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Ten Observations: Redskins 27, Eagles 20

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

1. OK, playoff scenarios first. The Redskins will win the NFC East if they beat Dallas, but they’ll need help if they lose. The Cowboys, by virtue of a better record against common opponents, own the tiebreaker over Washington. The Redskins would then need Chicago and Minnesota to lose. The fact that the Redskins are in this spot is still somewhat amazing given where they were (but only somewhat because by now you expect them to win). What’s even more amazing is that when games like Sunday occur, you just expect the right plays to be made at the right time. You also expect the ball to bounce into their arms if it’s free. Seems to have done that quite a bit this season; how long can that continue? I don’t know because it’s continued longer than I thought it would.

2. This was not exactly a great win in terms of aesthetics, but playing on the road against a division opponent almost always results in a tough game. But should you be concerned about how the game unfolded in the fourth quarter? The Redskins continue to rely on some good fortune in terms of quarterbacks missing open receivers – Nick Foles skipped a 20-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin in the end zone. So, yeah, a little bit. But sometimes those things go your way and you ride it out. How long can the Redskins ride this? Will Tony Romo and Dez Bryant make this defense pay for letting receivers free downfield? It has not hurt the Redskins during the win streak, but it’s worth noting and watching. Especially when facing a more powerful passing attack like they will this week.

3. But they were able to confuse Foles enough. It’s not as if the Redskins were perfect vs. Foles; he did throw a TD pass (over D.J. Johnson with no help from safety Madieu Williams. That’s a tough combo).

“We were throwing different things at him,” corner Josh Wilson said. “It’s tough for a young guy. So many different schemes. It’s hard for a young guy to pick up everything and recognize what we’re throwing at them. It makes a young guy nervous. If he doesn’t get a clean read it’s hard to throw the ball and know where it’s going to go when you don’t know exactly what kind of defense we’re in.”

4. Ryan Kerrigan played one of his more active games of the season. But after some quiet weeks in the middle of the season, Kerrigan already had started to come around in recent games. They let him rush almost all of the time from his usual left end spot. But Kerrigan was facing a former college teammate in rookie Dennis Kelly. But the key here: Kelly is 6-foot-8. Kerrigan’s game plan clearly was to get upfield, then get underneath Kelly and it worked. That’s how he applied much of his pressure throughout the game.

5. Two of the bigger plays in the game were Perry Riley’s sack followed by Kerrigan’s first of two sacks. Foles had a good rhythm going before Riley hit him on a blitz. Then the Redskins did what they were able to do often enough: they confused Foles and took away his first option. On this play it was a screen pass to LeSean McCoy. But the Redskins showed six and rushed only three and Riley’s read of the screen forced Foles to hold the ball – allowing Kerrigan to, yes, dip inside and get the sack. Foles’ next two series ended in a punt and then a tipped pass that was intercepted. Had that pass not been tipped, it likely still would have been picked. The Redskins did a good job of causing him to hold the ball long enough.

“After we got those sacks, we dialed up more pressure calls and of course he was going to rush some of his throws so it helped us out a lot,” Riley said. “You saw later in the game he started to hesitate a little bit. That might have caused some errant throws later.”

6. Barry Cofield continues to play well in the second half of the season. The nose tackle was credited with three passes defensed. Not sure how many nose tackles ever had that number.  But the play that stood out is when he made the tackle on a receiver screen to Jeremy Maclin. Cofield did a good job reading the play from the start and didn’t engage with the offensive linemen. Instead, he started to head to the flat as the ball was being thrown. You don’t see many nose tackles see that play. At all.

Cofield, by the way, is a good quote. Here’s what he said about being 3-6:

“I thought we needed to win the next game, but I definitely did not look that far in advance. It was too low of a moment to look and think we could win the division. We wanted to win as many games as possible and hopefully sneak into the playoffs. It was a low point for us. The bye came at a perfect time. We came back and were energized. We’re in a beautiful spot right now.”

7. Alfred Morris is now 104 yards from setting the franchise rushing record. He now has 1,413 yards and is the third Redskin back to surpass 1,400 yards joining Clinton Portis and Stephen Davis, both of whom topped that figure twice.

If you didn’t like Morris before Sunday, you’ll like him after this quote. It explains part of what makes him tick. I can’t imagine Morris ever considering himself a star. He’s a humble kid with humble roots.

Anyway, here’s what he said of potentially setting the record:

“Coming from where I came from, getting drafted in the sixth round, it’s a win for underdogs everywhere,” he said. “No one expected much of you, maybe a practice squad guy. Those were the comments made. I’m just very thankful. That record wouldn’t just be for me, it would be for underdogs everywhere, for everyone who wants to do this but wasn’t able to. I’m glad I’m able to represent underdogs at such a huge level.”

8. I’m sure Eagles safety Kurt Coleman doesn’t consider him an underdog, not after he lowered his front half and ran through the safety for another six yards early in the game. But it’s that mindset which drives Morris and always will. Portis played as hard as any back in the league on Sundays, but he did not have that same mindset throughout the week. You wonder what more he could have done had that been the case. You will never have to say that about Morris.

9. Kai Forbath is automatic. Really don’t know what else to say about the guy. I just expect every kick to be right down the middle. He set an NFL record by making the first 17 kicks of his career. Here’s the thing: 12 of those kicks have been from 40 yards and beyond. He is not making his name off chip shots. Today, he had to contend with a swirling wind, too. Forbath had to sneak one over on a 42-yarder. “That would have been a little embarrassing if I came up short on 42.”

He also said he got nervous on the 45-yarder because of the wind. “The wind was holding it up a little bit. I got nervous on the first one. I thought it might come up short. We did it like normal. We didn’t react any differently. Kind of in the back of our minds we knew what was going on, but we didn’t make that an issue and didn’t try to do anything different.”

I’m sure Billy Cundiff would have taken the same approach.

10. One reason the fourth and 2 play in the first quarter? The Eagles were in zone coverage. They ran Santana Moss behind the formation, much like they did on a couple occasions vs. Cleveland last week. But the Browns were in man vs. that look. By being in zone, there was no confusion and even if Moss had caught the ball he would have been stopped short.

Plus 1. The good part about Maurice Hurt’s game: He had a quiet game. It’s tough to say how well he played, or didn’t play. But I know that for a guy making his first start at right tackle he could have been a lot worse. Every time I checked him out on stretch runs, I didn’t see Hurt get to the linebacker or anyone else. That takes time for anyone and his main position is not tackle. On Alfred Morris’ 22-yard touchdown run, he did a good job letting his man come upfield and then sealing him. He also had a cut block of the defensive end Joshua Morgan’s catch and run for a touchdown. The difference in the Redskins’ offense Sunday was the lack of a run game with quarterback Robert Griffin III and not Hurt’s presence. I’ll be curious to see when re-watching the game how Hurt really did. But they scored 27 points and won. So there you go.

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