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Lawlor: Game Preview vs. Washington

We are now in the month of December. The Eagles have yet to win back-to-back games this season. That is really hard to believe when you consider the team won nine in a row during the 2017 regular season and then three in a row in the playoffs.

If the team is going to make anything of this season, they need a winning streak.

The way you go on a winning streak is by staying in the moment. One day at a time. One play at a time. One game at a time. A winning streak is built on winning moments. You can't snap your fingers and conjure up four consecutive wins. You have to work diligently and focus on the task at hand.

Doug Pederson likes to preach "winning the day." It doesn't matter if you are lifting weights, practicing, or playing in a game. Win the day.

The Eagles came away with a big win over the Giants on Sunday. They must now build on that win. They've hopefully had a strong week of practice. Next up is beating the Redskins on Monday night.

Washington comes in having lost two games in a row and three of its last four. Washington has been hit with a ton of injuries, including starting quarterback Alex Smith. Backup Colt McCoy is trying to save the season.

The Redskins are 5-0 when rushing for 130 or more yards. They are 1-5 when falling below that mark. That's about as black and white as you can get. Stop their run game and you will win. If they run the ball, they will win.

The Eagles will once again face Adrian Peterson. The 33-year-old running back has had a Hall of Fame career. Back in the 2008 season, Jim Johnson built an entire game plan for a playoff game around stopping Peterson. AP still ran for 83 yards and a pair of scores, but the Eagles won.

It is now 2018 and Jim Schwartz is the defensive guru charged with building a game plan to stop Peterson. It is amazing that Peterson has had that long of a career. It is rare for a big, powerful back to last this long. Even crazier, Peterson continues to play well.

The key to playing someone like Peterson is rallying to the ball. Even at 33, individual tacklers are going to have a hard time bringing him down consistently. You need multiple defenders flying to the ball to gang-tackle him.

Tackling was a big issue for the Eagles in the first half of the Giants game. Too many players missed too many tackles and let short gains become big plays. The defense tackled much better after halftime and the Giants struggled to move the ball.

It sounds like the defense will get some help. There is a good chance that Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones will return to the secondary. If that happens, I think Schwartz will play them outside and leave Cre'Von LeBlanc in the slot. LeBlanc did a solid job last week.

Tim Jernigan played his first game of the year against the Giants. He was rusty and had an up-and-down performance. He should be better this time out. The Eagles will need a strong showing from him and Fletcher Cox so that they can control the middle of the line. You don't want Peterson having success between the tackles.

Washington hasn't scored more than 23 points in a game since September, so I don't expect this game to be a shootout. McCoy is a veteran quarterback and will make some plays, but Washington doesn't have many explosive weapons. They are 28th in the NFL with only 5.2 yards per play.

The Eagles have not exactly been explosive this year either. They had five plays of 20-or-more yards last week. While not great, that can give the playmakers a bit of confidence. Corey Clement and Josh Adams each had their best game of the year. That's something to build on.

It sounds like Darren Sproles will play his first game since the opener. Based on Pederson's comments to the media, Sproles will be mixed in, but won't have a huge role. If he can make a key play or two, that could make a difference.

Washington is 18th in yards allowed, but seventh in points allowed. It is tough to score on that defense. That said, Washington has given up 31 or more points twice in the last four games. As the offense has struggled a bit recently, the defense has also had some issues.

The Redskins are loaded up front. Rookie Daron Payne is a force in the middle. He's stout against the run, but also has four sacks. Jonathan Allen was hurt for much of his rookie season, but he's stayed healthy this year and emerged as a stud. Allen has five sacks and seven tackles for loss.

Ryan Kerrigan is the old veteran and a player who has given the Eagles fits over the years. He leads the Washington defense with eight sacks and also has a couple of forced fumbles. He and Lane Johnson will battle quite a bit on Monday night. If Johnson can contain him, that will give Carson Wentz a chance to exploit an inconsistent pass defense.

Wentz and the Eagles' passing attack must come up big in this game. Wentz must be feeling good after leading a game-winning drive last week against the Giants. With Sproles and Clement healthy, that gives Wentz good options out of the backfield. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert give him terrific tight ends. Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Golden Tate are a gifted trio of wide receivers.

I mention all of the options because Wentz was at his best in 2017 when he spread the ball around. No one player put up gaudy numbers. Wentz looked for the open guy and got him the ball. Defenses didn't know who to shut down. I think Wentz would benefit from getting back to that approach. He'll have a full set of weapons on Monday night so that would be a great time to start.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles respond. This is a must-win game. Last week was as well, but the Giants aren't a good team. The Redskins are. They're struggling right now but remain just a half game out of first place in the NFC East and have talent on both sides of the ball.

The Eagles don't want to fall behind 19-3 this week. They need to get off to a better start. Pederson and his staff need to put together a strong game plan. Wentz and his teammates need to make plays early on, not wait until desperation time.

There should be some momentum after last week's strong second-half showing. The team needs to play with energy and emotion. They must win. Get that winning streak started and keep this thing headed in the right direction.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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