Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's Week 11 game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField:
The Redskins backed into the bye week with three-straight losses, on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. The team benefitted from a week off to rest and recover, while most of the rest of the division struggled to take advantage. Going into Week 11, the Redskins adopted a playoff atmosphere and the Redskins fans responded by bringing a home field advantage to FedExField.
After kicking off to start the game, the Redskins defense responded with a quick takeaway off the normally sure hands of Eagles tight end Brent Celek. Two plays later, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III found fullback Darrel Young for a six-yard touchdown pass, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
The Redskins seized the early momentum thanks to a tipped pass interception by cornerback DeAngelo Hall on the opening drive of the game. The play and subsequent return gave the Redskins the ball at the 9-yard line and set up an easy go-ahead touchdown two plays later. The Redskins were either going to come out flat after the bye week or inspired, and they answered that question in the opening moments of the game.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Taking advantage of the option offense the team has run heavily in the last three games, Robert Griffin III faked a handoff and end around at the start of the second quarter, before looking downfield. He found speedy receiver Aldrick Robinson alone in the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown. According to outside observers, the ball traveled 59 yards through the air and hit Robinson in the numbers for the second touchdown of the game. It was the team's longest play since Week 6, when Griffin III had his electrifying run down the sidelines for a score.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It would be difficult not to give safety Brandon Meriweather due credit in his Redskins debut. The two-time Pro Bowler was cut by the New England Patriots out of training camp last year and struggled with injury and playing time after landing in Chicago. He was a major offseason addition in Washington, and showed how valuable he can be with his ability to tackle in the open field and ball-hawk in the secondary. Meriweather provided the Redskins will a much-needed spark on defense and keyed a tremendous showing against LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles.
Redskins fullback Darrel Young gets overlooked among fullbacks and even as an offensive asset on the Redskins, which is part of why he was able to get open for his first receiving touchdown of the 2012 season. Young provides Alfred Morris with excellent running lanes and protects Griffin III from oncoming blitzers, but he has developed significantly as his own offensive threat. His touchdown today was one of the more noticeable areas of improvement, but is just a small part of his value to the offense.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--Griffin III had one of his smartest days in the NFL today, expertly picking his times to run and throw the football. In the first half, he threw eight-for-nine for 99 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, his 7.0 yards per carry was his highest average since Week 7, and his 23-yard run on third-and-long caught the defense off guard. The Redskins used the read option package minimally and got better offensive production all around.
--Maintaining a big lead: The Redskins have struggled throughout the Shanahan era, especially this year, to close out big leads for comfortable victories. Today's 25-point margin of victory was the team's largest under Shanahan, during which the team has not won by more than two scores.
--Getting Brandon Meriweather back on the field breathed life into the Redskins' secondary, and he made an immediate impact with his first quarter interception. Whether it was good instincts or just by chance, the pass was thrown right to him, and Meriweather weaved his way back 25 yards to put the offense back on the field. His presence elevated the play of his teammates in the secondary, as Madieu Williams and DeAngelo Hall were both left the opportunity to play more aggressively.
--It was a good day for the Redskins receiving corps, as the bye week provided focus and sure hands. Top receiver Pierre Garcon played a limited role in the offense but drew a crowd of defenders, opening up opportunities for Aldrick Robinson, Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson to get open downfield. Griffin III spread the ball around, finding eight different Redskins receivers.
--Redskins linebacker London Fletcher has spent his entire career getting overlooked, but his performance today was one of his finest of the year, complete with a team-leading 12 tackles. Even after missing a few plays with an ankle injury on the sideline, Fletcher returned and made a tackle on the very next play, part of a total-team effort to keep elusive running back LeSean McCoy at bay. Good team effort, and good individual effort by the captain and iron man of the Redskins defense.
--Redskins receiver Santana Moss deserves to be singled out for his performance today, as he made a spectacular 61-yard catch in double coverage before spinning his way into the end zone. This was a 3rd-and-10 play, and Moss was the only receiver deep downfield. Griffin III stood in the pocket and took a shot on the play, but Moss's effort on the back end made the sacrifice worth it. With his sixth touchdown of the season, Moss extends his team lead and has the most since scoring nine in his first season in Washington.
--Redskins running back Alfred Morris had a reduced role on offense this week, but earned his game check in the fourth quarter to seal a big Redskins' victory. He finished the day with 20 rushes for 76 yards, including two long runs on fourth quarter scoring drives.
--Redskins kicker Kai Forbath continued his run of perfection today, nailing his ninth-consecutive field goal to open his NFL career, a Redskins franchise record. Forbath still has room for improvement on kickoffs, but his run of consistency is unmatched in recent Redskins history.
--The Redskins' defense had their best performance of the season today, forcing four Eagles fumbles and picking off two Nick Foles passes. The plus-three turnover margin is the best all season, and played a major factor in the game. The Redskins scored 10 points off turnovers today, adding to the 52 already this season. The Redskins had only 43 points off turnovers in 16 games last season.
--The Redskins limited LeSean McCoy to only 45 yards, forcing the Eagles to be one-dimensional behind rookie quarterback Nick Foles. The Eagles managed only 80 rushing yards in the game, one of the defense's best performances of the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--Despite turning in a dominant performance, the Redskins still gave away yards via penalty, being flagged 12 times for 75 yards. It didn't hurt the Redskins as it has in other games this season, but it's still an area of concern as the Redskins continue the stretch of difficult division games.
--Even as the Eagles struggled to move the ball, the defense still struggled to force three-and-outs, allowing the Eagles to convert seven-of-19 third downs on the day. The Redskins face a much more competent Cowboys offense next week and will need to get off the field in third-and-long scenarioes.
With his first quarter touchdown pass to fullback Darrel Young, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III took over the franchise record for passes completed by a rookie quarterback. Coming into the game, he was tied with former Redskin-turned-Eagle Norm Snead, who completed 172 passes in his 1961 rookie season. Griffin III accomplished this feat just two snaps into his tenth NFL game.
The Redskins have a short week this week, traveling to Dallas on Wednesday for a Thanksgiving contest against the Cowboys. The Redskins lost in the final moments of last year's contest in Dallas, with Rex Grossman fumbling on a play out of the pocket. The Redskins look to reverse their luck this year behind Robert Griffin III, but will need to recover quickly after a physical division matchup. This is the Redskins' first national television audience this season, and Griffin III's first trip back to Texas since college. After that, the Redskins return home for a Monday Night Football matchup against the New York Giants.
The Redskins talked the talk of a must-win game, and finally backed it up on the field. The Redskins executed the game plan on offense, defense and special teams, and relied on the entire 46-man active roster to win the game.
Robert Griffin III made good on his promise to play better football after the bye week, turning in a statistically perfect day: 14-for-15, 200 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The team responded to his leadership, piling on 362 yards of offense and limiting the Eagles to just 257.
If the Redskins are indeed a playoff-caliber team, then this is a game that the Redskins were supposed to win. The Eagles are floundering in all aspects of the game, and the Redskins may have dealt a death blow to their season. The Cowboys entered Week 11 one game in front of the Redskins for second place and went to overtime against the Browns on Sunday. The Redskins have a chance to move into second place with a win on Thursday, another must-win on the road to the postseason.