Eagles blunder into halftime, down 6 vs imperfect opponent
Very odd opening half, which ended in confusion, Washington leading the host Eagles, 16-10, Saturday night.
It should have been more. On first and goal from the Eagles' 6 with six seconds left and no timeouts, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins unaccountably took a knee, then belatedly seemed to spike the ball, then picked it up and tried to run with it. The spike would have given Washington a shot at a chip-shot field goal, but when a quarterback takes a knee, even if he is untouched, the play is over, he has given himself up.
Cousins did well otherwise against an Eagles defense that couldn't defend the middle of the field. He entered halftime 18 for 25 for 220 yards and two touchdowns, his first two-touchdown pass road game of the season.
Sam Bradford went into halftime 15 for 22 for 194, but he missed a wide-open Zach Ertz for what should have been a TD. Ertz later lost a fumble that led to the Redskins' field goal making it 16-10.
The Eagles lost the opening coin toss, then a post-Christmas miracle occurred – a six-play touchdown drive aided by a pair of Washington penalties, most notably a pass interference call in the end zone on corner Will Blackmon against Josh Huff, who probably wasn't going to get to the ball anyway. Ryan Mathews ran it in from the 1for a 7-0 lead.
It was the fastest Eagles touchdown from the start of the game this season, and only the third time they've scored on their opening drive.
It was not a springboard to a tremendous first quarter, however.
Washington got a pair of touchdown catches down the middle by tight end Jordan Reed, the team's top receiver. Eagles coverage was horrible both times – the first when DeMeco Ryans bit on play action and Ed Reynolds was slow to react. On the second, Mychal Kendricks continued his puzzling descent, trailing Reed in coverage by about three steps.
Reed had six catches for 92 yards and the two touchdowns by halftime, with the Birds doing a much better job outside, where rookie Eric Rowe and little-used second-year player Jaylen Watkins got most of the snaps, Byron Maxwell sidelined by an SC joint sprain.
The Eagles offense did not work smoothly again, often because of penalties. Once a drive died when Bradford spiked a third-down pass because part of his offensive line didn't respond to the snap, apparently convinced the Redskins were offside, but no penalty was called.
The Eagles got within 13-10 on a 34-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal, but that drive, as well, died because of a penalty, a false start on Allen Barbre as the Birds hurried to run a play after a Brent Celek first-down catch.
The Eagles couldn't run the ball consistently against one of the NFL's worst run defenses. They gained 17 yards rushing in the first half on 11 carries.