The Eagles fell prey to a bit of a bye-week hangover on Sunday in Detroit. They didn't quite come out the way they wanted to on either side of the ball, trailing 21-7 midway through the first half. Less than a year earlier, in the very same building, the Eagles fell flat and lost to the Lions 45-14. Sunday's game looked like it was going to be an encore performance.
Then the Eagles flipped the switch.
The defense locked in and held the Lions to fewer than 100 yards of offense in the second half, and quarterback Carson Wentz helped fuel the offense. A total team effort eventually gave the Eagles a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles' last two possessions, however, went south. Running back Ryan Mathews fumbled the football on a pivotal third-and-2 play, and once Detroit took the lead on a short field goal, Wentz's first pass was intercepted as he looked for Nelson Agholor deep down the seam.
The final result wasn't there for the Eagles, but the heart, the character and the resiliency were. Every NFL season is filled with ups and downs, and while the 3-0 start had the Eagles on cloud nine, Sunday's loss to the Lions brings the Eagles back down to earth. Now, the challenge is regrouping quickly and finding a way to beat Washington in the Eagles' first divisional game of the season.
Washington started the year with two losses, but has stormed back to win three straight and move above the .500 mark. Washington's attack is led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who benefits from one of the most talented receiving groups in the NFL. DeSean Jackson remains one of the best deep threats in the league, Pierre Garçon is a very reliable option and Jamison Crowder is becoming one of the better slot receivers in the league. One of the biggest questions heading into the game is the health status of tight end Jordan Reed, who is in the league's concussion protocol.
Can the Eagles get back on the right track and start their divisional schedule with a win? Here's the preview ...
- Alex Smith
Last Time They Met
Redskins 38, Eagles 24
December 26, 2015 – Lincoln Financial Field
Entering the second to last game of 2015, the Eagles were in control of their playoff chances. At 6-8, the NFC East could still be theirs if they beat Washington and the Giants in the final two weeks of the season.
However, that's not the way things would play out as Philadelphia was defeated by the Redskins, 38-24, which clinched Washington's division crown. The result was the final stamp on a disappointing season for the Eagles. A few days later, the organization decided to make a coaching change with one game left to play.
But, as the Week 16 matchup got underway on that December night, the Eagles started off strong. They marched down the field on the game's opening drive and added seven points to the board with a Ryan Mathews 1-yard touchdown. Washington responded on its second offensive possession, but a missed extra point meant the Eagles were still ahead by one. Unfortunately, that would be their final lead of the game.
At halftime, it was still a one-score game. The Redskins didn't take full control of the ball game until they capitalized on a turnover late in the third quarter. With 3:22 on the clock, the Eagles were at their own 29-yard line. Quarterback Sam Bradford went to give the ball to running back DeMarco Murray on a third-and-2 attempt, but the handoff led to a fumble. Washington's DeAngelo Hall recovered and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
The Redskins took a 13-point lead at that time and quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense continued to add to the lead. Cousins connected with Pierre Garçon on a 13-yard touchdown to open the fourth quarter and followed that up with a successful two-point conversion.
Bradford and Ronald Darby would combine for one final Eagles touchdown. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. The Redskins came out on top when the clock hit all zeros and the game officially marked the end of Philadelphia's playoff hopes in 2015.
- Julie Bacanskas
When The Eagles Have The Ball**
Life without Lane Johnson begins for the Eagles. How will the Redskins respond? Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaces Johnson at right tackle and will face Pro Bowl edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan.
If the Redskins look to confuse Wentz, they might be making a mistake. Wentz has posted a 130.0 quarterback rating against the blitz this season completing 30-of-36 pass attempts for 307 yards and three touchdowns. Washington, though, has had success on third-and-long situations (7 to 10 yards) sending extra rushers 41.2 percent of the time with 28.6 of those blitzes resulting in a sack.
The Eagles can look to the run game to help out Vaitai. Washington ranks dead last in rushing yards allowed per play on defense and 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. The Redskins execute a 3-4 scheme, it will be the fourth 3-4 base the Eagles have faced this season, with veterans Ricky Jean Francois, Ziggy Hood and Chris Baker up front. Hood notched his first sack since the 2014 season last week against Baltimore.
Off the edge at linebacker, the Redskins have the aforementioned Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Situational pass rusher Trent Murphy leads Washington with a career-high 4.5 sacks in 2016. The middle of the 3-4 unit is patrolled by Will Compton and Mason Foster. Pro Football Focus graded Foster as the second-best player in the NFL in Week 5. Yes, the entire NFL.
The Redskins are near the bottom of the league in a number of key categories, but do two things very well. Washington is tied for first in the league in forced fumbles. And the Redskins are second in the NFC in limiting yards after the catch (just 6.4 average yards after the catch allowed).
The big offseason addition for the Redskins was All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman. Last week, the Ravens virtually ignored Norman's side of the field as the former Panther allowed just one reception (although Breshad Perriman nearly caught a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but could not get his other foot in bounds.) Norman is tied for third in the NFL with eight pass breakups this season.
Washington could receive a boost in the secondary this weekend as the other starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland returned to practice. He's been out with an ankle injury. Rookie Kendall Fuller has benefited from Breeland's absence. The back end of Washington's defense has struggled with injury as longtime nemesis DeAngelo Hall is out for the year with a torn ACL. The Redskins signed veteran Donte Whitner to add depth to the safety position.
- Chris McPherson
When The Redskins Have The Ball**
After its performance in the first half against Detroit, the Eagles' defense surely wants a much different start to this weekend's game against NFC East-rival Washington. Philadelphia allowed the Lions to score 21 points in the opening 30 minutes of play, after holding all three of its previous opponents to 27 total points combined.
While portions of the Week 5 showing certainly weren't the best, the Eagles still boast one of the top defenses in the league and should give the Redskins some trouble on Sunday afternoon. Philadelphia is tied for second in the league with 266.8 yards allowed per game and is still No. 2 in points allowed per game (12.8).
The Redskins aren't entering this matchup coming off their best game either, as they managed to score only one offensive touchdown against the Ravens. Washington's other trip to the end zone was on a punt return. However, the team did manage to come away with its third consecutive win.
At this point in the season, the Redskins are averaging 23 points each outing, which is among the lower half of NFL teams, and focus predominantly on the passing game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown for 1,432 yards thus far, sixth most of all quarterbacks. Washington is also racking up 279.6 passing yards per game on average and has a number of targets for its quarterback. Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garçon are the team's four leading receivers with 316, 278, 231 and 230 receiving yards, respectively. Reed's status in up in the air, however, as he is in the league's concussion protocol.
If the Eagles want to defeat their division rival for the first time since September 2014, they'll need to shut down the Redskins' passing game. Currently, the Eagles' defensive unit ranks sixth in the league, allowing an average of 193.5 passing yards each week. Forcing Washington to focus more on its run game may also work in Philadelphia's favor as the Eagles' run defense has been dominant and the Redskins haven't been overly successful on the ground to this point.
Washington's top back, Matt Jones, has 298 yards on 73 carries (4.1 yards per carry). The team is only picking up 86.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 25th in the league. The Eagles, on the other hand, have allowed an average of only 73.3 yards on the ground each outing, third best among all teams.
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Regardless, in NFC East matchups, anything can happen. The Eagles' defense will need to be on its game and start off strong this Sunday to get back on track after its first-half hiccup last weekend.
- Julie Bacanskas
As the Eagles prepare for their first NFC East contest of the season against the Washington Redskins, take a look at some of their key players.
T Halapoulivaati Vaitai vs. LB Ryan Kerrigan - The rookie offensive tackle makes his NFL debut against the veteran pass rusher who notched his 50th career sack in last week's win over Baltimore. In 10 games against the Eagles, Kerrigan has 40 tackles, six sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
TE Zach Ertz vs. LB Will Compton - The starting middle linebacker leads the Redskins with 50 tackles this season. He has had at least nine tackles in four of the team's five games in 2016. Ertz, meanwhile, has posted monster numbers against the Redskins. In 2014, Ertz set a franchise record with 15 catches. He followed that up with 13 receptions for 122 yards in the December meeting last season.
DT Bennie Logan vs. G Shawn Lauvao - Lost in the shadow of Fletcher Cox, the "other" starting defensive tackle has been outstanding as well. Logan has recorded two sacks and three quarterback hurries in the past two games. Washington's pass protection has graded out among the best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, but Lauvao has struggled. He allowed a sack and two hurries in the win over Baltimore.
CB Jalen Mills vs. WR DeSean Jackson - With Leodis McKelvin battling a nagging hamstring injury, the rookie seventh-round pick could be in the spotlight against one of the league's best deep threats. Jackson doesn't need a lot of catches to make an impact because of his ability to break off a big play at any time. He has only four catches for 40 yards in the past two games.
- Chris McPherson
Trends To Watch
11 - The Eagles are 11-8 all time at FedEx Field, though Washington has won three of the last four meetings there, including a 23-20 win in 2015.
.611 - The Eagles own an 11-7 (.611) record against the NFC East since 2013. They are one of only five NFL teams with at least a .600 winning percentage versus divisional foes during that stretch. The Eagles are 7-2 on the road against the NFC East during that time as well.
48.4 - Washington's defense has allowed its opponents to convert on 48.4 percent of third-down opportunities this season, ranking last of all 32 NFL teams.
11.3 - The Eagles have recorded sacks on 11.3 percent of opponents' pass attempts this season, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.
- Alex Smith