The Redskins are no stranger to close games in 2016, and while the outcome hasn't always been positive for the Washington defense, Sunday's win over the Eagles ended with a clutch stop.
Playing in close games is nothing new to the Washington Redskins. Ten of the Redskins' 13 games this season have been decided by one possession. Playing with a lead late in a game is also not new to the 2016 edition of the Redskins, but the results haven't always favored the men wearing burgundy and gold.
Take for example, losses against Dallas in Week 2 and in Detroit, where the Redskins weren't able to protect leads late in the fourth quarter. Also take for example, victories at Baltimore and New York, where the Redskins' defense came through with vital stops to seal victories.
On Sunday, the Redskins found themselves in that situation yet again after running back Chris Thompson bolted around the left end for a go-ahead 25-yard touchdown run to afford Washington with a five-point lead over the Philadelphia Eagles with 1:53 remaining.
"We've been tested in every area that should be tested in situational football," defensive end Chris Baker said.
If you're reading this, then you probably know Washington held on to win 27-22 over the Eagles, but it certainly didn't come comfortably. Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz began the Eagles' final drive with completions of four, 16 and 16 yards to move the ball 36 yards in just 40 seconds. After an incompletion, another 12 yards were gained on a pass to Jordan Matthews. The Eagles were at the Washington 27-yard line with 47 seconds remaining.
Two more incompletions ran off just seven seconds before Wentz hit tight end Zach Ertz for 13 yards and a first down that moved Philadelphia to Washington's 13-yard line with 26 seconds – more than enough time to take a few shots towards the end zone.
But on second down, the Redskins finally made a play. Washington's sack leader Ryan Kerrigan made Philadelphia right tackle Matt Tobin look like a practice dummy as he swerved past him on his way to Wentz. Instead of going for a big hit of Wentz, Kerrigan swung his right hand viciously to strip Wentz of the ball. Kerrigan's fellow outside linebacker, Trent Murphy, was there to pick up the loose ball.
It wasn't comfortable, but Washington had a crucial victory in its chase for an NFC Wild Card spot.
"It helps that we've had a couple, that they know how to react and how to respond," head coach Jay Gruden said after the game. "It's just guys stepping up and making plays and not blinking. It was great. It was a great game. Philadelphia's a good football team, (and it's) a tough place to play here. But I think to watch us respond in crucial, situational football-type things – overcoming adversity, the pick-six, they got the lead, we got the lead back and then holding the lead, was big time to watch."
The sack by Kerrigan was his 11th of the season, which ranks him third in the NFL, despite a slow start in which he had 1.5 sacks in his first four games. Kerrigan has had at least one sack in eight of his last nine games.
"He's a major impact," Gruden said. "Anytime you have 11 sacks in the National Football League when we've played 13 games, that's pretty impressive. He does change games in our book. He doesn't get the publicity like a lot of these guys get but he's a very important part of our football team for sure."
The win certainly felt good for Washington, but the injury-riddled defense was ready for the day to be over. The Redskins, which entered Sunday's game without starting safety Will Blackmon, lost standout rookie linebacker Su'a Cravens in the first quarter with an elbow injury. Middle linebacker and defensive captain Will Compton went down with a knee issue later.
Those three add to the list of Redskins defenders that have missed time, including veterans DeAngelo Hall and Kedric Golston, who are out for the year. Yet, despite all of Washington's third-down issues and ranking 22nd in total defense, the Redskins have found ways to win.
"We got into a call that I don't think they were expecting and Ryan was able to get around the edge to make a play," cornerback Josh Norman said. "I just sat there with jubilation like, 'God, yes. Finally. We can get up out of here and go home.'"