The Fifth Quarter: Philadelphia Eagles I
Monday night’s game featured a Washington Redskins team that is playing smart, efficiently, and – perhaps most importantly – as a cohesive unit. On to the Fifth Quarter rankings, which are based on a scale of 1 to 5 Quarters:
Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders had Jason Campbell take shots down the field from the first plays of the game. Unfortunately, both Chris Cooley and Santana Moss dropped some passes, and Philadelphia's defense broke apart several plays. In the second quarter Campbell had Antwaan Randle El open, but a leaping defensive lineman forced Campbell to delay his pass for a split second, which resulted in an interception.
After some initial jitters, though, the Redskins' passing offense took off. Moss had a tremendous first half, and even though he dropped two balls that were thrown to him, he ended the game with six receptions for 89 yards, including five first downs. Randle El proved that last week was no anomaly and finished the game with four receptions for 44 yards. Despite his early drops, Cooley gave the Redskins a clutch touchdown catch to end the first half. Ladell Betts turned a screen pass into a 28-yard gain.
Campbell could have nailed the Eagles’ coffin shut late in the game, but he overthrew a wide-open Santana Moss. Aside from the overthrow and his early interception, however, Campbell was impressive. He finished the game with sixteen completions for 209 yards and one touchdown.
Give credit to the battered offensive line, which kept Philadelphia out of Campbell’s face for most of the night and did not allow a sack. This was especially impressive given the strength of Philadelphia’s front seven and the clever blitz packages that were thrown at the Redskins.
In the end, it was the passing game that moved the chains (with 12 first downs) and helped put points on the board.
Clinton Portis had a difficult time finding gaps against Philadelphia's front seven, in part because he was running behind an injury-plagued offensive line. Even though Portis finished the game with only 69 yards on seventeen carries, he scored a late touchdown and was just enough of a threat that the Eagles were forced to keep an eye on him. Ultimately, this proved most beneficial for Jason Campbell in the passing game, since Philadelphia had to stay honest and protect against the run.
Sellers continued to flesh out his role as a bruising fullback, rumbling for two first down conversions. One highlight came on a short five-yard gain, when Sellers absolutely flattened Brian Dawkins before being taken down three yards later. Ladell Betts had another relatively quiet game in his role as a relief back to Portis, but his contributions ensured that the Redskins always had a running back with fresh legs. Campbell was downright dangerous coming out of the pocket, including a 20-yard scramble late in the 2nd quarter. His legs will be an asset for the Redskins all year.
All told, the rushing game did not flatten the Eagles or hit any home runs. However, it was a staple for shorter yardage, and it kept Saunders’ offense multi-dimensional through the end of the game.
Coming into Monday's game, the Washington Redskins' defense really only had two tasks: contain Brian Westbrook and contain Donovan McNabb. McNabb wasn't too much trouble for the Redskins. The coverage was adequate and the front four were able to generate some pressure. With help from LaRon Landry, Marcus Washington, and Rocky McIntosh, the defense recorded a total of three sacks. McNabb looked as though he had no open receivers all night, and the Redskins’ secondary did an excellent job of taking away any deep routes. It appears as though Sean Taylor is getting the job done in his new role as a true free safety.
Westbrook proved elusive and was used by the Eagles often. He slashed into the Redskins' secondary on a few occasions, slipping through arm tackles and picking up 97 rushing yards on seventeen carries. Westbrook alone wasn’t enough to power the Eagles’ offense, however, and the Washington Redskins defense tended to tighten the closer the Eagles were to the goal line. Philadelphia made four trips to the red zone – and came as close as the 23-yard line on another drive – but were held without a touchdown on the night.
Perhaps the defense could have generated better pressure on the quarterback, kept better track of Westbrook, or have created a turnover, but their play on Monday night epitomized the philosophy of "bend but don’t break." LaRon Landry’s last-second breakup of a 4th down McNabb pass on the 5-yard line, which sealed the victory, was the perfect end to an admirable effort by the entire squad.
Due to a combination of short kicks and poor coverage on returns, Correll Buckhalter consistently returned kicks beyond Philadelphia's 30-yard line, giving the Eagles’ offense excellent field position all night. Randle El muffed one punt – thankfully recovering it himself – and was otherwise unspectacular on returns. Rock Cartwright had a solid performance, returning five kicks for an average of 26 yards.
Suisham had short kickoffs but was (again) perfect on his field goal attempts.
Playing an NFC opponent on their turf early in the season is always a great opportunity: there would have been no shame in losing to the Eagles, and 1-1 seemed like an acceptable record to start the season with.
Fortunately, the Redskins were able to steal this one from Philadelphia, which will put great pressure on the Eagles not to get swept later in the season when they come to FedEx field. The Redskins, meanwhile, sit at 2-0 with two winnable games and a bye in the next three weeks.
If 2005 showed us anything, it’s that taking the early wins can keep you competitive late in the season, even if you hit a rough patch in the middle of the year. The Redskins are doing themselves a big favor by winning early, especially when they can steal an 'away' game from an NFC East opponent like Philadelphia.
- Daniel Coleman
This article was released on 2007-09-18.
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