Noth­ing ‘great’ about this vic­tory

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

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.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

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