December 12, 2016
Sports Insider Weekly
After back-to-back losses and a verbal lashing from coach Jay Gruden, the Washington Redskins bounced back on Sunday against the rival Eagles for their first victory in almost a month.
The 27-22 win keeps Washington (7-5-1) in the playoff hunt, but doesn’t guarantee them a spot. They lost their grip on the No. 6 seed with last week’s loss, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t give it up easily. The Bus (8-5) have won five straight including Sunday against the Saints.
With just three weeks left in the regular season, each game holds a little more weight. The Redskins, whom Gruden lambasted after last week’s loss to the Cardinals, rose to the occasion against the Eagles in a tense and tight game.
After falling behind 6-0 early, breakout running back Rob Kelley scored the Skins first touchdown. Kirk Cousins then threw two touchdowns, including an 80-yard pass to DeSean Jackson to take an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter. Jackson’s three catch, 102-yard day came amidst rumors the soon to be free agent was open to returning to Philadelphia one day.
With just under five minutes remaining, the Redskins allowed a Philly field goal to shrink the lead to one. Suddenly trailing, Chris Thompson saved the day for Washington with a 25-yard touchdown run to put the Redskins ahead 27-22. But the game wasn’t over yet.
With 21 seconds remaining and the Eagles 14 yards from a game winning touchdown, the defense, which has struggled mightily in recent losses, saved the game. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked quarterback Carson Wentz for a force fumble that was recovered by Washington to end the game.
“Our heart’s still beating,” said a relieved Gruden after the game.
The Redskins’ next two games are against last-place teams who will be eager to play spoiler to their playoff plans. They will face reigning MVP Cam Newton and the defending NFC Champion Panthers next Monday; it will be the first time the two teams have met since star cornerback Josh Norman left Carolina (5-8) to sign with Washington.
The Redskins will then face the Bears (3-10) on Christmas Eve. While neither is a guaranteed win, the Skins’ playoff odds improve with match-ups against opponents with losing records. But the last game of the season will be a real test, as they face division rival New York (9-4), who is sole possession of second place, and the No. 5 playoff seed.
For Washington, as the season winds down, there is little room for mistakes.
“One thing about this team and this defense: We don’t give up,” cornerback Quinton Dunbar said. “Playing hard is never the issue. So we’re just trying to get it all together and mesh as one and peak-perform down the stretch.”