LANDOVER, Md. --It did not take long for the Eagles to establish a go-to game plan on Monday night against the Redskins: Put the ball in the hands of DeSean Jackson on offense, and pressure the line of scrimmage on defense. The strategy worked and the Eagles snapped back into the team they know they can be, beating Washington 27-17 in the first of three straight games against the NFC East.
Jackson scored twice, first capping the opening drive with a 67-yard run on an end-around handoff, and then putting the Redskins into a 27-7 hole by hauling in a 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb late in the second quarter. The Eagles did what they were supposed to do -- put away a Redskins team wallowing in the misery of a head coach and quarterback controversy that has Washington mired at the bottom of the NFC East with a 2-5 record. But who cares about the Redskins? The Eagles, after that awful loss in Oakland, showed up and played ball on Monday night, whipping the Redskins with a big-play offense and a pressure-filled defense led by newly-acquired middle linebacker Will Witherspoon.
He made an immediate impact, even though Jeremiah Trotter started at middle linebacker. On Washington's third possession, Quintin Mikell and Witherspoon blitzed and Mikell got his hand up on a Jason Campbell pass to the right side. The ball popped up in the air and Witherspoon, who hustled back from his blitz into the "A" gap, was in place to make the interception and sprint 9 yards into the end zone to give the Eagles a 14-0 drive.
What a perfect way to bounce back from the ugly loss in Oakland! The Eagles received to start the game and then scored on Jackson's big play. Three of the four snaps were called runs, the fourth a handoff to Jackson running from the right side of the formation to the left. The Eagles sealed the edge and Jackson was in the clear, helped by Jeremy Maclin's wall block down the field.
An explosive play to open the game was the perfect tonic for an offense that needed a boost. Staked to a 14-0 lead, the Eagles really didn't have to do much the rest of the way. They scored on a McNabb 57-yard pass to Jackson down the left side -- Jackson made a nice double move and turned up the field and was wide, wide open behind cornerback Carlos Rogers -- to make it 27-7 late in the first half and then coasted the rest of the way.
There were some concerns leaving FedEx Field. Brian Westbrook left the game in the first quarter after suffering a concussion and laying motionless on the field for several minutes. His status for Sunday's big game against the Giants will be updated later this week. The offense really wasn't very efficient other than the big plays -- the running game was relatively stagnant without Westbrook, the Wild Eagle was again a dud, and McNabb missed some open receivers -- so the Eagles have some things they need to sharpen this week.
But it was a needed win. Oh, was it ever. The Eagles are now 4-2 with the 5-2 Giants coming to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Huge game, for sure.
On Monday night, the Eagles rolled up their sleeves and took care of business. Putting the ball in Jackson's hands was at the top of the to-do list, and his two touches in the first half gained two scores -- the 67-yard run and the 57-yard catch. Together with a defense that controlled the Redskins and it was an easy win.
What do you take from the win? That the Eagles are 4-2 and that they need a steady diet of Jackson in the offense. Maclin had his catches -- 5 catches, 53 yards -- and Brent Celek was limited. Really, the whole offense was off-kilter after the early lead. They made an attempt to run the football -- 11 called runs in the first half, along with 16 called passes -- and stayed with it in the second half. But the holes weren't there. The Eagles did not control the line of scrimmage against Washington's good front four and the offense sputtered.
The defense, meanwhile, looked good. Jeremiah Trotter started at middle linebacker and mixed in with Withersspoon, but 'Spoon took the vast majority of the snaps. He looked great, picking off the pass for a score and forcing a Campbell fumble when he blitzed up the middle, tracked down Campbell and hammered the ball out of Campbell's hand. The Eagles recovered the turnover and turned it into one of two David Akers field goals -- he made kicks from 44 and 48 yards.
Anything else? More coming here, of course. Thousands of Eagles fans flooded FedEx Field, which was a ghost town in the fourth quarter -- all Midnight Green and E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES! chants. Washington's offense is historically bad, and the Eagles took it right to them, putting their collective foot on the throats of an offense called by new Washington assistant coach Sherm Lewis.
His presence had no impact on the game. The Eagles had their way with Campbell and they shut down Clinton Portis and the running game.
Because the Eagles didn't shine offensively, the Redskins had some moments in the fourth quarter. A poor Sav Rocca punt gave Washington possession at the Philadelphia 32-yard line, forcing the defense to hold. It did, punctuated by Trent Cole's second sack of the game. Then the Redskins worked their way to the Philadelphia 4-yard line with 5 minutes to go, but the Redskins fumbled the snap and the threat was over.
Game. Set. Match. The Eagles, who lost twice to Washington last season, started their NFC East schedule off the right way. Jackson, Witherspoon and the defense starred, giving the visitors a much-needed win to reach 4-2.