*Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's brawl with the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.: *
Football is said to be the sport best tailored to storyline creation, with teams playing only once a week over a grueling four month season.
This has been a week of storylines for the Washington Redskins, who find themselves in an identical position as last year, sitting at 3-6 after nine games a looking to save their season vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.
But this is a much different Eagles team this season, with Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson ranking near or at the top of the league for their respective positions through Week 10.
This is also a much different Redskins team from the one that took the field in Week 1 against these same Eagles. Robert Griffin III is rolling on all cylinders, which has set up Pierre Garçon, Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris with tremendous starts of their own.
Matching two good offenses against two porous defenses could lead to a shootout, but anything is possible in a physical NFC East matchup.
It took 59:20 to reveal itself, but the defining moment of this game did not come until Robert Griffin III's interception on third down sealed the game. It was the revealing moment for the game, but it revealed much more about the character and makeup of this team. This is a team that has taken its lumps this season, but this is a team that continues to fight long odds, refusing to lay down when the decks are stacked against them. Most of their problems this season have been self-inflicted, but those are the problems that typically create in-fighting and a fractured locker room. As the team soldiers on, this is the type of experience and mindset that a young team needs in order to learn from its mistakes.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Redskins needed a spark to get back in it in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, and Aldrick Robinson was due. After catching a pass for 19 yards to put the Redskins across midfield, Robinson did what he does best two plays later: go deep, get open. Robert Griffin III recognized his favorable matchup, hauling in a 41-yard touchdown pass, his longest since his touchdown vs. Chicago. Last season in Week 11, he torched the Eagles for a 49-yard bomb and did it again today.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
No question that Alfred Morris was the heart and soul of this team today, a personal-best 18 carries in the first half and ball security that stood in stark contrast to Week 1. The only reason he had a decreased workload in the second half was thanks to the team's big deficit. But that should do nothing to diminish the impact he had on this game. He finished the day with 22 rushes for 93 yards.
It got the party started way too late, but fullback Darrel Young's 62-yard catch and run for a touchdown was nothing short of phenomenal. Running alone out to the left side, he caught a sharp pass for the first down, as both defenders crashed to the left for the tackle. Splitting the defenders, he left them on the ground before hitting the jets and sprinting the last 40 yards to the end zone. Combine that with his impressive work blocking for Alfred Morris in the rushing game, and Darrel Young had himself another fine day.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Redskins running game was active early as Alfred Morris picked up 85 yards on his first 16 carries, Griffin III picked up 40 yards on six carries and Roy Helu Jr. had one rush for 24 yards in the first half. Staying balanced kept the chains moving, but the team's inability to capitalize from within scoring range put a strain on the balanced offense.
--Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo tallied a sack for the second week in a row, giving him 39.5 for his career and putting him into sixth place all time in Redskins history. He passes defensive end Andre Carter who led him by a half sack heading into this game.
--He was joined in the sack parade by inside linebacker London Fletcher, who came on a delayed blitz up the gut in the second quarter to record his second sack of the season and 39th sack of his career. This was Fletcher's 250th consecutive game played, making him the fourth player in NFL history to reach that milestone (Brett Favre, Jim Marshall, Jeff Feagles). It was also his 209th consecutive start, putting him in first place all-time for an NFL linebacker, passing Derrick Brooks.
--It took only 19 minutes and four carries for Robert Griffin III to surpass his Week 1 totals (five carries, 23 yards) with his fourth rush for 27 yards. While rushing stats aren't the be-all, end-all for quarterbacks, it was indicative of the fact that Griffin III was a different threat today than he was 10 weeks ago. He finished the day with 10 carries for 44 yards.
--Roy Helu Jr. has been nothing short of fantastic in his return to the Redskins this season, ably filling the third-down back role and picking up key first downs in Oakland and again today in Philadelphia. His 24-yard rush put the Redskins down in the red zone in the first half and helped soften things up for Alfred Morris, who was running hard. He finished with three rushes for 39 yards and a whopping 13.0 yards-per-carry average.
--Last season, Brandon Meriweather played his only snaps of the year vs. the Eagles in Week 11, providing a defensive spark that seemed to set the tone for the unit for the rest of the year. He had another strong day today, seeming to be there every time the Redskins tackled LeSean McCoy on the day. Very few defenders can tackle McCoy in the open field thanks to his shifty running style, but Meriweather was patient, waiting for McCoy to reveal his move.
--Credit cornerback David Amerson for a gritty performance today, pulling the tough assignment of covering the red hot Riley Cooper for most of the game. He performed well for the most part, helping to hold him to three receptions for 37 yards. He had his two best tackles on the goal line, keeping Riley from scoring, and again in the fourth quarter, dragging down LeSean McCoy for a big loss. His development as a playmaker is evident at times, but he overall development as an NFL defender was on display today.
--Cornerback Josh Wilson got beat around at times today, but gave his teammates everything, including a fighting chance late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles needed four yards to move the chains and keep the clock rolling and Foles took the keeper to his right. Wilson recognized the scramble and dragged Foles down a half-yard short, forcing the punt.
--Santana Moss was pressed into duty late in the game with injuries to Leonard Hankerson and Jordan Reed, and he did not disappoint. Putting years of experience to use, Moss tallied two receptions for 41 yards, putting him over 10,000 receiving yards for his career. He is the seventh active player to reach this milestone.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--The Redskins talked all week about stopping running back LeSean McCoy, who not only leads the NFL in rushing yards, but also leads all players in yards from scrimmage. The first drive was a success, as he carried the ball twice for -2 yards, but the floodgates opened on the second drive, with a 49-yard reception down the sideline that set up the eventual first touchdown of the game. He really got things rolling on the third drive, picking up 12 yards on a pair of rushes. At the end of the first quarter, he already had 61 yards and a touchdown, which was certainly not the gameplan going in.
--By the end of the third quarter, LeSean McCoy had 15 carries for 68 yards, giving him more than 250 vs. the Redskins this season and more than 1,000 yards on the season. He finished with 20 rushes for 77 yards and two scores, picking up another 73 yards through the air. He was the type of weapon the Redskins knew was coming, game-planned to stop, and simply could not.
--The Redskins struggled vs. tight ends last season but have had reasonable success vs. the position so far this season. A big part of that has had to do with the development of Perry Riley in coverage and the presence of Brandon Meriweather in the secondary. That streak ended today, however, as veteran Brent Celek busted loose in the secondary for a 43-yard score. The touchdown was ultimately overturned and he was ruled down at the 1-yard line, but it was the second time that a long gainer in the secondary set up a touchdown.
--The Redskins stayed balanced and picked up first downs in the first half, but they failed to put up points, missing opportunities with stalled drives and a big sack-fumble in the red zone. The Eagles have had one of the best red zone defenses in football over the last six games, but the Redskins needed to start fast. Instead, they dug themselves another early hole, falling behind 17-0 at halftime.
--The injury bug bit hard today, as Pierre Garçon, Josh Wilson, Jarvis Jenkins, Brandon Meriweather, Jordan Reed, Leonard Hankerson and Stephen Bowen all missed time while being assessed for injury. Ultimately, Reed, Hankerson and Bowen were downgraded to out, leaving the Redskins short-handed in the passing game. This pressed Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul, Aldrick Robinson, Nick Williams and Santana Moss into greater roles on offense and the results weren't necessarily favorable. It appeared that there were miscommunications on routes at times, inadequate pass protection at others, a few sailed passes the Redskins were lucky to not turn over. The trickle-down effect of injuries played a big role in today's game.
--Nick Williams got his first NFL action today in a stadium 47 miles from his hometown, taking over at punt returner for an ineffective Joshua Morgan. This was not, however, a day to remember for Williams, who did not field a punt cleanly all day. He finished with one punt recovery, muffed, recovered for no yards. He also had his first NFL reception for five yards. He made amends on his two-point conversion after the team's first touchdown.
-- After a disappointing start to the game, the Redskins had their best opportunity to score with a 2nd-and-5 from the Eagles 15-yard line midway through the second quarter. Robert Griffin III had done a good job of moving around the pocket and keeping the play alive. This time, however, he hung in a collapsing pocket and was attacked from the right by Conor Barwin, popping the ball up in the air for a fumble and knocking Griffin III's helmet off with a big hit. The ball was recovered by Fletcher Cox of the Eagles and the Redskins offense walked away with nothing. That play, unfortunately, set the tone for the rest of the game.
Darrel Young's fourth-quarter touchdown came on a 62-yard reception, the team's longest to a running back since Clinton Portis caught a 74-yard reception Sept. 24, 2006 vs. the Houston Texans.
The Redskins head home for a long dose of home cooking and a three-game home stand. The road gets no easier from here as the Redskins remain in win-now mode. The Redskins get another extra day of rest this week as they prepare for the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football, a game that pits Robert Griffin III vs. Colin Kaepernick in a showdown of the dual-threat, strong-armed sophomore quarterbacks.
Storylines are an integral part of sports, but even compelling storylines do not predicate destiny. The Redskins needed a complete game performance in order to knock off the division-leading Eagles and they did not do enough to walk away victorious.
The Redskins fall to 3-7 and must now double-down their efforts if they hope to make a run at the playoffs. The Eagles improve to 6-5, but there is no sense in scoreboard watching until the Redskins put together some wins.
The silver lining of today's dismal first half is that the team awoke with a vengeance in the fourth quarter, piling up offense and scoring 16 points. It was the third-straight week that the team went over 400 yards of offense. The pair of two-point conversions tied a franchise record (done previously on 12/19/10 and 11/06/94).
It was not enough to overcome a division opponent on the road, but it was a start. If the team can carry that momentum into their Monday Night matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, then there is still time to turn this season around.
The Redskins have a long week of work ahead, but there were enough positives to build momentum toward the rest of the season. It all starts in eight days under the bright lights at FedExField.