NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - INSIDE SLANT
A comfortable lead dwindled to almost nothing and, with it, a chance to take over first place in the NFC East. The message in the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive huddle was short and to the point.
"We kept saying 'Somebody has to make a play,' " linebacker Connor Barwin said. "And somebody did."
In this case, "somebody" was cornerback Brandon Boykin, who intercepted a pass thrown by Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in the end zone with 24 seconds left in the game, a play that preserved the Eagles' 24-16 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
The win moved the Eagles (6-5) into first place in the NFC East, a half-game ahead of the idle Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins rallied from a 24-0 deficit to come within one touchdown and a two-point conversion -- they converted two of them earlier -- when Griffin dropped back to pass from the Eagles' 18. But defensive end Fletcher Cox pressured him into throwing a bad pass and Boykin was waiting for it.
"I just saw the ball floating in the air, and I was like, 'Is this real life?' " Boykin said. "It was almost like a dream."
But it was a nightmare for the Redskins (3-7), who were also 3-6 going into Week 11 last season, then ran the table to win the divisional title. But the lead on Sunday was too much to overcome and now they are 2 1/2 games behind the Eagles. That, too, could be too much to overcome.
Griffin completed 17 of 35 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 81.1. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles completed 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards and a passer rating of 104.3. He did not throw a touchdown pass, but neither did he throw an interception.
"The biggest thing for us on offense is we're not turning the ball over," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.
The Eagles scored first on a 4-yard run by Foles with 2:48 left in the first quarter and made it 14-0 on their next possession on a 1-yard run by running back LeSean McCoy, after tight end Brent Celek picked up 41 yards on a screen pass.
Those two quick strikes gave the Eagles 19 touchdown drives on the season that have lasted less than two minutes.
It appeared the Redskins were going to cut into that lead on their next possession, after a 24-yard run by Roy Helu Jr. helped them push the ball to the Eagles 5-yard line. But on second-and-goal Griffin III was blindsided by and fumbled the ball, and Cox recovered for the Eagles.
The Eagles made them pay for that by driving for a 24-yard field goal by Alex Henery, which made it 17-0 at halftime. Then, the Eagles came out in the second half and appeared to put the game away with an 80-yard, 13-play touchdown drive that made it 24-0. McCoy scored on another 1-yard run that took 5:19 off the clock, the Eagles' longest touchdown drive of the year. Their previous long scoring drive was 3:58 in a 49-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Week 9.
"It's a weight off our shoulders, to finally win at home and give our fans something to cheer about," said wide receiver Riley Cooper on the Eagles' first home win of the season. "We can go into the bye week now and relax and get our legs back."
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - NOTES, QUOTES
--RB LeSean McCoy finished with 77 yards and became the first player in the NFL to go over 1,000 rushing yards this season.
--QB Michael Vick was deactivated for the fifth time in the last six weeks because of a sore hamstring.
--The Eagles were without two injured starters: LB Mychal Kendrick (knee) and CB Bradley Fletcher (pectoral). They were replaced by Najee Goode and Roc Carmichael, respectively.
--DE Trent Cole had two sacks, the 17th time in his career he has had multiple sacks in a game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I had it in my head that something had to happen. I knew a big play was coming, so I stayed calm and I got pressure (on quarterback Robert Griffin III) and he threw the ball and (Brandon) Boykin picked it off." -- Defensive end Fletcher Cox on forcing the game-ending interception.
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
What we learned:
It will be impossible for coach Chip Kelly to take second-year quarterback Nick Foles out of the lineup now, even when nominal starter Michael Vick finally comes back from his hamstring injury. Foles has had a passer rating of more than 100 in each of his last three games -- all victories.
The defense does not always look good, but it always seems to stiffen when it needs to. After a shaky start, the unit has gotten better every week and it is as responsible for the Eagles' recent success as the much-ballyhooed offense that coach Chip Kelly brought with him from Oregon.