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Redskins fall to Falcons; Eagles able to climb in the standings on their bye week

Washington now leads the Eagles by a game in the NFC East after Sunday's 38-14 drubbing by the visiting Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, right, sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, right, sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)Read moreSusan Walsh

LANDOVER, Md. — While the Eagles rested, the NFC East-leading Washington Redskins labored.

Maybe things really are beginning to turn around for the Eagles, especially when they gained in the standings during their bye week.

The Redskins still own the top spot in the NFC East, but it might not last long if they have more performances such as Sunday's 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at FedEx Field.

Washington is now 5-3, and heads to Tampa Bay next Sunday, while the 4-4 Eagles return to action Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I think to be 5-3 and sitting in first place is great," said Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, who completed 30 of 46 for 306 yards, one touchdown and one interception for an 82.3 passer rating. "I feel we have a lot of room for improvement, myself included, a lot of room to get better."

That's for sure, based on Sunday's result.

This year's narrative is that the NFC East is weak, and Washington didn't dissuade this line of thinking.

The Redskins offensive struggles came against a Falcons team that entered the game 30th in scoring defense, allowing 30.3 points per game.

Washington didn't help matters by being penalized 10 times for 147 yards.

How hard is it to win while committing so many penalties?

"It's impossible," said Redskins coach Jay Gruden, whose team must still face the Eagles twice.

Not only were the Redskins inconsistent on offense, they also had to perform with a makeshift line. Their best lineman, left tackle Trent Williams, was out following thumb surgery last week. Early in the first quarter, left guard Shawn Lauvao injured his left knee and left the game for good. Right tackle Morgan Moses went down with a knee injury, but he returned. Then midway through the third quarter, right guard Brandon Scherff left the game for good with a shoulder injury.

And the Eagles thought they were banged-up on the offensive line.

To illustrate the Redskins' offensive-line woes, on one fourth-quarter play, two linemen were called for holding, Moses and Geron Christian.

The situation was so bleak that Gruden said after the game that if there was another offensive line injury, he would have used defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis at guard. Ioannidis, the Temple product, had a team-leading eight tackles and one of the Redskins two sacks.

"This is a league of next man up, and, if they called upon me to do that, I would have been ready," Ioannidis said.

Maybe because of the injuries along the offensive line, ageless running back Adrian Peterson looked every bit of his 33 years of age. He rushed for 17 yards on nine carries.

The defense wasn't much better, even with the addition of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was acquired before Tuesday's trade deadline from Green Bay. He started in Washington's secondary, but even with him there, Atlanta's receivers were open all over the field. Seven receivers were targeted, and six caught passes.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, the pride of Penn Charter, completed 26 of 38 for 350 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Atlanta, 4-4 and winners of three in a row, also rushed for 154 yards, a healthy 6.4 yards per carry.

"Those are awful numbers," Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said.

It all led to a question Eagles fans and maybe the players and coaches will be asking — was this performance, which ended a three-game winning streak for the Redskins, an aberration, or a sign of things to come in the second half of the season?