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Redskins defense bends but does not break vs. Eagles

Redskins defense bends but does not break vs. Eagles

PHILADELPHIA—It’s kind of like a quarterback being called a “game manager”. No defense likes the term “bend but don’t break”.

But that shoe fit the Redskins against the Eagles on Sunday and they will be happy to wear it as it led to a 27-22 win.

The Eagles outgained the Redskins 383 yards to 334. Rookie Carson Wentz was operating the short passing game like a veteran, completing 32 of 46 passes for 314 yards. Ryan Matthews was efficient, running for 60 yards.

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But the Eagles got the ball into the end zone against the Redskins just once. The defense had the knack for tightening up at just the right time to force the Eagles to settle for field goals.

Or for nothing.

Philadelphia’s second possession made it all the way down to the three yard line before safety Deshazor Everett, who had played only on special teams until this game, picked off a Wentz pass in the end zone. That marked the first time that the Redskins had stopped a team from scoring a touchdown after it had attained a first and goal since Week 3.

They tightened up in the second half, holding the Eagles to just a field goal (Philly’s touchdown came on an interception return for a touchdown). But it got frightening in the late going after the Redskins scored to take a 27-22 lead with just under two minutes left.

The touchdown was a great moment but the finish by the defense was more like a horror movie sequel; call it Scary Movie IV.

The defense started bend and then bend some more. They gave ground all the way to where the Eagles had a first and 10 at the Washington 14 with about 30 seconds left.

It was the fourth time this year that an opponent has had the ball in Redskins territory in the last two minutes down by more than three points but by less than a touchdown. Previously they had held on against the Ravens and Vikings but they broke and lost against the Lions.

“We have been tested in every area that should be tested in situational football,” defensive end Chris Baker said. “I think this game helped us and let us realize that no matter the situation, if we continue to stick together we can find a way to make the play and win the game.”

This was one of the happy endings. Ryan Kerrigan got a sack and strip of Wentz and Trent Murphy picked it up to secure the win.

“It helps that we’ve had a couple, that they know how to react and how to respond,” said Jay Gruden of the hair-raising finishes. “It’s just guys stepping up and making plays and not blinking. It was great. It was a great game.”

Another 14 yards for the Eagles and would not have been so great as far as Gruden is concerned. But the defense came through when it had to and they will gladly take a road division win however they can get it.

MORE: With free agency coming, Eagles fans were very nice to DeSean Jackson

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Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 16, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking Points

A better 3-2

For the third straight year, the Redskins are 3-2 after five games. As you know, they did not make the playoffs after either of the last two seasons. But they are in better shape in the standings now than they were in 2016 or 2017. Last year they were in second place in the division, a game and a half behind the 5-1 Eagles. They were worse off two years ago as they were in third place behind the 3-1 Eagles and the Cowboys, who were 4-1. 

It’s still very early, but it’s better to be in first place nearly a third of the way into the season than it is to be in second or third place and being in a position where you have to chase one or two teams. 

Take it away

The Redskins had three takeaways against the Panthers—the fumble recovery on the punt, Josh Norman’s interception, and the fumble forced by Norman and recovered by Mason Foster. They did not give the ball away. The last time they got at least three takeaways without giving the ball up was on Christmas Eve, 2016 in Chicago. Perhaps not coincidentally, that is the last game in which Norman had an interception until Sunday. 

After being either even or in the positive in takeaway ratio in four of their five games this year, the Redskins are now tied for fourth in the NFL with a plus-four turnover margin. If they can stay on the even or plus side from week to week they will have a very good chance at being successful. 

Rushing D much improved

After finishing 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in 2017, the Redskins are currently sixth, giving up an average of 90.2 yards per game. The improvement has come even though they have faced premiere running backs David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Christian McCaffrey. They have allowed no more than 104 yards on the ground in any of their five games. Last year's opponents ran for 127 yards or more 10 times. Their defense will be tested on Sunday against the Cowboys, who average 147 rushing yards per game on the ground, second in the NFL. 

Looking in the mirror

When the Redskins take a look at the Cowboys they might feel like they are watching themselves. Both teams run the ball well, although Ezekiel Elliott is more consistent than Adrian Peterson. Alex Smith has better passing stats than Dak Prescott but both teams are in the bottom third of the league in passing yards. The defenses on both teams are strong. Washington is sixth in yardage allowed per game and the Cowboys are fifth. 

And both teams have started off the season alternating wins and losses. Dallas started with a loss to the Panthers then beat the Giants, lost to the Seahawks, won over the Lions, suffered an OT loss to the Texans and then thumped the Jaguars. It will be an interesting match up on Sunday.

The agenda

Today: Off day, no media availability

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants 12; Redskins @ Eagles 48

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Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

During the Redskins-Panthers Week 6 matchup, the FedEx Field end zones ditched their usual gold trim for some pink instead. As it turns out, burgundy and pink go quite well together.

The reason for the change was to celebrate the Redskins Breast Cancer Awareness game as well as the 20th anniversary of Tanya Snyder's THINK-PINK! campaign.

Mrs. Snyder started the movement two decades ago by passing out 8,000 handmade pink ribbons at the team's stadium meant to remind people that early detection of breast cancer can make a major difference.

Now, her campaign has gone league-wide and is the reason you see so many players wearing pink in October, fans waving pink towels in the stands and other awareness-raising initiatives throughout the NFL.

"Very, very, very proud," Snyder said while handing out ribbons before the Washington-Carolina game. "We're not finished, but we are making a difference with early detection. So I'm beaming." 

For more information on Snyder and the NFL's breast cancer efforts, head to redskins.com/thinkpink. And for more details about the events held at FedEx Field during Week 6, check out the video above.

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