LANDOVER, Maryland – The Eagles preached all week long about staying focused on the task at hand and not worrying about what was going on around the league and outside of their control. They had their own business to handle, and that's exactly what they did on Sunday afternoon, shutting out the Washington Redskins, 24-0, and with a Minnesota Vikings loss, earned a trip to the NFC playoffs.
The Eagles' defense dominated from the very first snap, as Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson rolled out, aired one deep, and was intercepted by second-year cornerback Rasul Douglas. And in one play, just like that, all of the early momentum shifted toward the Eagles.
"We know they're a prideful group and we didn't want to give them any life or give them anything to play for," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "When we step on that field, everybody's a competitor. We knew they weren't going to lay down, so to start that off, get the momentum on our side – our fans showed up. It felt like a home game at some points. We made sure we had that energy. We came out on fire."
For Douglas, the interception was his third on the season, which led the team.
The dominant defensive effort was spurred on, as is so often the case with the Eagles, by the defensive line. Fletcher Cox recorded three sacks, two of which came on fourth down to end Washington drives, to finish with the first double-digit sack season of his career (10.5). As a team, the Eagles got to Johnson four times.
The numbers tell the story of just how dominant the Eagles' defense was on Sunday. Outside of the four sacks, the defense held Washington to just 89 total yards, 0-for-9 on third down (the lowest percentage since 2010 against Washington), and 68 net passing yards (the lowest since 2010 at Jacksonville). It was their first shutout against Washington since 1980.
The Eagles' defense pitched its first shutout since 2014 against the New York Giants, and the unit seems to be clicking at the exact right time. When the team's record stood at 4-6 after a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, the outlook didn't look promising. But none of that matter to the leaders of this Eagles defense.
"The key is you just can't listen to people outside of the locker room," said defensive end Chris Long. "No offense, but if we listened to y'all midway through the season, we should have just packed our bags and gone home. Booked our warm-weather vacations or whatnot. But now we're going somewhere cold to play football in January, and I couldn't be happier."
With a playoff spot secured, the next task for the Eagles is a Wild Card matchup on the road against the Chicago Bears. Winning games on the road is never easy, but the Eagles feel that they're playing their best football heading into next Sunday.
"You can throw out everything, how everybody got there. It don't matter. We're looking forward to competing," Jenkins said.
"Here we are late in the year playing our best ball. Playing collectively as a team, playing complementary, and everybody's believing and you just start building that momentum going into the playoffs."
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' Week 17 game against Washington.