For the first time since 2012, the Washington Redskins are headed to the playoffs. In a stunning worst to first turn around, the Redskins (8-7) clinched the division on Saturday night with a 38-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. After falling to 5-7, Washington won three in a row –good enough to secure the division title in the second to last week of the season.
“How many of ya’ll picked us to win the division?” An excited Kirk Cousins yelled to the media after Saturday’s post-game press conference.
Admittedly, not many. From an unexpected quarterback change in the pre-season, to a rocky start in which they won just three games before the Bye, the Redskins’ season has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. And yet, in a weak division, at the end of it all, Washington reigns supreme.
On the road, with the division title on the line, the Redskins were ready to prove that their recent success wasn’t a fluke.
“We felt like we were an up-and-coming football team and could compete with anyone,” coach Jay Gruden said.
His belief in his team — specifically Cousins — never wavered, though at times his frustration was visible, particularly after a tough loss. But on Sunday, the unpopular decision to go and stick with the former backup QB paid off. The Washington starter threw four touchdown passes and a season high 365-yards in the victory.
“This is the most satisfied I’ve ever been as a player,” Cousins said. “It’s a big accomplishment. Now we need to build from here.”
The Eagles jumped ahead to an early 7-0 lead on their first possession, but the Redskins quickly responded with a TD of their own — though a missed extra point kept them from tying it. Cousins connected with Jordan Reed later in the first half, giving the tight end a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter.
Both teams were able to post field goals in the second quarter, and a confusing kneel down by Cousins to end the first half prevented Washington from extending their 16-10 lead. Fortunately, the mishap wasn’t enough to derail the Redskins from victory.
After Cousins connected with Chris Thompson in the middle of the third quarter, DeAngelo Hall had the game-changing play when he returned a DeMarco Murray fumble just 17 yards for a touchdown. It gave Washington a 31-17 lead, which they padded further when Cousins threw his fourth TD of the night in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Washington completed a successful two-point conversion to make up for the missed extra point earlier in the game, which gave them a comfortable 38-17 lead. Though the Eagles did reach the end zone on their next possession, by then the game–and their playoff hopes–were out of reach.
With the victory, both the Eagles (6-9) and the New York Giants (6-8) were eliminated from playoff contention. At 4-11, the Dallas Cowboys had not been in the playoff picture for a couple of weeks.
The Redskins will host the NFC No. 6 seed — either the Vikings or the Seahawks — on January 10th. In 2012, a Robert Griffin III-led Redskins team fell to Seattle at home in the first round of the playoffs. If Washington faces them again, it will be a chance at redemption.
Saturday, December 26th was a special day for all Washington sports fans, and not only because of the Redskins’ victory.
It was the first time in 32 years that the Wizards, Capitals, and Redskins all won on the same day. The Wizards edged out the Nets 111-96 in Brooklyn for their fourth straight victory, while the Capitals bested the Canadiens 3-1 at Verizon Center to improve to 26-6-2.
While the Redskins’ win may have been the biggest as it ensured them a playoff berth, the rare sports trifecta was a welcomed present. For now, it truly is the most wonderful time of year to be a sports fan in Washington, D.C.