Redskins' late escape vs. Eagles sets up NFC East showdown

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Photo - Alex Trautwig/Getty Images
Rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries as the Redskins held on to beat the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images Rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries as the Redskins held on to beat the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Cowboys coming to FedEx Field on Sunday night to decide division title

PHILADELPHIA -- The receiver broke open, just behind the cornerback and in front of the safety. All Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had to do was make the proper throw. It was there. Then again, this is the charmed portion of the Redskins' season. This is when balls skip the Redskins' way, when hard-to-explain things keep happening.

Such as this: With 18 seconds left, Foles' pass skipped a yard in front of Jeremy Maclin. Two plays later, tight end Evan Moore dropped a slant pass near the goal line. And one play after that, Foles was called for intentional grounding, ending the game.

"Relief," Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said.

Playoff scenarios
NFC East » The Redskins (9-6) clinch the division by beating the Cowboys (8-7) on Sunday.
NFC wild card » If the Redskins lose to the Cowboys, they need the Vikings (9-6) and Bears (9-6) to lose to secure a playoff spot.

Their winning streak reached six with the 27-20 victory over the Eagles. A team that once found ways to lose continues to find ways to win. But nothing really changed regarding their playoff fate.

The Redskins (9-6) will win the NFC East by beating Dallas on Sunday night in a game that was flexed by NBC; the Cowboys claim the division if they win. If the Redskins lose, then they would need losses by both Minnesota (9-6) and Chicago (9-6) to secure a wild-card spot.

"Everything we've been working for boils down to next Sunday," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.

The players understand this well.

"To be at the top of the division is really special," left tackle Trent Williams said. "It's one game you're in or you're not, so we can't dwell on what we accomplished."

They had to work hard to beat the 4-11 Eagles, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games. Robert Griffin III's return made a difference as he completed 16 of 24 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Alfred Morris rushed for 91 more yards, leaving him with 1,413 yards and 104 from setting a new single-season franchise rushing record.

And a maligned defense again made timely plays. It forced two first-half turnovers that the offense turned into 10 points. It sacked Foles five times, helped by a secondary that often took away his first read, causing him to hesitate.

Yet it's a defense that gives up yards (411 on Sunday, to be exact), and it's a defense that tests -- and stretches the heck out of -- the cliche bend but don't break. The Redskins bent in the final four minutes. The Eagles broke.

The pass to Maclin was open because rookie cornerback Richard Crawford, in a cover-2, did not drop far enough as he anticipated a throw to the flat. On the final play, Redskins end Stephen Bowen applied pressure as the Redskins again threw off Foles' timing by dropping nose tackle Barry Cofield into coverage.

As Bowen grabbed Foles, he flung the ball forward, but because it did not reach the line of scrimmage, it was ruled intentional grounding with one second remaining. There was an automatic 10-second runoff, ending the game.

"It was pretty nerve-wracking," Redskins linebacker Perry Riley said. "We knew they would go for a two-point conversion if they scored. We definitely did not want to give them a chance to do that."

Maybe last year -- or the three years before that -- the Redskins would have lost in crushing fashion. Instead, they exited with an eye toward next week. Several players gathered in the locker room to watch the end of Dallas' overtime loss vs. New Orleans. Others asked about various scores upon hitting the locker room.

"We're not playing to make the playoffs," Cofield said. "We're playing to win the Super Bowl."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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