Nothing ‘great’ about this victory
When the clock ran out and the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles benches emptied onto the field, not for a fight, but to signal the end of the game, a 27-22 Redskins win, I was thinking they better hurry up and get to the locker room.
After all, I thought it would take a long shower to wash the stench off everyone after this game.
Little did I know that we had just witnessed greatness.
“It was a great game,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, although I’m not sure he even understood what he was saying. He seemed to be under the spell of a combination of shock and euphoria, and may not have been thinking clearly in the tiny interview room in the bowels of Lincoln Financial Field.
I guess it was great if you are the coach who won the game in the postgame press conference. But save for the
fact that they won — and some big plays from Big Play DeSean Jackson (an 80-yard thing of beauty touchdown catch) — this was a burn-the-tape game, full of, for the most part, missed opportunities.
Kirk Cousins — who nearly handed the Eagles the game early in the fourth quarter when he threw an interception to Leodis McKelvin down at his own 29-yard line that the cornerback ran in for the score to cut Washington’s lead to 21-19 — read from the book of the NFC East, and spoke of the toughness of these divisional games.
“Division wins on the road, they don’t come easy,” said Cousins, who was 14 for 21 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and the pick-six interception. “We knew that, coming into the game this was going to be a grind, and it proved to be true.”
OK, I get that. NFC East games are unpredictable and tough to win. But this one was different. This Eagles team had lost five of its last six games — three straight going into Sunday’s game against Washington, and in its last game, a 32-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, questions were raised about the effort of the players. Rookie coach Doug Pederson was under fire for losing control of his team. Players were calling players-only meetings. On Sunday, for the second time in three weeks, Eagles starting right guard Brandon Books was a last minute scratch because he didn’t feel good. The bloom was off the rose of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who had no weapons to speak off on offense, save for the ageless Darren Sproles.
This Eagles team had the look of a Jim Zorn Redskins December team, and Sunday shouldn’t have been a grind for Washington. But it was, and though they grinded themselves to victory, the questions remains about this team, perhaps looming larger than ever.
Can Gruden prepare a team to win consistently?
Can Cousins avoid stunningly costly interceptions?
Can the defense stop anybody? Is this a playoff team?
“These games are never going to be perfect,” Cousins said. “There is always going to be adversity, and to keep battling that it’s a good sign for our team and there is a lot of football to be played now.”
They did win, and there is a football left to be played — Carolina next on Monday Night Football on Dec. 19 at FedEx Field, the Bears after that on Christmas Eve in Chicago and the season finale against the New York Giants at home on New Year’s Day. And there may be more football after that. Washington’s playoff hopes remain alive, with a record of 7-5-1.
But other than the scoreboard, there was nothing about Sunday in Philadelphia that was a good sign. The struggling Eagles offense gained 383 yards, compared to 334 by Washington. For perspective, the Redskins are ranked second in the NFL in total yards on offense with 5,023, compared to the Eagles, who are ranked 21st in the league with 4,055 yards. If you can do that math, the Redskins’ offense has gained nearly 1,000 yards more than the Eagles in 13 games.
Philadelphia had 24 first downs, compared to 16 by Washington. The Redskins were 2-for-7 on third-down conversions, compared to 9-for-18 — a 50 percent rate — by the Eagles. The fact that Philadelphia was only able to put 15 offensive points on the board, in addition to the McKelvin interception, is because of its own ineptness and not because of the Joe Barry defense.
Until the end of the game — when Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had potentially a game-saving sack of Wentz at Washington’s 22 yard line with 21 seconds left, causing a fumble that was recovered by Trent Murphy with Philadelphia driving down the field for the go-ahead touchdown
— the Redskins didn’t really stop anybody Sunday.
Stop me when you see something great that happened — other than the score.
“I’m just proud of the way we all kept playing and guys made plays and contributed,” Cousins said. “We showed character.”
Okay, Kirk, you got me there. You showed character. That’s no small thing. This team doesn’t fold. But it’s time to move beyond that.
To close, let’s get back to being great.
“It’s great because our heart’s still beating and we’re still rolling,” Gruden said. “We’ve got Carolina who’s an excellent football team with reigning MVP Cam Newtown coming to town. That gives us all something to be excited about. But we still have a lot of work to do, without a doubt. I think everyone trusts one another in this locker room. They play for each other, which is fun to watch, but we still have a lot of improving to do.”
Yes, you do, coach. Sunday’s win, though, was a step in the wrong direction.
It wasn’t an improvement.
It wasn’t great.
● Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ Fletcher Cox tries to tackle Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins in the second half on Sunday. Cousins was 14-for-21 passing for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.