The Redskins shook off a terrible performance last week against the Giants and gritted out a 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The win was a valuable division and conference victory and put the Redskins just one game back of the division leading Giants at the halfway point in their season. The victory came on the heels of some very solid efforts:
Mark Brunell was simply terrific. While he only posted 224 yards, he was extremely proficient going 21 for 29 (72%). It wasn't just the numbers Brunell put up that made the performance impressive; it was the way that he commanded the game. The Eagles defense were very aggressive as expected, and lefty showed a lot of poise. Whether he was hitting the check down receiver, or scampering a few yards to eke out a first down, it seemed that everything Brunell did came up roses. His only blemish on the day was a fumble when the Redskins were in the red zone at the end of the first half.
Chris Cooley tainted another great performance with a fumble after a textbook Brian Dawkins hit. For once, lady luck was on the Redskins side and Derrick Dockery recovered the fumble on a great hustle play. Other than the fumble though, Cooley had one of his best performances in burgundy and gold. He caught seven balls for 85 yards and made tough yards after the catch all night long.
Santana Moss continued his phenomenal season, though he was quiet in the second half. He also finished with seven catches and added another 79 yards to his season yardage total. Moss' production dropped in the second half simply because the Redskins ran the ball more and tried to control the clock. The work that Moss put in early was a large part of the Redskin offense's success both early and late. Teams have to respect his speed and ability to make the big play and it's opening up the field for everyone.
While the numbers weren't huge, the effort was. The Redskins were held to less than 80 yards rushing, but both of their majors came on runs. Clinton Portis had a nice 6-yard touchdown run to highlight a 21 carry, 67-yard performance. The numbers belittle Portis' effort considering he continues to battle through injuries and made some great blocks out of the backfield. He also made a touchdown-saving tackle on Brunell's first half fumble.
Mike Sellers added another touchdown to his ever-impressive 2005 dossier on a rare run. Sellers made a great effort to stretch the ball across the plain of the goal line.
It's tough to gauge the defense's performance when there is so much turmoil surrounding the offensive unit that they faced. Obviously without Terrell Owens, the Eagles are a far less dangerous team offensively. However, Donovan McNabb is still their best player and unfortunately, McNabb played like McNabb. He threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 12 more yards.
But the entire Eagle offense only managed 45-yards rushing as the Redskins' defense stymied drive after drive. Stuffing the run so effectively made the Eagles one-dimensional and ultimately that hurt them when they got to the Redskins' half of the field.
Lavar Arrington had a much, much more disciplined game. He maintained his lanes better and was still able to make some great tackles for losses. He led the team again this week with 6 tackles and continued improvement from Lavar can only mean good things for Gregg Williams' defense.
Phillip Daniels hasn't made a huge splash in Washington, but he had arguably his best game Sunday. He finished tied with a team high 6 tackles and also added one of the Redskins' two sacks (Marcus Washington had the other). The Redskin defensive line is banged up and needed someone to step up like Daniels did.
Walt Harris continues to struggle and missed several tackles again. The veteran cornerback played great in 2004 but has struggled in 2005. Perhaps the time has come to give rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers the bulk of the snaps - injuries permitting.
The special teams were just awful. It's awful to close a performance ranking so dismally but what choice is there? James Thrash must have been told to not try and run any punts back, right? While he was solid fielding those kicks, there were several times where he could have gained yards by just catching the ball and diving forward. Players often call for too many fair-catches when their confidence is down and that's what it looked like against the Eagles. Trying 'not to make a mistake' is a safe way to play football but a tough methodology when so much of your team's success depends on the field position battle.
Derrick Frost was awful. He did manage to pin the Eagles inside the 10 once but he was kicking the ball short all game. The only time he got a hold of one was a 50-yarder that sailed into the end zone resulting in a net punt of 30-yards. In fact, his 6 punts yielded a paltry 38 net yard average and even that was grossly over-inflated by some very fortuitous 15-yard bounces in his favor.
The only bright spot on special teams came on a Ladell Betts kick return. Reminiscent of many great Brian Mitchell returns, Betts took off straight up the middle behind the wedge and kept right on going up the field until he was tackled at the Eagles' 48-yard line.
It was a huge win for the Redskins' franchise and closed out a very good half season of football. At 5-3, the Redskins can legitimately make a run at the playoffs and respectability for the first time in years. Washington travels to Tampa bay next week to take on the suddenly struggling Buccaneers.