Monday, October 4, 2010

Despite scoreless second half, Skins still beat Eagles

Here's a fun fact: Did you know that the Redskins (2-2) are in first place in the NFC East (thanks to tiebreakers) despite being outscored by six points (79-73) in their four games? That's probably not a good thing, but it's all about getting wins, right?

That seemed to be the case yesterday, when the Redskins played a fantastic first quarter and then were mediocre, or worse, on offense the rest of the game. In that first quarter, the Redskins scored two touchdowns on their first two drives. On the first TD, Brandon Banks set the offense up with outstanding field position after a 53-yard punt return. The Redskins ran the ball three times, the final play a 12-yard run by Ryan Torain, who ran over Eagles safety Quintin Mikell on his way to the end zone. On their next TD drive, the Redskins moved the ball from their own 22 into Eagles territory with ease, and that drive was capped off by a 31-yard TD pass from Donovan McNabb to Chris Cooley. With about five minutes left in the opening quarter, the Redskins were up 14-0 -- a great start. Unfortunately, the offense wouldn't do a whole lot else for three-plus quarters.

Tale of the tape (first quarter):
Redskins: 112 yards (plus a 53-yard punt return), 14 points
Eagles: 72 yards, 0 points

Sure, the Redskins kicked a field goal in the second quarter to take a 17-3 lead. But for the next 39 minutes or so (in game time), the Redskins scored no points. And after gaining those 112 yards in the first quarter, the offense gained just 181 yards for the rest of the game. That's just not good enough to win many games; however, the defense was up to the task yesterday.

Did it hurt the Eagles that Michael Vick had to leave the game late in the first quarter? Yeah, definitely. But the Redskins defense still held the Eagles to only 12 points, even with an offense that stopped moving the ball effectively after the first quarter and a punter (Josh Bidwell) who averaged 37 yards per punt and probably shouldn't be with the team going forward. The Redskins knew when to get rid of Larry Johnson; it's time to do the same with Bidwell.

The Redskins shouldn't expect to win a lot of games when McNabb ends up with a quarterback rating of 60.2 (8-19, 125 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and the offense fails to score any points in the second half, but the defense also took a step forward, holding the Eagles to just two field goals until a late TD drive in what looked a lot like some version of a prevent defense. The defense also forced, by my count, four holding penalties on the Eagles offensive line, and it probably should have been more than that.

The running game was also much better this week. Torain rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries (3.9 average), and Clinton Portis had 55 yards on 11 carries (5.5 average) and showcased some evasiveness that hasn't been seen for a few years. McNabb also ran five times for 39 yards, including a clutch run for a first down in the fourth quarter to, more or less, seal the game. (But why did he run out of bounds?) Still, the ground game was improved.

With consecutive games against the Packers and Colts coming up, and then a trip on the road to Chicago to play the Bears, the win over the Eagles was crucial. And not only that, but the Redskins are now 2-0 against the NFC East after finishing 0-6 against the division last season. They may not stand a chance in their next two games, but they've been competitive in their own division, which is important considering how average all four teams have looked at times.

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