Why did the Eagles beat the Redskins, 32-27, on Sunday? Here are the reasons:
DeSean Jackson didn’t disappoint in his first game back with the Eagles. He had eight catches for 154 yards, highlighted by 51- and 53-yard touchdown passes from Carson Wentz.
Six of his eight receptions, including both TDs, came on third down. He had five first downs on third-down catches, the most by any Eagles receiver in the Doug Pederson era.
Both touchdown catches came on third-and-10 plays. They were just the fifth and sixth TD catches of Jackson’s career on third-down plays of 10 yards or more. The most recent one had been in 2010.
Both scoring catches came out of identical three-wide receiver sets, with Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor all lined up on the right side, Jackson between them.
On the first one -- the 51-yarder in the second quarter that stopped the bleeding after the Redskins jumped out to a 17-0 lead -- he just flat-out beat Josh Norman on a post route. On the second one -- the 53-yarder that gave the Eagles the lead for good with five minutes left in the third quarter -- he took advantage of a mistake by rookie corner Jimmy Moreland, who let him run free down the numbers, apparently thinking the safety was going to pick up Jackson.
After the second TD, the Redskins were so spooked by Jackson’s speed that they pretty much let him do whatever he wanted underneath.
On the Eagles’ final touchdown drive, he caught a 19-yard sideline pass from Wentz on a third-and-9 play. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who was supposed to be covering Jackson on the play, wasn’t within 7 yards of him when he caught the ball.
Three plays later, out of the very same three-wide receiver set in which he caught the two touchdown passes,, Jackson caught a 9-yard pass from Wentz on a stop route on a third-and-4. Moreland still was backpedaling when Jackson caught that pass.
Throw in a new diet and training regimen. Add two scoops of newfound peace of mind and a heaping helping of DeSean Jackson and -- voila! -- you have the new and improved Carson Wentz.
Wentz completed 28 of 39 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception. He picked up three first downs on quarterback sneaks.
He was brilliant on third down, an area in which he knew he had to be better this season. He completed 12 of 13 third-down passes for 199 yards and nine first downs. All three of his touchdown passes came on third down – the two third-and-10 bombs to Jackson and a 5-yard scoring pass to Jeffery on third-and-goal.
While he had good protection most of the game, he did a nice job of avoiding the rush when he had to, including on the touchdown pass to Jeffery that capped a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive at the beginning of the second half, which shifted momentum back to the Eagles.
He did a nice job a couple of times avoiding the rush, scrambling to his left and throwing the ball, including on a third-and-15 play early in the Eagles’ nearly nine-minute scoring drive in the fourth quarter. He hit Zach Ertz on the move with a 16-yard completion to keep the drive alive. Later in the same drive, he again scrambled to his left and completed a 16-yard bullet to Jeffery on a third-and-7 play.
The Eagles’ offensive linemen had a very good day. They kept Wentz clean. He was sacked just once, and the league might end up reversing that one.
After some early missteps in the run game, they dominated the Redskins’ defensive front seven in the second half. The Eagles, who rushed for just 22 yards on nine carries in the first half, had 101 on 22 carries in the second half, when they came back from a 20-7 halftime deficit.
Three successive plays on a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half – 8- and 17-yard runs by Darren Sproles and a 19-yard gain by rookie Miles Sanders -- underscore the job the line did in the second half.
On Sproles’ first run, left guard Isaac Seumalo, left tackle Jason Peters, and tight end Dallas Goedert opened a nice seam for him. On Sproles’ 19-yarder, Peters and the Eagles’ two tight ends, Goedert and Ertz, opened a huge hole.
On Sanders’ run, Peters, Seumalo, and both tight ends collaborated on an outside zone run play that gave the Eagles a first down at the Washington 3-yard line.
While DeSean Jackson got most of the postgame attention, Alshon Jeffery had a pretty good day as well.
He caught five passes for 49 yards, including the 5-yard TD that capped the 12-play scoring drive at the start of second half and put the Eagles within six points.
His 2-yard touchdown run off of a lateral pass from Wentz on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Eagles a two-score lead. The run was one of the most impressive of the game because Jeffery barreled through four defenders to get into the end zone.
It was one of the few plays in the second half in which the offensive line didn’t execute very well. Right tackle Lane Johnson uncharacteristically ended up on the ground. Right guard Brandon Brooks then tripped over him. And rookie Andre Dillard, in as a third tight end, missed his block, leaving Jeffery to have to go it on his own.
Jeffery had two third-down catches, both of which he converted into first downs, including a 16-yard completion from Wentz on a third-and-7 on the Eagles’ final scoring drive.
The Eagles won the third-down battle on both sides of the ball. The Redskins converted their first three third-down opportunities of the game, then were 2-for-10 on third down the rest of the game, including 0-for-5 in the second half.
Case Keenum completed just four of his last nine third-down pass attempts for 47 yards and two first downs.
The Eagles, meanwhile, converted 11 of 17 third-down opportunities, including eight of 10 in the second half. Wentz completed 12 of 13 third-down pass attempts for 199 of his 313 total passing yards. All three of his touchdown passes came on third down, including the two bombs to Jackson.
His nine passing first downs on third down equaled his career high, which he had done twice before.