A day after the regular-season finale, Paul Domowitch looks at what went right for the Eagles in their win over the Redskins.
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Improved run defense
With Josh Johnson at quarterback, the Redskins needed to be able to run the ball to have any chance of scoring points against the Eagles.
In Johnson’s previous two starts against Jacksonville (a win) and Tennessee (a nine-point loss), Washington ran the ball on 67 of 120 plays. Rushed for 161 yards against the Titans, including 119 by Adrian Peterson.
On Sunday, the Redskins were held to 21 yards on 12 carries. Peterson was tackled for losses on his first two carries and finished with zero yards on four runs.
The Redskins’ running backs finished with seven yards on seven carries. A week earlier, the Eagles had held Houston’s running backs to 13 yards on 11 carries.
Johnson, a bigger running threat than a passing threat who was averaging 5.8 yards per carry and had seven of Washington’s 17 rushing first downs in the previous three games since replacing Mark Sanchez, who replaced Colt McCoy, who replaced Alex Smith, was held to four yards on three carries by the Eagles.
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The Eagles were the epitome of offensive balance Sunday, running the football 34 times and throwing it 34.
They controlled the ball for 43 minutes and 19 seconds, which is the Eagles’ largest time of possession in a game since 1992. They had 11-, 13- and 19-play scoring drives that ate up 25 ½ minutes of the clock and produced 17 of their 24 points.
The 19-play, 87-yard drive in the second quarter, which resulted in a two-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Alshon Jeffery, and gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead at that point, gobbled up 11 minutes, 49 seconds. It was the longest drive in terms of plays in any NFL game since 2014, and the longest by the Eagles since 1997.
The defense did their part, holding the Redskins’ injury-ravaged offense to 89 net yards and eight first downs. The Eagles gave up just one play longer than 14 yards, a 20-yard completion to Josh Doctson on a second-and-11 early in the second quarter when they were playing a soft zone coverage. They held the Redskins without a third-down conversion (0-for-9).
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Short and sweet
With the Redskins mimicking the Eagles’ defense and trying to keep the ball in front of them and limit the yards after catch, the Birds spent most of the afternoon dinking and dunking.
Just six of Nick Foles’ 33 pass attempts traveled more than five yards from the line of scrimmage, none longer than 16 yards. it was the first game this season that Eagles quarterbacks didn’t throw at least one pass that traveled 20 or more yards.
But Foles’ willingness to take what the Redskins were giving him and spread the ball around – he completed two or more passes to eight different receivers – worked very well.
Foles completed 28 of 33 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. His 84.8 completion percentage was the highest of his career. At one point, he completed 25 straight passes, which tied the NFL record.
Jim Schwartz once again kept the blitzing to a minimum and relied on his front four to get pressure on Johnson Sunday. And they got the job done.
The Eagles sacked Johnson four times, all of them coming in the fourth quarter. But they got consistent pressure on the Redskins quarterback throughout the game without giving him room to run. Johnson, who came into the game averaging 5.8 yards per carry, had just four yards on three carries.
The Eagles were credited with 27 quarterback pressures by Pro Football Focus, including eight by Fletcher Cox and six apiece by Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham. Cox had three of the Eagles’ four sacks, as he just abused the Redskins’ backup interior linemen.
The Eagles finished the regular-season with 44 sacks, the eighth most in the league.
The Eagles blitzed on just four of 31 pass plays Sunday. Johnson was 0-for-4 when the Eagles blitzed. Schwartz also called a couple of zone blitzes, including one where he dropped Cox into coverage and rushed nickel corner Cre’von LeBlanc.
Schwartz’s defense is getting its third-down mojo back. The Redskins failed to convert a single one of their nine third-down opportunities.
Johnson, who completed just 12 of 27 passes for 91 yards and one interception, was 1-for-7 for 7 yards and a sack on third down.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas also came up and tackled Johnson for a five-yard loss after he was flushed from the pocket on a third-and-three play. Five of the Redskins’ third-down situations were 10 yards or more.
This comes a week after Houston converted just three of 10 third-down opportunities against the Eagles, and two weeks after the Rams converted just four of 12 third downs.