1. Yes, Brandon Meriweather made a difference. His teammates talked about his energy and his intensity and ability to make plays. That’s what he did Sunday. Meriweather talked about others getting back to having fun on the field. Now, the way you have fun on the field is by making plays and winning. So let’s not go overboard with that one. But it’s good to have someone who is loose and plays with a lot of passion. Brian Orakpo did that and when he was lost for the season, that’s one thing I heard: His passion would be missed. Meriweather brings that passion. But a lot of players played well: Perry Riley, for example, had a strong game and again showed his instincts for snuffing out screens, as he did twice.
2. A knock on Meriweather before he came to Washington was that he liked to gamble on the field. But it seemed like he was disciplined Sunday and the pass he intercepted came from being in the right place at the right time. He did nothing special on the play other than his job (by the way, Lorenzo Alexander destroyed Jeremy Maclin on the play with a block; I’m sure the NFL will review that block, but it’s hard to tell if it was at the head or not. By the way, I initially thought it was Reed Doughty on the block; had a better view on the replay on my TV rather than a smaller version on my computer). And what made the play was something Washington has not had enough of: pressure. Linebacker Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley blitzed the middle and Robinson ran through LeSean McCoy’s block and forced a hurried pass. Then Meriweather made the right play. There were a couple times in which Meriweather made a tackle of the tight end after a pass. In each case Meriweather played it well, staying disciplined with his eyes, making the right read and breaking fast. He and DeJon Gomes also did something I haven’t seen a lot of lately. They jarred the ball loose from the receiver. It comes from playing fast, playing your assignment right and trusting your eyes. Gomes did it in replace of Meriweather because he wisely sat on a route and broke fast. From what I’ve heard, Gomes has started to look better in practice. I don’t know if they would start Gomes or Reed Doughty should Meriweather’s right knee sideline him vs. Dallas.
3. The Redskins did what they should have done vs. a rookie quarterback making his first start. They brought a lot of pressure and from various spots. It’s not as if they hadn’t tried some of these tactics in previous games. They moved Ryan Kerrigan around quite a bit vs. Carolina, for example. They’ve run stunts in other games and did a few in this game. They’ve run corner blitzes in which the rushers went the exact same way they did Sunday, only with no success. But they did seem to send an extra rusher more often Sunday; have to go back and watch the game to see if it was that much more. Regardless, they got home better. On Josh Wilson’s sack, for example, there was nothing unique. Riley rushed wide and three other Redskins slanted to the left, taking the line and clearing a path for Wilson. Because he came from a little deeper maybe it fooled Foles because he didn’t anticipate the rush. Ryan Kerrigan got free for a forced fumble/sack because he sprung from a four-point stance and used his rip move to get around the edge.
4. Maybe Michael Vick would have fared better. Maybe he wouldn’t have. Injuries happen and that’s life. Besides, as DeAngelo Hall said, “I don’t think it would have mattered if Mike would have been out there. He probably would have scrambled more, but the way this group of guys was focusing it wouldn’t have mattered who you had out there. It felt like it was one of those days.”
5. Because of the shortened week it’s going to be hard to do as much film review as I normally do. Suffice to say there will be no Duds on the defense this week and a whole lot of studs. The secondary all deserve game balls for holding DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to a combined two catches for five yards (all by Jackson). They used a variety of coverages and there were times Cedric Griffin was covering one of the wideouts, so it wasn’t just one or two guys. They always mix man and zone and did a good job of it Sunday. They also took advantage of an Eagles’ line that has undergone many changes this season and had a different player at three positions this week. That leads to continuity and communication issues and the Redskins took advantage.
6. The Redskins also did a solid job with their tackling, a major key against a (potentially) explosive offense. I say potentially because the Eagles haven’t really played that way this season. But it helped that the line penetrated well against the run and caused deep cuts. On LeSean McCoy’s fumble before halftime, he had to go around penetration by Stephen Bowen and that allowed Barry Cofield to sprint over and poke the ball free. Saw Kedric Golston get some penetration across the line, too. The Eagles could just never generate a consistent attack: 139 of their 257 yards occurred on six plays.
7. Games like this are why you must stay even-keeled during a season. Or, rather, games like this one and Carolina. After the Panthers’ game, everyone was ready to fire, well, everyone. After Sunday? The outlook has changed, for some at least. They still had hope after losing to the Panthers and they still have work ahead after beating Philadelphia. They’re 4-6 and alive in the postseason chase. It makes Thursday’s game an interesting one and after the Carolina loss that’s all you can ask for. But I’d caution anyone against looking ahead two weeks to a potential game with New York for first place in the NFC East. For as big a win as it was Sunday, it might have said a lot more about where Philadelphia was headed than anything else. For everyone who despaired over the Redskins’ future after the Carolina loss, imagine being an Eagles fan right now. Your coach is on the hot seat; your franchise (?) quarterback is hurt and might not be there next year and there’s no guarantee the rookie QB is the answer. In fact, he was befuddled Sunday. I really underestimated the mess they have become. The Redskins also looked like the hungrier team; I think all you had to do was look at Aldrick Robinson on the one kickoff that he nearly recovered in the end zone.
8. Credit Logan Paulsen and Alfred Morris for key blocks on Robert Griffin III’s third down scrambles. Paulsen enabled Griffin to get the final couple yards he needed to with a key block on the first third down run (followed three plays later by the pass to Aldrick Robinson). Morris had a big block on the third down run that was followed three plays later by the Santana Moss touchdown. If these blocks aren’t made, the Redskins are punting and it’s two opportunities lost. Also on the first third-down run: left tackle Trent Williams opened the outside by handling the end (I think it was Trent Cole on this one, but couldn’t tell for sure). Williams had him knocked to the ground.
9. I won’t minimize the return of receiver Pierre Garcon, but it’s not as if he made a dramatic difference. Now, without having seen the coaches film on this one it’s tough to see the trickle-down effect Garcon had in terms of drawing attention, but the game also showed that big plays can still be made. They were there to be made each of the past two weeks and weren’t. It’s why, in talking to people when Garcon signed, it didn’t matter to them if he was a so-called true No. 1 receiver. Why? Because the offense forces you to look at so many different things that guys get lost and receivers get open. That’s what happened on Aldrick Robinson’s 61-yarder. Safety Nate Allen raced up because Niles Paul came across the middle. If Allen is disciplined, there’s no touchdown pass. But the design of the play suckered him. Oh, another thing that helps is when your quarterback can go off script and make plays.
10. I wondered how the Eagles would fare vs. the zone read game, knowing how quickly their ends like to get upfield. But there were times when the ends had to play the option game and it slowed them down. Of course, it also allowed them to make some plays, too (like on the pitch where the end forced a quick toss and with extra defenders up in the box, led to an easy tackle for a loss). The Redskins struggled more than I thought they would running the ball, but I also thought they’d focus more on inside runs. But so much of what they do is tied to the outside zones so that’s where they stayed. The play-action fakes did fool the Eagles a couple times, like on the touchdown to Darrel Young. That’s twice he’s scored this season and it’s because he gets lost in the shuffle. Defenders have to worry about Alfred Morris and Griffin in these situations and Young sneaks out for an open catch. On Griffin’s 28-yard run, the Eagles were completely fooled by the inside fake and bit hard. Griffin wasn’t hit on the play as he eventually ran out of bounds. But the end and the linebacker both bit hard inside.