Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, which took place on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, at FedExField in Landover, Md.
1. Redskins capitalize on strong day from the running backs.From start to finish during Sunday's victory for the Redskins, it was the running backs – not the passing game – that fueled Washington to a fourth straight victory.
Starting running back Matt Jones ran for a game-high 135 yards on 16 carries, while Robert Kelley chipped in 59 yards of his own. Chris Thompson also carried the ball nine times for 37 yards.
Jones scored the offense's third touchdown of the afternoon – a one-yard run just seconds before the second half ended.
"I like that feeling that we can go in there and we can build off each other," Kelley said after the game. "When Matt Jones has a good run, I've got to get me one. It feels good, it's like a friendly competition. Obviously Matt Jones is the man, I'm behind him, but I just keep pushing him every time. Even if I'm not on the field I'm watching stuff and trying to help him get back to the sideline, stuff like that."
Indeed, that friendly competition dates back to training camp when the running backs would see who could get the longest carry. After Kelley burst out for a 45-yard scamper in the second quarter, Jones bounced one out for a career best 58 yards on the last offensive play of the game.
"I [saw] a hole, just put my foot in the ground and just kept it vertical," Jones said. "Niles Paul has a great block, Trent Williams had a great block kicking out the [defensive ends]. I just finished downhill; my mind was 'stay in bounds, hold on to the ball, and get as many yards as I can. Just seal the game."
In total, the Redskins would run for a season-high 230 yards.
"It was good, man, just to know our scheme is working," Jones said. "We knew it was going to be a big part of the game, and we stepped up to the challenge. We just want to keep it going. It's hard to defend us three, you know. You throw Chris in the game, it's hard to defend him. So, I felt good about us."
2. Washington cranked up the pressure on the rookie.
Setting the tone early in the game, the Redskins found all sorts of ways to pressure Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who was making only his fifth NFL start.
On the first play of the day for the Eagles' offense, Will Blackmon would get a sack that was assisted by Ryan Kerrigan, who had hold of Wentz' ripped jersey.
Four plays later, though, Kerrigan would get his first sack of the game. He would finish the game with two sacks, upping his season total to 4.5.
"We were able to take advantage of some situations that we had out there, put them in negative yard situations, and come up with some big stops," Kerrigan said.
As time went on, Wentz began "thinking about those hits" he was taking from the Redskins' defense, not just the ones that resulted in sacks.
"Any time you get after a quarterback, especially a young quarterback, you start having a third, fourth pair of eyes, just starting to look and get rid of the ball a little faster than what he was supposed to," defensive end Chris Baker said. "I messed up the timing on a couple of plays, but he still was tough and he still hung in there and took those hits and he even took a couple hits to deliver the long ball. He's going to be a really good player. We just had to do a good job as a front four of just making it as hard as possible for him and hitting him as much as we can and making him all aggravated."
With the game still very much in the balance late in the fourth quarter, the Redskins would register back-to-back sacks to force the Eagles into the punt formation.
Ricky Jean Francois tallied the first sack – a nine-yard loss – on 2nd-and-6, while Trent Murphy and Preston Smith combined for another nine-yard loss on 3rd-and-15.
The Eagles would never get the ball back.
"As long as his big self got down, I was happy as day," Jean Francois said. "Just let us win. I know a lot of people wanted to see me dance. I didn't care about the dancing. I just wanted to win and go home."
3. The Redskins haven't given up a touchdown in any second half of their four-game winning streak.
Test this defense and they'll respond.
After giving up 38 second half points in their first two games of the season, the Redskins' defense has only allowed 15 points in the second half of their last four games combined, all coming the way of field goals.
During Sunday's game against the Eagles, the Redskins only allowed two Caleb Sturgis field goals in the second half despite the fact Philadelphia got into the red zone prior to the kicks.
"We're a lot more confident out there," Kerrigan said. "We're playing a lot better collective ball. Up until the fourth quarter, they didn't have very many passing yards or rushing yards. If we keep those up, keep stacking together some good games, we can be a really good defense."
Additionally, the Redskins clamped down on third downs, as they allowed the Eagles to convert on only four of their 12 third-down attempts.
"They've been outstanding, they have," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said of the defense. "And they're doing it in a lot of different ways. They've mixed up their coverages and stunts and stopped the run game better in the second half. We give up some big plays, but they bend but don't break and hold to field goals, which is excellent."
4. Kirk Cousins was able to make enough plays to help balance out the offense some.
Even though the Redskins ran the offense right through the run game, Cousins was able to operate a fairly efficient passing game despite one critical mistake – a pick-six.
"Moments like that are going to happen," Cousins admitted. "You have to just keep playing though it and keep playing at a high level and what happened was a good play by them."
Cousins finished the game 18-of-34 for 263 yards and two touchdown passes. His first touchdown pass – a 16-yard reception from Jamison Crowder – was a perfectly placed ball into the hands of the budding second-year wide receiver.
The touchdown was Crowder's second red zone score on the season. "Just getting open, that's the main thing," Crowder said of being a steady red zone target. "A lot of people will say that I'm not really like a fade type of guy, but I don't really listen to it. The coaches, they have faith in me to get open and Kirk was able to find me for that touchdown."
Then in the second quarter, the offense marched 90 yards down the field, capped by a 13-yard touchdown from Vernon Davis.
The grab was Davis' 56th career touchdown reception and first as a member of the Redskins. Davis started in place of Jordan Reed (concussion) and finished the game with two receptions for 50 yards.
"Once I heard that Jordan wouldn't be playing and my role would increase, I didn't really have to change much," Davis said. "I just kept plugging away and approaching the game like I've been approaching it since I've been here. When it comes to playing an entire game, you just want to make sure that your stamina is there. You want to put in the extra work early on in that week and just know your assignments."
5. Despite the four-game winning streak, the Redskins still haven't quite pieced together a complete performance.During this ride from 0-2 to 4-2, the Redskins have gained big plays and big victories from all three units, but still haven't had everything clicking all at once.
On Sunday, one week after Jamison Crowder tallied an 85-yard punt return for touchdown, the Redskins gave up a costly 86-yard kickoff return touchdown to Wendell Smallwood. The score came just one play after Davis was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on his touchdown celebration, eliminating the possibility Dustin Hopkins would boot the ball into the end zone for a touchback.
"Any time you make a mistake or any time anything happens, you just have to leave it behind you and continue to work – keep moving forward," Davis admitted after the game. "You can't control those things. You can just move on, put it in the back of your mind and get ready for the next play."
But even then, the Redskins didn't get off their blocks in time to stop Smallwood.
"I'm not going to blame Vernon for that returning kickoff touchdown but you know – and really he would never do anything that would jeopardize a 15-yard penalty," Gruden said.
Special teams captain Niles Paul said that when the Redskins get all three units "playing good" at the same time, they could be capable of something bigger than just a winning streak.
"There's always room for improvement," Paul said. "You can see that there's room for improvement. We win games, but we can be so much better and I think that's our blessing, and if we want to get that, we just have to work harder."
In Week 7, they'll face a Detroit Lions squad coming off back-to-back victories over the Eagles and Los Angeles Rams. It will be an opportunity to piece together a complete game, potentially extend the winning streak to five games and put the Redskins into a good spot before traveling to London.