WASHINGTON — The Redskins put forth their most dominant performance of the season Sunday against the Eagles, that despite the final score reflecting only a seven-point difference between the teams.
Washington’s three-headed monster of Matt Jones, Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson contributed to the Redskins’ most potent rushing attack of the season, all of them combining for 231 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Kirk Cousins spread the ball around effectively, finding five separate receivers in completing 18 of 34 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. If not for the pick-six he threw to Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, or Wendell Smallwood’s 86-yard kick return for a touchdown, the Redskins would have dispatched the Eagles by a far greater point differential than 27-20.
Although the Redskins certainly didn’t look like they were going to have such a commanding day after their first two drives, both of which resulted in a Redskins punt. Still, the Redskins were able to strike first as their defense forced the Eagles to punt on their first three drives.
“When you have to punt the first couple possessions, if they’re able as an offense to go down the field and score, you could be down, at worse, 14-0, and you don’t even have a chance to really just run your offense,” Cousins said. “You feel like you have to get back in it right away. So the fact that our defense kept us in it, it was still 0-0 by the time we got our third possession, made a big difference.”
The Redskins offense had a day, even without top weapon Jordan Reed, who missed his first game of the season with a concussion. Vernon Davis filled in nicely as the lead tight end, hauling in two of four targets for 50 yards and his first touchdown of 2016.
They weren’t certain Reed would miss the game, though Cousins says they planned around him throughout the week leading into Sunday.
“You never really know going into a week,” he said. “But we had planned for him not to play, and obviously if he was able to it would have been a bonus. We always do tend to spread it around. I think that that’s why Crowder, and Pierre and DeSean all had such productive years last year, along with our tight end, is because we do spread the ball around. You see Chris Thompson making a lot of catches on third down in the pass game.”
“The offense and the way I read the field, I think we get the ball out to different people, but having a talented tight end in Vernon Davis did help in terms of being able to just keep going without Jordan,” he said, “because Vernon does some things with his speed and his athleticism, his experience, his blocking, where we were able to keep going and still be productive as an offense without one of our best players on the field.”
Washington controlled the clock to a staggering extent, possessing the ball for 19 minutes and 35 seconds in the first half, and 28 minutes and 7 seconds of the game’s first 45 minutes. While keeping the opposing defense on the field is always the goal, the Redskins ate up so much time of possession, they actually wore themselves down offensively.
“I’m sure there’s some level of wearing down a defense, that that has value,” Cousins said. “I think we were worn down as an offense, too, where we had to sub a lot of guys in and guys needed to catch their breath because of how many plays we had run in a row.”
“But that’s what kick returns will do,” he continued. “I remember last week against the Ravens when Crowder returned the punt, it felt similarly for us. In the whole first quarter, we really didn’t have much of an opportunity to be on the field. You know, obviously teams will take those kick returns for points, but it doesn’t mean your offense is going to be out there and giving your defense a rest.
“So it was unique the way the circumstances played out, but the key is, when you do get your chance as an offense, to stay out there, to be productive, to move the football and ultimately to put points on the board, and I think for the most part we were able to do that yesterday and it was good enough to win.”
Cousins also described what he saw before throwing the game’s lone interception.
“The interception was a tough play,” he said. “Coming out of that keeper fake, the end played up the field and that’s always the issue with those bootlegs is when a defensive end plays up the field, he can take those away. He did that, and then obviously I don’t want to take a sack there, so I put my foot in the ground and I’ve got to make a decision: Do I dirt the ball at Vernon’s feet? Do I try to throw it out to him?”
“And in the heat of the moment, felt like [Davis] had a step on everybody, [I] put it out there and obviously the ball didn’t get out as far as it needed to and then the safety made a great play running in man coverage, chasing Vernon and undercutting it,” he said.
“So, tough look there and obviously what I would take away from it is when an end does play upfield like that, you got a chance to just throw the ball away and dirt it in the ground and live for the next play.”