Bird Watch: Defense Fuels Eagles in 27-17 Win over Rival Redskins

Only a week ago, some were made extremely upset and a few were even calling for the firing of head coach Andy Reid and QB Donovan McNabb because of an embarrassing loss to a poor team in the Oakland Raiders. With the results of the Eagles’ latest game–which occurred last night versus the Washington Redskins–the Philadelphia football franchise has placed themselves right back into the race for their division. At 8:30 p.m. ET last evening, the Birds began their first rivalry game of the season, and after the hard-fought matchup was concluded, the midnight green team came out on top. The defensive unit was the main factor for the Eagles, who were able to cruise to a 10-point victory and increase their record to 5-2.

There are certainly some things that can be analyzed that were executed without success by the Eagles, such as some inconsistent offensive drives and some penalty trouble, but overall, the Eagles flew high at Washington’s FedEx field, scoring 27 points and appearing dominant on defense. Redskin QB Jason Campbell, who was under pressure as the team leader to begin with, was brought down for 6 sacks, and also forced to throw an interception. The defensive performance was simply aggressive, and resulted in turnovers and points, which the Eagles have focused on all year. Besides the defense, the special teams unit improved from last week’s game in which K David Akers missed a pair of field goals, and the offense was explosive on several plays.

The Week 7 contest, which began at 8:30 p.m. ET as stated previously, began with a bang and huge injection of momentum for the Eagles. After receiving the ball to start the game via the opening kickoff and a few hand-offs to establish an early running attack, WR DeSean Jackson took a reverse play (in which he got the ball while sweeping behind Donovan McNabb as a trick runner) 57 yards for an amazing touchdown. The 2nd-year receiver was assisted in scoring by fellow wideout Jeremy Maclin, who executed excellent blocking down the field. All said and done, the Eagles took a quick lead off of a great offensive play, and captured some needed motivation and excitement for a key division rivalry game. One negative factor that came out of the first period of play came in the form of an injury to starting RB Brian Westbrook. The veteran runner sustained a concussion after taking in a hard hit, and his status isn’t fully known as of now, although he was held out of the remainder of the game.

Later in the 1st quarter after several unproductive offensive series by both teams, the Eagles unleashed their new Middle Linebacker in stunning fashion. Of course, Will Witherspoon (acquired in a deadline trade last week) was active on the field before late in the first period, but it was at this time in which he exploded onto the scene with a big play. The former Ram was able to snatch a batted Jason Campbell pass out of the air for an interception, and sprint it into the endzone for a 9-yard TD. This wasn’t the only time Witherspoon made his presence felt, as only minutes after the defensive score, and into the 2nd quarter, the Linebacker placed a big tackle on Campbell that resulted in a fumble. The new Eagle finished with a remarkable statistical slate, which was very impressive for a guy who joined the team only last week.

The Redskins kept themselves within distance when they tacked 7 points on the board with a 2-yard TD pass from Campbell to young WR Devin Thomas, who is still in a process of working his way into a quality receiver for Washington. The Eagles followed up their rivals’ score with a 44-yard field goal by David Akers, his second converted boot of the night. The 3-point kick gave the Birds a commanding 20-7 lead, as well as another boost of confidence. On another offensive drive a bit later in the quarter, DeSean Jackson made yet another huge play, adding to Philly’s dominance with a 57-yard catch of a Donovan McNabb throw for a touchdown. Not only did the long reception bring an obvious addition to the Eagles’ score total, but it also displayed excellent route running ability by Jackson, who swiftly maneuvered past a pair of Redskin defenders to get wide open in the secondary.

Despite the Redskins adding 10 points to close out the game (by a 47-yard field goal and 1-yard TD pass), the Eagles’ defense kept them under wraps in the final minutes to eliminate any of Washington’s hopes of exiting the game with a win. They forced their NFC East nemesis to several unsuccessful drives, as well as a failed goal-line series late in the fourth and final quarter.

With their fourth win of the season, the Eagles now prepare to face another member of their division in the New York Giants. This matchup will take place back at home for the Eagles, in Lincoln Financial Field, and will be played on Sunday afternoon at approximately 1:00 p.m. ET.. Further analysis and evaluation of today’s game will be released throughout the week, but for now, take a look at the Eagles’ statistical leaders from the matchup, some of their key players, a scoring summary of the contest, and a look at some interesting things that you may have missed while viewing the game:

Statistical Leaders

Passing: Donovan McNabb (QB): 15-25, 156 yards, 1 TD

Rushing: DeSean Jackson (WR): 1-67 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: DeSean Jackson (WR): 2-69 yards, 1 TD

Receiving (cont.): Jeremy Maclin (WR): 5-53 yards

Defensive: Akeem Jordan (OLB): 10 tackles

Defensive (cont.): Will Witherspoon (MLB): 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble

Kicking: David Akers (K): 2-2 FG, 3-3 extra point

Punting: Sav Rocca (P): 8-33.3 punt yard average

For a complete statistical breakdown of the game, click here.

Key Players

  • WR DeSean Jackson: Jackson was clearly the base of the Eagles’ offensive unit against the Redskins, displaying a load of talent and athleticism, while leading the team in three separate statistical categories. At his natural position, the 2nd-year star caught two passes for 69 yards and a deep score, and on a trick WR hand-off, carried the ball 67 yards for another touchdown. As if his offensive contributions weren’t enough, Jackson also returned a trio of punts for a quality average of 10 yards. There should be no questions regarding the young wideout’s ability in this league anymore, especially after last night’s performance.
  • MLB Will Witherspoon: Talk about a sudden impact. Playing in his first game in an Eagle uniform after being acquired in a trade last week, Witherspoon was perhaps the best defensive player versus Washington. He notched 8 tackles, while also returning a tipped-pass interception for a touchdown, recording a sack, and forcing a fumble. His performance was an obvious momentum creator for the defense, but it also motivated his teammates to play as aggressive, hence the Birds racking up 5 other sacks and constant pressure, as well as solid run defense. If there were doubts as to how the typical Outside Linebacker would adjust to the middle of the LB corps, most of them should be gone now.
  • RB LeSean McCoy: Playing in place of the injured Westbrook for most of the game, the rookie McCoy failed to put up phenomenal numbers or highlight reel runs, but did a fair job rushing against a stout Washington defensive line. He also drew attention from other offensive weapons with occasional runs out of the Shotgun and Wildcat formations. He finished with only 37 yards on the ground, but was able to make 5 catches for 30 yards and keep the Linebackers of the Redskins on their toes for the majority of the game.

Did You Know…

  • …that Eagles’ preseason star and fan favorite DE Jason Babin saw his first significant amount of playing time of the year last night? After sitting on the bench for all but one of the team’s first five games, the Training Camp free agent signing finally got some playing time in the absence of injured starting d-end Victor Abiamiri, who sat out with a knee sprain. Rotating throughout the game with fellow DEs Chris Clemons and Juqua Parker, Babin notched 3 tackles and a sack, looking just as physical as he did prior to the season when he wowed fans and coaches.
  • …that CB Asante Samuel made 4 solid tackles after listening to criticism of his tackling skills and physicality for most of the week leading up to the game? The speedy veteran has always been great at making interceptions, but quite a few picked on his ability to bring the ball carrier to the ground following some poor efforts in Week 6 vs. the Raiders. However, he seemed to down the disappointing feelings with excellent coverage, and as mentioned before, 4 tackles.
  • …that the Eagles utilized backup QB Michael Vick last night more than in any game all season? Of course, the former Falcon missed the first pair of contests because of a suspension, but since then, he’s been used rarely as a Wildcat runner or decoy. Possibly in an attempt to boost the offense’s explosiveness, Vick was placed on the field quite a few times against Washington. The athletic passer tossed one throw for 4 yards, ran the ball 3 times for 9 yards (including a 10-yard dash that was eventually negated in statistics by his two other rushes of less than that total), and also handed the ball off and lined up as a trick Wide Receiver.

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter
PHI TD D.Jackson 67 yd. run (D.Akers kick) (4-81, 1:54)
PHI TD W.Witherspoon 9 yd. interception return (D.Akers kick)
2nd Quarter
PHI FG D.Akers 47 yd. Field Goal (4-6, 1:27)
WAS TD D.Thomas 2 yd. pass from J.Campbell (S.Suisham kick) (8-45, 5:26)
PHI FG D.Akers 44 yd. Field Goal (4–1, 1:34)
PHI TD D.Jackson 57 yd. pass from D.McNabb(D.Akers kick) (3-45, 1:07)
WAS FG S.Suisham 47 yd. Field Goal (9-39, 1:50)
3rd Quarter  NONE
4th Quarter
WAS TD F.Davis 1 yd. pass from J.Campbell (S.Suisham kick) (8-46, 2:18)
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