LANDOVER — It all could have slipped away.
The Redskins were once ahead by two touchdowns in Sunday’s NFC East showdown at FedEx Field. They suddenly found themselves tied without the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense even touching the ball.
Kirk Cousins had to shake off an ugly interception that was returned for a score. Vernon Davis needed to forget about an excessive celebration penalty that put his team in a bad spot. The special-team unit found itself under fire after a kickoff return for a touchdown.
But these Redskins have been in holes before this season. They started 0-2 with both losses at home. A month later and they find themselves back in the thick of the division race after a 27-20 win over the Eagles.
“Guys staying resilient,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “Just kept working, kept grinding. That’s pretty much the motto of our team right now.”
It has to be. The Redskins are unlikely to win many games easily. And Sunday was no exception. They dominated by the numbers. But the kickoff return by Wendell Smallwood and the interception return by Malcolm Jenkins switched the momentum in minutes. Up 14-0, Washington suddenly found itself tied.
But Kirk Cousins rebounded. The numbers still weren’t great. Cousins was 8-for-20 after that pick-six. The results: A rushing touchdown. A Dustin Hopkins field goal. A punt. Another Hopkins’ field goal. A punt. And a run-out-the-clock drive with the ball and Philadelphia out of timeouts.
Still – in the past Cousins has fallen apart under similar circumstances. This time he got them into scoring position, endured a few drops from his wide receivers – DeSean Jackson in the end zone the most egregious example – and didn’t turn the ball over again. On Sunday, that was enough to hold off the Eagles.
“Kirk is always looking forward, just staying optimistic about everything,” Davis said. “He’s fantastic. It’s been an honor to play with him. Kirk just continues to grow each and every week. He keeps his poise.”
And so the Redskins have a four-game winning streak. And a 2-1 record in the division with wins over the New York Giants (3-3) and Philadelphia (3-2). The schedule will get tougher soon with games against Minnesota (5-0) and Green Bay and Arizona in November and December. There’s also a rematch with the Eagles in Philadelphia and on Thanksgiving Day at Dallas.
But the running game was strong all day. Matt Jones finished with 135 yards (8.4 yards per carry) and Robert Kelley (59) and Chris Thompson (37) contributed their share, too. Even Cousins got in the act with a key nine-yard run for a first down with his team facing third down at its own 13. That drive ended in a Davis touchdown catch. There is work left to do. But the Redskins are in a good spot six weeks into the season. And after their ragged start it’s hard to ask for much more than that.
“We still have to strive for perfection,” defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said. “Sometimes we killed ourselves out there. We gave up 14 points to [let them] back in the game so we still have to fight for better execution. Great win. But we’re not satisfied quite yet.”
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