Eagles vs. Redskins: Washington's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 11

Aidan Reynolds@@aidanreynoldsContributor IIINovember 18, 2012

The Washington Redskins broke their three-game losing streak to emerge victorious over the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-6, which is the team's largest margin of victory under Mike Shanahan.

Even though the scoreline makes it look like a dominant performance, the team was aided by a poor Eagles showing that flattered the Redskins somewhat.

Nick Foles had a difficult first game behind a weak offensive line, and the Redskins were able to pressure him into mistakes, particularly in the first quarter. Two interceptions and four Eagles penalties gave the Redskins the early advantage, which meant they could build a lead from which to plan the game.

Inevitably, it wasn't a perfect performance, and there were moments that will have maddened Mike Shanahan. The winners and losers of a rare home victory are outlined below.


Winner: Brandon Meriweather.

 Despite sitting out entirety of the second half, Brandon Meriweather ranks as a high point of the game.

 In the first quarter, Jim Haslett called a double A-gap blitz that put pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and caused him to overthrow. Meriweather was quick to capitalize and made the interception, and although the Redskins went three-and-out, the play was crucial in getting the defense off the field.

Throughout the first half, Meriweather looked sharp and committed, reading the play well and making big hits. He looked an immediate improvement, particularly against the Eagles' tight ends—something the Redskins have struggled with all year.

Playing against a rookie quarterback in his first game makes a difference, and Haslett appeared more confident in his playcalling, calling an early cornerback blitz that resulted in a sack by Josh Wilson.

However, it was Meriweather who looked like the best defensive player by the time the first half ended, and the secondary looked energized as a result. 

Leaving the field with a sprained right knee was a truly unfortunate end to Meriweather's first game as a Redskin, and the team will wish him a quick return. Meriweather is the sort of player the Redskins need on defense, although DeJon Gomes took the field in his absence and performed well.


Winner: Robert Griffin III

14 completions from 15 attempts for 200 yards and four touchdowns—along with 11 rushes for 85 yards—for a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating marks an impressive day for Robert Griffin III, coming off two decidedly earthbound performances before the bye week. 

Griffin showed his ability to extend the play over and over again, spinning away from tackles and picking up vital first downs. He also looked to go out of bounds rather than put himself in harm's way for the sake of a yard, which was encouraging.

His awareness in the pocket combined with accuracy through the air to ensure that the Eagles had no choice but to respect him as both a runner and a passer, something which hasn't been seen often enough.

His touchdown passes were precise and sharp, putting the ball where the receivers needed it and at the right time. He found the open man and stayed calm under pressure, which his stats will attest to.

Opening the third quarter, the Redskins offense suddenly fell to pieces, and it looked for a second that Philadelphia would eat into the deficit simply by virtue of Washington's ineptitude. Of the first eight plays, six went for no gain or a loss, three penalties were committed and Logan Paulsen left the field with an injury.

History has taught us that the Redskins can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as well as anyone, and this looked to be the tipping point. On the next play, Griffin threw a 61-yard pass to Santana Moss in double coverage and an interception looked the most likely outcome.

However, Moss somehow hauled the ball in and pushed past two defenders into the end zone. Griffin will take a lot of the plaudits—he put the ball up there to be caught, after all—but it was Moss' sheer tenacity that brought the ball down.

Prior to this game, Mike and Kyle Shanahan too often looked to use Griffin as a runner and and sacrificed the deep-ball accuracy we saw at Baylor. The dropped passes and injury to Garcon only exacerbated this, so it was good to see the run game set up the pass in a more traditional manner.

It's worthwhile to mention the support that Griffin received from his line, particularly Trent Williams. Williams stayed strong and aggressive throughout, allowing Griffin the time he needed to scan the field and make a play.

Sometimes Griffin seemed a little too content to tuck and run, but the protection he received from Williams meant that he could rely on him.


Loser: Pierre Garcon

Prior to the game, Shanahan stated that Garcon didn't need to be at 100 percent to benefit the team, but that wasn't reflected on the field. Garcon had three receptions for five yards and was ultimately anonymous.

It's arguable that his presence immediately gives the team an opportunity for a big play, so Shanahan's logic is sound in that respect. The Redskins had been beset by drops from receivers, and Garcon was brought in to be the No. 1 receiver that they previously lacked.

However, if the injury is severe enough to have kept him out for this long, today's performance will stand as evidence that perhaps his fitness should be more of a concern than Shanahan is making it out to be.

The fact that nine players caught passes across the 60 minutes shows that the Redskins lack a reliable go-to receiver, and the money they gave Garcon means that he needs to see the field as often as possible in order to justify the move.

However, delaying his recovery has implications that could run into next season, and the front office needs to make a decision to either continue with limited returns or shut him down and get him healthy. Based on tonight, the latter seems preferable.


Loser: Penalties

The Redskins went into this game as the league's most penalized team and gave up another 13 today for 75 yards. Despite the Eagles attempt to gift the Redskins the game through penalties alone, Washington still gave away more. They were fortunate that it didn't affect the game too greatly, but it cannot be allowed to continue against Dallas next week. 

After a bye week, it's unacceptable for a team to come out and give away so many penalties. Shanahan must be seething on the sidelines with every drive extended by his team.

This keeps the defense on the field and allows the opposition another chance to add points to their total. At this level, that simply isn't good enough. 

The difference this week was that the defense made plays of their own, forcing turnovers through good pressure and getting off the field quicker. Meriweather was instrumental in this turnaround, but Ryan Kerrigan and Barry Cofield deserve credit for the way they attacked the quarterback.

Overall, Washington can feel satisfied with the win, but it was by no means comprehensive. There are as many questions as answers, and the Thanksgiving game against Dallas will give a better idea of how the season will end.


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