Behind the strong running of RB LeSean McCoy and an opportunistic defense, the Eagles avoided their first five-game losing streak since 1998 and stayed alive in the NFC East race with a win over the Redskins
After limping through the first five games of the NFL season, the Eagles came out against the Redskins on Sunday and for the first time in memory played with a purpose.
Perhaps it was the desperation of their season hanging in the balance, or the constant pressure and scrutiny that had befallen the team and the head coach this week, but whatever the motivation, the Eagles played like many had envisioned they would since the start of the season.
With the season hinging on the outcome of their second division game, the Birds snapped their four-game losing streak with a 20-13 win over Washington.
The victory moves the Eagles to 2-4 and following a Cowboys loss to the Patriots, just one game behind the Redskins for second place in the division and two behind the NFC East leading Giants.
“I still think we can win this division. I don’t think it’s out of reach by any stretch of the imagination,” center Jason Kelce said. “In the last four games, things went the other team’s way. Balls were batted into someone else’s hands, stuff like that. Today we started getting a little bit of that luck back on our side.”
It likely wasn’t luck that the Eagles defense was more aggressive towards attacking the football on Sunday. Entering the game with a very troubling -10 turnover ratio, the defense swarmed to the ball forcing four turnovers and eventually driving Rex Grossman from the game.
“A lot of people were talking bad about us this week,” safety Nate Allen said. “We knew we wanted to come out and make a statement and we just made some plays today.”
Allen finished with two tackles and an interception, while Kurt Coleman reinserted into the starting lineup this week stalked Grossman for three picks. The Redskins signal-caller finished just 9-22 for 143 yards and four interceptions before being pulled for John Beck in the second half.
Perhaps most encouraging for the Eagles moving forward is that there were very few schematic tweaks that led to Sunday’s defensive success. More so, there was certainly an attitude adjustment this week in the locker room and on the field against the Skins.
“We have been doing a great job thorugh all of this adversity of everybody staying together and trusting the system, trusting the coaches” Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said.
Jenkins only had one tackle but spent most of the afternoon collapsing the pocket around Grossman, forcing him into many of his costly mistakes. As a group, the defensive line generated plenty of pressure and finally stood up against the run game, allowing just 42 rushing yards.
“The adjustments were, we worked on fundamentals on Wednesday, we worked on fundamentals on Thursday and we worked on fundamentals on Friday,” Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo explained afterwards. “You understand that you have a plan and you keep working and you keep getting better and better and better.”
While the defense was limiting Washington to a total of 287 yards of total offense, LeSean McCoy put the Eagles offense on his back and carried the load of the season to the tune of 126 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries while adding two catches for 13 yards.
Likewise, Michael Vick was efficient completing 18 of his 31 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 54 yards on seven carries. No. 7 also threw a first half interception, his eighth of the year.
McCoy ran with a purpose on Sunday and was integral in extending the team’s final drive with back to back first down runs chewing down the clock and forcing the Redskins to burn their final timeouts.
“In the game plan there really weren’t a lot of runs,” McCoy said. “We were going to run a little bit but not as much as what happened today. That was a little different, but we found a way to get the job done.”
Sometimes the situation dictates the adjustments necessary to win gritty games. McCoy had touched the ball a combined total of 20 times in the last two games, but with so much riding on Sunday’s outcome it is no surprise that McCoy became the focal point.
Despite his success on the field, McCoy knows that he still had some left in the tank afterwards.
“To be honest, there are a lot of plays I’ve left on the field,” McCoy said. “I had a walk in touchdown today, walk in, on a pass and I dropped the ball. I know I have good hands, but really need to focus more.”
The third-year running back and his teammates have two weeks to ponder what went right against the Redskins and gear up for their next division showdown. Following the bye week the Birds face the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field in the first of three home games. Those games could very well define the season and help this team climb from desperation mode, where it still resides.