The Eagles pushed one last breath of life into their season today when they defeated the Redskins 20-13 in Landover. It was a convincing win that the team desperately needed. But what exactly can we take away from this win?
What we shouldn't get excited about - yet:
1. The run defense. Yes, the Eagles dominated there, holding the Redskins to only 43 yards on the ground. But good performances are not always a direct result of a good scheme. Sometimes one team just happens to match up well with another, and this could very well have been the case, since Shanahan's one-cutback system is different from the other run schemes the Eagles have faced so far. The fact that the Redskins suffered injuries on the offensive line needs to be considered too. I'm not saying the Eagles weren't impressive, because they most definitely were. But it'll take a good outing by the defense like this against Dallas before they really have proved themselves.
2. The turnovers. They are still getting snake-bitten in the red zone - Vick's interception was largely overlooked since the Eagles won - and Young's toss was just horrible. On the other side of the ball, they did get four INTs, but Rex Grossman was the quarterback. Enough said.
What we can get excited about:
1. Tackling. Finally, somewhere in the recesses of their instincts, the defense found the ability to tackle. There were a few missed ones here and there - but those happen to every team. The poor tackling by the Eagles in the first five games was unprecedented, but in their desperation they really came out and hit Washington in the mouth (see: Cooley, Chris). Plus, tackling has nothing to do with matchups - it's all about who wants it more. As long as they keep up the sense that every game is their Super Bowl, the decent tackling should continue.
2. The offensive line. This seems like an alien concept on an Eagles' fan site, but the O-line was maligned and shuffled around in a week and getting ready to play a very good Washington defense. Despite having two new starters in the tackle position and two rookies in the interior line, the Eagles ran the ball down the Redskins' throat for 192 yards on the ground. Vick did get pressured, but it was mostly on overload blitzes with free rushers. Once Jason Peters is healthy, it'll be interesting to see if Herremans moves back to guard and Justice to tackle, or if Winston remains on the bench.
3. Coverage. For the first time since the Rams' game, the Eagles seemed like they knew what was going on upfield. There were a few blown coverages - Fred Davis had 95 yards (covered below) - but anything deep was either broken up or intercepted, with the exception of that one bomb. Most of the stuff underneath was either broken up by the linebackers or stuffed for minimal gains. There is a possibility for matchup issues again, like with the run defense, but the Redskins have enough talent in their receivers that its not as likely as it is with the run game.
4. Third down defense. With how many different third-down situations the Redskins were in, it's hard to say that this could have been matchups. Castillo called a great game on third downs, preventing conversions on Washington's first seven opportunities. They got a little soft near the end of the game, especially on that awful fourth down conversion, but overall it was a solid performance to build upon.
What we should be worried about:
1. Covering the tight end. Once again, the Eagles were burned at that position, with Fred Davis - the backup - accumulating 95 yards. If they don't work at covering the tight end they're going to have a long day against Jason Witten and the Cowboys and the horrific two-tight end system that New England employs.
2. Red zone defense. While the Eagles held the Redskins to only thirteen points, it seems like they will only achieve that feat if they keep their opponents outside their twenty. The backup quarterback scored a touchdown on a draw play in the Redskins' only trip inside the red zone. Not encouraging.
What we should not be worried about:
The offense in the second half. With the way the Eagles moved up and down the field in the first half, it would be easy to become concerned since they didn't score again. Yes, another touchdown or even a field goal would have made the end of the game a little less tense, but don't forget that Washington has a very good defense. They were only giving up 15.8 points per game. Haslett made some good adjustments for a good defense. Andy Reid also played relatively conservatively possibly in an effort to limit mistakes, which the Eagles did. It's actually more encouraging to see that the defense finally answered the call and closed the game.
So, what have we learned?
The Eagles got a win when they needed it most. It wasn't the prettiest win, but it was a win nonetheless. The offensive line played beyond expectations and the defense showed up in a critical game. There are still some questions that need to be answered going into the bye, but there is also one thing that hasn't been around in a long time: hope. If the defense can build upon this, and if both lines get Peters and Cole back in time to play the Cowboys, there's no reason to think that the Eagles can't answer those questions and start a comeback in the division. But only time will tell if the Eagles eventually make Warren Sapp look ridiculous for doing this on NFL GameDay Morning (God I hope they do - that was just insulting):
(Sorry for the poor sound - but you get the idea. In any case, something needs to be done about this travesty.)