The Eagles beat the Redskins 28-13 on Monday night.
A day-after look at why it happened:
Sanchez to the rescue
We might as well start with the obvious one.
Already down to their backup quarterback, Colt McCoy, the Redskins had to throw ill-prepared ex-Eagle Mark Sanchez out there after McCoy broke his leg early in the second quarter.
Talk about an early Christmas present.
Sanchez, who was signed off the street on Nov. 19 after Alex Smith’s season-ending leg injury, was facing an Eagles defense that had two linebackers (Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill) and a banged-up secondary missing three of its four starters.
But it didn’t matter. He could’ve been going against 11 blind geriatrics and I’m not sure he would’ve been able to find the end zone.
The 32-year-old Sanchez, who hadn’t played in a game since the end of the 2016 season, barely had a working knowledge of the Redskins’ offense.
“We tried to get him comfortable, you know,’’ Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He actually did a pretty good job there for a while. He had a nice two-minute drive at the end of the half, made some good plays. But we just obviously sputtered. It was tough. It was tough.’’
Yeah, Jay. It was tough. But you need to take that up with your idiot GM, Bruce Allen, for not having a better Plan C than Sanchez, who threw for just 100 yards against a defense that given up 670 in its previous two games.
Or maybe take it up with yourself for running the ball just eight more times after Adrian Peterson’s 90-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter gave your team a 10-7 lead.
Committed to the run
When Doug Pederson arrived at his Saturday news conference two days before the Washington game, he had a play sheet in his hand. “All runs," said the coach, who has been frequently criticized for not running the ball enough.
He was joking, but there was some truth to that. No, the Eagles didn’t run the ball on every down. But they ran it a lot. And not just at the end after securing the lead.
They had season highs for first-quarter rushing attempts (nine) and yards (38). Their 17 first-half carries were their most this season.
Seven of their 12 plays on their game-opening 75-yard touchdown drive were runs, including five by rookie Josh Adams, who had 20 carries for 85 yards after a 22-carry, 84-yard performance last week.
Adams and Corey Clement combined for seven of the Eagles’ eight rushing first downs, which was their most since they had 10 in a Week 3 win over the Colts.
The Eagles’ commitment to the run, along with their screen game, kept the Redskins’ front seven on their heels and prevented them from teeing off on Carson Wentz.
Just three of the Eagles’ 12 third-down situations, not including a game-ending third-and-12 when Wentz was in kneel-down mode, were longer than 7 yards. Five were 4 yards or less.
Finally, a fast start
A year ago, the Eagles had the best first-quarter point differential (plus-58) in the league. Their 106 first-quarter points were the third most behind only the Rams (119) and the Saints (107).
This year, they’ve been The Team That Couldn’t Get Out of Bed. They had scored a league-low 21 first-quarter points in their first 11 games. They had been shut out completely in the first quarter in five straight games.
But against the Redskins, that finally changed. They took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards on 12 plays, with Wentz hitting Golden Tate for a 6-yard touchdown.
Even though they would lose the lead briefly in the second quarter when the Eagles’ defense parted like the Red Sea and permitted Peterson to run for a 90-yard touchdown, that early score gave both their offense and defense a much-needed early confidence boost.
Tate is Golden
Golden Tate had his best game as an Eagle. He was targeted seven times by Wentz and caught seven passes for 85 yards, four first downs, and that early 6-yard touchdown catch.
In Tate’s first three games with them after the Oct. 30 trade, Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh seemed to be struggling to figure out the best way to integrate the 30-year-old wide receiver into the offense. Tate also was trying to establish some chemistry with his new quarterback.
Tate was targeted 20 times in those first three games, including three deep balls (all incomplete) and six balls behind the line of scrimmage (five completions for just 27 yards). He was averaging just 8.8 yards per catch and had only four first-down receptions.
On Monday night, Tate and Wentz finally were on the same page. Wentz found Tate twice on that opening drive on scrambles, completing a 19-yard pass to him on a first-and-15, then hitting him for the touchdown on another ad-lib move.
Wentz did a nice job of spreading the ball around Monday night. The Eagles had five receivers with at least five catches and 30 or more receiving yards.
Stopping the run (sort of)
Yeah, there was the matter of that 90-yard Peterson touchdown right after Sanchez replaced the injured McCoy early in the second quarter.
But this isn’t a case of, “Other than that, how’d you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?” Peterson’s touchdown did give the Redskins a brief 10-7 lead. But with Sanchez at quarterback, they needed the run game to carry the offense not just make a one-play cameo. And that never happened.
The Eagles held Peterson and Co. to 14 yards on their other 13 rushing attempts. Take out the 90-yard romp and the Redskins gained 1 yard on eight first-down carries the entire night. One.
That created a lot of third-and-longs, which allowed the Eagles’ front four to tee off on Sanchez. He was sacked only twice – in the second quarter by Brandon Graham and in the fourth quarter by Fletcher Cox. But the Eagles had 17 quarterback pressures, including five by Cox and four each by Chris Long and Michael Bennett.
In the Eagles’ previous five games, opponents had a 43.6 third-down success rate. That was the third highest in the league over that period.
On Monday night, the Redskins converted just two of 10 third-down opportunities. Just one of their 10 third downs was less than 7 yards. Five were 12 yards or more. A big reason for that was their inability to run the ball on first and second down.