The Redskins found success in the running game early and often with all three backs in their win over the Eagles on Sunday, netting them their best performance of the season.
The Redskins entered Sunday's matchup with the Eagles knowing that establishing the run would be a chore. Philadelphia's defense had only allowed 73.3 rushing yards per game and their interior linemen – Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan – contributed to a major part of that in their first four games.
But by the end of halftime, Washington had already carved out 126 yards rushing, an indication that the offensive line had been able to impose its will and that all three of the team's running backs were producing because of it. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay stuck with the ground game throughout the second half and the team finished with 230 total rushing yards to close out a 27-20 victory at FedExField.
Running back Matt Jones saved 57 of those yards for the second to last play of the game, when he took a third down handoff with just more than a minute remaining, cut outside and sprinted down the sideline to erase any final threat by Philadelphia, hoping to get one more turn on offense.
Jones finished with 135 yards rushing on 16 attempts and a touchdown, which he earned on the Redskins' final offensive play of the half. Faced with a third down in a 14-14 game, Jones took a carry up the middle, noticed nobody outside and quickly bounced to his left to walk in for an easy score.
It was Jones' second consecutive home game with more than 100 yards rushing, a statistic, he said, should be credited to his offensive line and the offensive scheme.
"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 [Thompson] in the game, it's hard to defend him. So, I felt good about us."
Indeed, a "friendly competition" emerged once Robert Kelley took his first handoff in the second quarter and scampered 45 yards, breaking tackles and the spirits of an Eagles defense that played all but one minute and 47 seconds in that quarter.
Kelley was taken down by safety Rodney McLeod, who grabbed his hair from behind. The undrafted rookie from Tulane said it might have been a bigger gain "I think if I had a haircut," he said.
"It was a wide zone, but I kind of got that run off of Matt Jones, he had a similar run earlier on in the game the way he put his foot in the ground and got upfield," Kelley said. "He was telling me if we get upfield we'd probably have some decent runs. I tried to do what he asked me to do, and I did it and it worked out for me. I broke through some arm tackles and got upfield."
"When I had the first good run, [Kelley] was like, 'I see what you did. You opened the scheme up for me,'" Jones said. "We [were] happy for each other. I'm excited for him. I'm very excited for him. He's a great, great guy and he comes in and runs like that, nobody can be mad at that. I just wish the best for him and keep on grinding with him each and every day."
Kelley took the ball four more times and finished with 59 yards rushing, a career high after rushing three times for 18 yards last week against the Ravens. Chris Thompson contributed 37 yards on the ground, taking advantage of Jones' and Kelley's north-south style by gaining chunks of yardage outside, while also adding 29 yards in the passing game.
"I like that feeling that we can go in there and we can build off each other," Kelley said. "When Matt Jones has a good run, I gotta go 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."
The Redskins ran the ball 33 times and passed it 34 times, a nearly perfect balance that served quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense well, as the Eagles defense stayed on the field for extended drives, unable to commit to a pass rush.
The attrition accounted for three consecutive drives that combined for 34 plays, 230 yards and more than 15 minutes on the field between the second and third quarter.
"If you can keep the defense on the field, if we can make and build momentum, like I said before, that's a good thing," left guard Shawn Lauvao said. "We had probably 44, 45 plus snaps in the first half, that's a lot of plays typically. I mean most games it might be 65, maybe 70 snaps. I have no idea how many snaps we had, but any defense that's on the field for the majority of the game typically gets pretty tired."
"I feel like a broken record a little bit but it makes it easier," Cousins said of having a productive running game. "[We] stayed at manageable distances and we were able to flip the field without even having to throw a pass a couple times."
The balance added up to the Redskins' fourth straight victory, providing another blueprint for how this offense – even without its top weapon in tight end Jordan Reed – can find production and build on early success when the run game gets going.
"We got a stable, man and we're still young too, so the sky's the limit for those guys," center Spencer Long said. "You just got to do one play at a time, one play after another get your job done. Everybody across the board does their job, we come together as a unit."