Eagles played keep-away, dominated Redskins and the clock, then watched it tick down on Minnesota
The Eagles wouldn't let Washington have the ball, running up some historic possession numbers, especially on a 19-play touchdown drive.
LANDOVER, Md. -- In the anticipatory “we’re-not-quite-there-yet” minutes following their 24-0 victory over Washington, a bunch of Eagles crowded into the coach’s office, in the back of the cramped visitors’ locker room at FedEx Field Sunday evening, to watch the final minutes of the Chicago Bears’ victory at Minnesota. The Bears had to hang on to give the Eagles the NFC’s sixth and final playoff berth, and they did.
Lane Johnson said he just sat at his locker.
“To be honest, I was pretty tired. Just chilled out, waited to see what happened … I was just kind of lying around,” Johnson said.
The Eagles’ right tackle was tired because his team controlled the ball for a season-high 43 minutes and 19 seconds Sunday. The Redskins had it for 16:41, which probably had something to do with their total of 89 net yards. And vice-versa.
Yes, the injury-ravaged opposition, finishing a 7-9 season, had nothing to play for, but this was the Eagles’ most dominant effort, offensively and defensively.
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In the second quarter, the Eagles mounted an 87-yard, 19-play touchdown drive that used up 11 minutes and 49 seconds. It was their longest drive this season, and longer than any they logged in last season’s run to the Super Bowl. The 19 plays were the most run on a drive in any NFL game since 2014, Elias Sports said, and the most in an Eagles drive since 1997.
“I didn’t really understand how long we’d been out there until we came in [for halftime]. I was like ‘How long WAS that drive?’ ” said tight end Zach Ertz. “A lot of third-down conversions [there were three, plus a fourth-down conversion], the backs got involved in the passing game. They were playing a lot of soft coverages, a lot of brackets on the weakside, on me. The backs made some good plays. It was good to see.”
Ertz was targeted just once on the drive and he caught that pass, for a 4-yard gain. Overall, he caught just three passes for 15 yards, but Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld found seven other receivers, for 26 completions, 228 yards, and three touchdowns.
“You’ve got to find a way, this time of year, to stay on the field, third and fourth down,” Ertz said. “When you’re on the field that many plays, [all the numbers] gotta be pretty good.”
Johnson was asked about the emphasis on ball control.
“It was not something that was said, it was something that just happened,” he said.
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The defense certainly helped. It was the Eagles’ first shutout since Oct. 12, 2014, against the Giants. Washington never even entered the red zone. In fact, the Redskins didn’t manage to cross midfield until the fourth quarter. They got to the Eagles’ 32-yard line on their final drive, before turning the ball over on downs. The 89 net yards was the least by an Eagles opponent since Dec. 13, 1992, when Seattle managed only 87. Washington was 0-for-9 converting third downs.
“It’s hard to get a shutout in the NFL,” said defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, whose three sacks of Josh Johnson gave him a career-high 10.5 for the season. “Every guy just did their job. We were disciplined today, and we had a lot of fun.”
Cox said the offense’s long stretches of possession helped keep the defense fresh. Different story for the offense, though.
“Luckily, it wasn’t too hot out there,” joked right guard Brandon Brooks. “I know we needed the Bears to win and everything, but I’m glad the guys could focus on beating the ‘Skins. To a certain degree, it was kind of like a trap game, where you’re thinking [Washington has] a lot of guys hurt, they’re not the same team [that started 6-3], then you come in here and get your [butt] whipped. I’m glad we stayed focused, kept our foot on the gas.”
How dialed in were they? Foles tied an NFL record by completing 25 passes in a row -- breaking Donovan McNabb’s team record of 24, which was set over parts of two games. Foles and Philip Rivers are the only two QBs to complete 25 in succession in a single game. Ryan Tannehill did it over two games.
“I honestly had no idea I had completed that many in a row. I was just playing,” said Foles, who left the field in the fourth quarter with a chest injury, after completing 28 of 33 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and a first-drive interception. "The one I finally missed, I double-clutched, just threw a horrible pass [missing an open Nelson Agholor at the goalline], but we scored the next play,” he said. Foles went back to Agholor and got the TD.
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On the 19-play drive, the longest gain was 14 yards, Foles to Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles ground out eight first downs.
“That was a really long one. It’s not easy to do,” Foles said. “There weren’t a lot of huge plays on that drive, but we were able to execute when we needed to, and ultimately allowed our defense to just rest.”
Foles’ 2-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery ended the march, giving the visitors a 10-0 lead that seemed at least twice that.
Redskins tackle Morgan Moses noted that “you can’t hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson 30 times” when you get behind and are having trouble getting the ball back. Peterson carried four times for zero yards.
“They kicked our [butt] from start to finish,” Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan said. “That -play drive they had in the second quarter, it was bad football by us … Give them some credit for taking it to us, but we just have to find a way to get off the field on third down.”
Eagles defensive end Chris Long said he thought coach Doug Pederson’s game plan was to shorten the game by running the ball, playing good defense, “and maybe get back in the locker room to watch the end of the [Chicago] game.”
He was kidding about that last part. Kind of.
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