The first half saw the Eagles jump out to a blistering offensive pace. Not only did the Eagles move the chains well but they capitalized on scoring opportunities. Forcing the Redskins to turn the ball over only added to help Philadelphia's cause. At the end of the first half the score was 26-7.
If not for receiving the benefit of the doubt on questionable call on a "backwards pass", the Redskins may have not even scored in the first half. Entertain my hypothetical: so not only do you subtract the 7 that Washington scored, but you have to account for the probable (not guaranteed) 3 or 7 points the Eagles would have attained since they were in scoring position. That means the score easily could have been 29-0 or 30-0 in favor of Philly. Here is a look at that backwards pass again, by the way:
Sorry, that's not backwards. Unless Vick is throwing a banana ball. pic.twitter.com/c6eDJ1QObG— World of Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) September 9, 2013
The story of the second half was that the Eagles slowed down, for whatever reason. Some attribute it to simply being worn down from running that fast pace in the first half. Others will say that the Eagles started to play conservatively on defense in order to run the clock down and protect their lead. Meanwhile, the Redskins picked up their pace and seemingly staged a near comeback by playing a lot better than they did in the first half.
If the Eagles were truly "playing it safe", the data certainly supports that theory. According to Win Probability (WP), courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats, the Eagles were never truly in danger of losing to the Redskins.
Here is a brief definition of WP, but for more on the subject click this link.
WP is simply an in-game estimate of who's going to win based on the current score and other game variables.
Even without the data, just think about the last sequence. In order to win the Redskins would had to not only recovered that onsides kick (which there was a penalty on the play for them, by the way), but they would have had to move the ball down the field and score a touchdown despite having no timeouts left. A Redskins victory would have been possible in that situation but certainly not probable. And that wasn't even the Redskins greatest chance of a comeback.The Eagles lowest WP was at 90, meaning they "only" had a 90% chance of winning the game with 7:22 left in the 4th quarter.
When you consider this data it makes the Eagles victory that much more impressive. The narrative shouldn't be "the Eagles were lucky to hold on". It should be that they were never in serious danger of losing in the first place. To win over the defending NFC East champions (on the road, nonetheless) in such an impressive fashion may bode well for the Eagles' success in 2013.
(H/T Brent Cohen)