Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday's Week 16 game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia:
Six weeks ago, the Redskin started an improbable run of perfection, thumping the Philadelphia Eagles 31-6 at home en route to a five-game, season-saving winning streak. When the dust settled, the Redskins had gone from worst to first in the NFC East, clearing a path to the postseason.
Today, the Redskins looked to sweep the Eagles in the season series for the first time since 2008, a feat that would bring them one step closer to clinching the division. It was a Washington team rolling on all cylinders vs. a team in total disarray, but both teams came to play this afternoon.
The Redskins needed one more score for comfort in the final minutes of the third quarter, and quarterback Robert Griffin III turned to one of his steadiest playmakers in receiver Santana Moss. Moss lined up on the right side of the field and cut left deep over the middle. Griffin III hit him with a sharp pass, who finished the 22-yard play with a touchdown. This score put the Redskins up by 14 with 20 minutes remaining in the game, but ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Although the play appeared negative after a 12-yard gain, Redskins safety Jordan Pugh had a game-saving tackle, knocking Eagles running back LeSean McCoy out of bounds at the 5-yard line with 18 seconds remaining. Going out of bounds stopped the clock, but the Eagles were unable to gain another yard following two incomplete passes by Nick Foles and a 10-second runoff of the clock. It was not ideal for the Redskins to yield 80 yards on the final drive, but stopping McCoy short of the end zone preserved a Redskins' victory in regulation.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III may not win Rookie of the Week with his numbers today, but his effort will go down as one of the grittiest of his young career. After a first-quarter run left him grimacing, Griffin stayed in the game and threw 16-for-24, 198 yards and two touchdowns. His four yards on the ground was a career-low, but he excelled in the category that mattered the most: the scoreboard. Griffin III led his teammates on five scoring drives and led his team to a critical ninth win, preserving a win-and-in playoff scenario for next week against the Cowboys.
When the Redskins signed unheralded free agent kicker Kai Forbath in Week 6, head coach Mike Shanahan off-handedly told the media he hoped Forbath would be the kicker in Washington for the next 15 years. Ten weeks later, Forbath has no guarantees of lasting that long, but has done nothing to suggest he couldn't be a franchise kicker. After starting his career with a 50-yard field goal conversion, Forbath has rattled off an NFL-record 17 consecutive field goal conversions to start his NFL career. This breaks the record previously held by Garrett Hartley (16, 2008). Forbath also owns the second-longest streak in Redskins' history, trailing only veteran kicker The last Redskins kicker to go this many consecutive (at any point in his career was NFL MVP Mark Moseley (1981-82), who once had 23-straight.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan brought his A-game today, terrorizing rookie quarterback Nick Foles and dominating the Eagles' offensive line. Whether he was hitting home for a sack, as he did twice in the first half, or flushing Foles out of the pocket, Kerrigan was a beast today. His two sacks on the day gave him 8.5 on the season, and a new career high on the season. For his career, he now has 16 sacks. His forced fumble today set up a Redskins field goal and was the sixth forced fumble of his career.
--Redskins running back Alfred Morris continued to provide the Redskins with every ounce of energy, despite getting off to a slow start today. Morris shows tremendous strength, getting low and pushing back would-be tacklers, almost always falling forward. He also shows confidence on his cutbacks, following his blocks even with a banged up offensive line. Morris may not break the Redskins rushing record this year, but he looks to be a viable option in Washington for years to come.
--After the Redskins struggled to move the ball on the ground early, they found success with the end-around by receivers Santana Moss and Joshua Morgan. Moss was able to cut through the line to the secondary, picking up 11 yards on the ground. Several plays later, Morgan takes the handoff and picks up seven yards near the sideline, picking up more than half of those after first contact. Both of these players bring good speed, vision and physicality to the table, perfect for this type of gimmick play.
--Cornerback Richard Crawford is living the rookie dream: late-round draft pick who makes the team, carves out a role on special teams and then makes an impact on defense. Three weeks ago, Crawford was inactive against the New York Giants. Two weeks ago, Crawford played overtime hero, returning a punt 64 yards to put the Redskins in game-winning field goal range. This week, Crawford finds himself in the right place at the right time, recovering a key fumble to turn the momentum in the Redskins' favor in the early going.
--Redskins' safety Madieu Williams has been a steady defender all year, making several game-saving tackles and pass deflections on the back end of the defense. Williams got an unexpected cameo near the line of scrimmage this afternoon, and cashed in with his first sack as a member of the Redskins. This is just another first for the former Maryland grad, as his welcome-home story season continues.
--Maurice Hurt impressed last year, filling in admirably at left guard after Kory Lichtensteiger was lost for the season against these Philadelphia Eagles. He has filled a limited roll this season, with the Redskins offensive line making the first 13 games together as a unit. When Tyler Polumbus was unable to start with a concussion, it was Hurt that took over at right tackle, continuing the success the unit has had all year in the run game and pass protection. Hurt has most of his experience on the left side of the line, but was able to flip things around today and pick up his teammates on offense.
--The prototypical 3-4 nose tackle isn't known for his lateral athleticism, but Barry Cofield isn't the prototypical nose tackle. Cofield does a good job of pressing the pocket against similarly-sized centers and guards, and has surprising hustle to defend downfield. He had two standout plays today, once tackling Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin on a screen pass after minimal gain, and forcing an incomplete pass by Foles later in the game. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett thinks Barry Cofield has the tools to be one of the best nose tackles in the NFL, and Cofield is showing why he already warrants consideration.
--Redskins running back Alfred Morris continued his incredible rookie season this afternoon, gaining 91 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. That touchdown gave him 10 on the season, tying the franchise rookie record for all-purpose touchdowns set by future Hall of Fame receiver Charley Taylor in 1964. He also went over 1,400 yards on the ground this season, putting him in good position to break the Clinton Portis single-season franchise record of 1,516 yards with a good game next week vs. Dallas.
--Redskins performed well against the tight end today, limited the Eagles to three receptions for 39 yards. Brent Celek has struggled for the Eagles this season, but the Redskins have improved in each of the last two weeks against opposing tight ends. Hopefully this can carry over to next week when Jason Witten and the Cowboys come to town.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--The Redskins have frequently jumped out to big scores in the middle of games this season, but have allowed the other team to get back involved in the fourth quarter. Today's game was a one-sided affair, with the Redskins outscoring the Eagles 20-3 during the middle 28 minutes of the game. Against a more formidable offense, today's game could have gone to overtime. The Redskins held on to win today, but need to bring 60 minutes of football next week in order to seal the division.
--Despite getting good pressure on quarterback Nick Foles, the Redskins made some costly mistakes in coverage, yielding 70-plus yards to three different Eagles' receivers, including Jeremy Maclin to the tune of eight receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. Maclin is a talented receiver, but with Dez Bryant next on the schedule, the Redskins need to bring their A-game.
With the combined performance of Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III on the ground today, the duo broke the franchise mark for rushing yards by two teammates in a single season. Griffin III and Morris have combined for 2,165 yards, smashing the record (2,119 yards) set by running backs John Riggins and Joe Washington 2,119 in 1983.
The Redskins have one game left to decide the fate of the season, hosting the Dallas Cowboys at home for a chance to win the NFC East. The Redskins already defeated the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving and have a chance to be moved to primetime on Sunday Night Football (NFL/NBC decision pending). With a win today, the Redskins remain in control with their playoff destiny, but need a win to ensure their path to the playoffs.
No road game is ever easy in the NFL, especially against division opponents. But the Redskins came to Philadelphia on a mission and accomplished what they set out to do. The Redskins secured their ninth win of the year today, ensuring their first winning season in five years, and at least a four-game improvement over 2011.
More importantly, the Redskins rattled off their sixth-consecutive victory to remain on a path for the playoffs, their first such hunt since 2007. The Redskins have found success by creating an exciting atmosphere for winning, all while remaining calm and businesslike. For a young team, they have the mentality of a veteran unit, and have all the confidence necessary to win a do-or-die game over the Cowboys.
Throw out the records, throw out the numbers and look for a smash-mouth football game next Sunday. To all in Redskins Nation, happy holidays and happy Dallas Week.