When the Washington Redskins lost the Sep. 9 season opener to the Philadelphia Eagles 33-27 at home, their offense was not as solid as it could have been. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan hopes to give a better showing when they meet in Week 11 at Lincoln Financial Field.
At that time, Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III was in his first game since suffering a knee injury last season. He wore a large brace, and seemed uncomfortable and unsteady. He did not move as much as he did in his rookie year. Nor was he as apt to dash off with the ball. As the weeks progressed, and the ‘Skins continued to lose, questions arose about RG3’s recovery and whether or not he was physically and mentally ready to live up to his performance from last year.
Then, in Week 4 something seemed to fall into place. It seemed RG3 began to trust his knee and his offensive line. He stayed steady, stayed mobile, and the Redskins got their first win of the season over the Oakland Raiders, 24-14. After a bye in Week 5, the Redskins traveled to Texas and lost to division rival Dallas Cowboys 31-16. The week after, they beat the Chicago Bears in spectacular fashion 45-41, and then lost to the Denver Broncos in just as spectacular fashion, 45-21(although at that time everybody was losing to Denver). The flip-flop continued into Week 9 as they won against the San Diego Chargers 30-24, then lost again last week to the Minnesota Vikings 34-24.
So what is fueling this consistent inconsistency? Shanahan told the Washington Post he was “looking forward to…being in a normal game” on Sunday against the Eagles. We must ask the question, Kyle, what exactly is a normal game?
According to Shanahan, a normal game is one in which the Redskins do not fall so far behind that a comeback becomes a fantasy. Apparently, cutting out turnovers due to interceptions and fumbles would bring about the normal as well. During the season opener, tailback Alfred Morris fumbled away Washington’s first play on offense, and RG3 threw an interception on the second possession. The Eagles also scored a safety in the first quarter when Morris missed a pitch from Griffin in their end zone.
The Redskins’ only touchdown in the first half came from cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who found his way to the end zone on a 75-yard fumble return, putting the score at that point in the game to 33-7, Eagles.
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In order to win this rematch, the Redskins have to take better care of the ball and continue to generate turnovers. They are at -1 turnover ratio, and the Eagles are at +2, so turnovers will be a factor. Protecting Griffin is also a priority. He has been sacked 18 times for a loss of 165 yards. Keeping Griffin off his back should increase Washington’s chances of maintaining momentum.
Also critical to success is staying on the field. The Redskins have converted 58 of 126 third downs and only 3 of 8 fourth downs. Pushing the ball downfield and keeping it in Griffin’s hands is paramount. When the Eagles the ball, all kinds of options go out the window.
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Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles has been nothing short of amazing over the last two weeks. After returning from a concussion suffered in their Week 7 loss to the Cowboys (17-3), Foles channeled the essence of Peyton Manning and threw seven touchdowns on the Raiders that tied the Broncos’ quarterback record during their first game of the season. He went on to throw three touchdowns against the Packers last week to win 27-13. Whatever shook loose when Foles got that concussion should be bottled and marketed.
The numbers do not show just how enormously Foles has improved. He has completed 86 of 136 passes for on 1,256 yards. In his rookie year, he played in seven games and completed 161 of 265 passes for 1, 699 yards. He has already played as many games this year as he did last year, and with Michael Vick’s hamstring continuing to trouble him, there does not seem to be any indication he will not continue to rack up impressive stats.
Foles is also known for being athletic. He may not be as dynamic as Griffin but he has rushed 21 times this season for 76 yards and a touchdown. He has made six touchdowns rushing and passed for 16. Another point in Foles’ favor is that in all those passes he has yet to throw an interception. Even in the loss against Dallas, he maintained ball control.
The Redskins are well-known for their running, game, so the Eagles will have to be on the watch for Morris as well as Griffin. With Hall’s fumble return from their first encounter, great care must be taken to get the passes to their intended targets as well as keeping the ball. RG3 is as capable as Foles when it comes to getting the ball downfield. On Sunday, Griffin will have to show he is also capable of getting the ball downfield enough to out-score his counterpart.
In order to beat the Eagles on Sunday, the Redskins are going to have to ramp up their defense. They have to be in Foles’ face and plaster themselves to his receivers. Defensively, the Redskins are as up and down as they are offensively. They must have an “up” day if they want to get control of the score on Sunday. Foles has proven he is capable of ticking up an insurmountable score. The Redskins have shown themselves not as capable of coming back to win. Although RG3 is far steadier and more confident in his mobility, he is inconsistent and so is his team. On Foles’ performance since his concussion and the Redskins up and down record, we have to give this game to the Eagles.
By Brandi Tasby