ve just been focusing on the process and continuingly improving. You can always get better, but we’ve got a resilient group of guys in here. I think that kind of shows the kind of grit we got with the way games go. It’s not going to be pretty. It’s not going to be perfect. A lot of times, people want style points. I don’t care about style points, I just want to win.”
Despite their encouragement — but not surprise — over the four straight victories, the Redskins remain unimpressed with themselves. The veterans ensure that, players said. But at 4-2 and with a chance to enter their Week 9 bye with a winning record, players believe the best is yet to come.
“We have yet to play a complete game as a team,” tight end Niles Paul said. “We had some mistakes we made on special teams that we need to fix. I don’t feel like we won the special teams game. Our best ball has yet to be played, but we’re starting to click, and we’re a dangerous team when we click.”
More on the Redskins:
Jerry Brewer: Redskins win a game of keep-away