If the Redskins had somehow recovered to win this game, it would have been -- could have been, I should say -- a season-defining win. It's not just about winning on the road. It would have been about what they had to overcome, in terms of special teams mishaps and penalties and injuries and losing a starter because of a brawl. They were in control, lost the momentum and still somehow found a way to have a chance to win. I like the resiliency, but they consistently make too many mistakes to overcome. They could have beaten Houston, too, if not for three plays that cost them 15 points. Woulda, coulda, you know?
Without the injuries ... without the same-old special teams mistakes ... I'd say the Redskins could get momentum from this game. But those injuries and those mistakes have left them in a tough spot on a short week.
The durability of a defense that featured a lot of players 30 and older was a concern entering the season. Injuries can be fluke things, but older players tend to get hurt more. I'm not smart enough to know if these are age-related or coincidence. Injuries don't discriminate. Regardless, they're now down Barry Cofield for half a season, possibly DeAngelo Hall for the entire season. That's not just about talent, it's about leadership and experience. Now Jason Hatcher, with a hamstring, might be a question mark for Thursday's game against the New York Giants.
The defense needs safety Brandon Meriweather to play much better. I know he missed some time, but the Eagles certainly took advantage of his matchups, which is why they could overcome a lack of production from other key players. Jeremy Maclin beat him on a 27-yard touchdown pass in which Meriweather appeared to have inside leverage and yet lost him inside. Tough for Meriweather to win that matchup without getting help over the top. I don't know if Meriweather was the only one to blame on the kick return -- one person never is -- but I know that he missed a tackle attempt at Chris Polk's feet.
Was also surprised that the Redskins' rush did not get to Nick Foles. He was not sacked in 42 pass attempts, behind a line already down two starters entering the game that then lost a third during the game. If you blitz too much, you leave yourself susceptible to more of the screen game. So they went with four and it didn't get much heat. Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo need to produce more, especially given some of the matchups. So in three games, the Redskins have had zero sacks, 10 sacks and zero sacks, respectively.
That said, it was a heck of a game and a fun one to watch because there were so many huge plays, so many twists and turns. The Redskins had control, lost it, regained it, lost it again and still nearly won. There was the departed star, DeSean Jackson, being booed upon his return, and reminding everyone of his ability with an 81-yard touchdown pass. There was the quarterback making his fifth career start and throwing for 427 yards (Kirk Cousins). I'll have more on Cousins and the offense in a later post.
But what's scary about the Eagles is that their offense relied heavily on running backs Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy and tight end Zach Ertz in the first two games. Sunday, that trio combined for 86 yards. The Redskins were terrific in their big nickel and base fronts against McCoy, winning along the interior but bottling him up on the outside. He could rarely bounce outside and averaged 1.1 yards per carry. Sproles hurt them with one 22-yard catch and an 18-yard run and that was it. Yet it wasn't enough.
The Redskins allowed nine plays of between 15-30 yards -- seven in the second half. The Eagles conned the Redskins' eyes a few times and often prevented safety Ryan Clark from helping more by route designs.
I don't know what Chris Baker truly saw on the hit on Nick Foles or what his intent was. What I know is this: The Redskins lost a good starting player on a hit that, to be honest, wasn't necessary. Foles was letting up; Bashaud Breeland had just fallen to the ground about five yards away.
I'm guessing not a lot of fullbacks can line up wide and catch a quick 4-yard out like Darrel Young did on the Redskins' first score. It's not like Young needs to be a huge part of the offense, but I like that Jay Gruden has found a way to use what he does well. Young's versatility enables the Redskins to run plays like that out of a traditional set -- and Young did so against a corner, too.