Despite neither team being eligible for the postseason, these NFC East rivals played a tough game, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the score.
The 8-8 Philadelphia Eagles have many reasons to be hopeful, including their dominating 5-1 divisional record. While their running game was nowhere to be found with LeSean McCoy sitting out with injuries (75 total yards on the ground), Michael Vick (+3.2) was able to get the victory with his arm and help from a still-suffocating pass rush (one sack, nine QB hits, and 18 pressures).
The 5-11 Washington Redskins continued to show some fight, but also showed the same mistakes that have plagued them all year. This included turning the ball over, being unable to take advantage when chances present themselves (two red zone trips in the first half led to nothing), field goal woes and other completely avoidable mistakes. In the end, the Eagles’ superior talent won, but there were some positives for the Redskins going into the offseason. Check out some notable performances from both teams.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Orakpo on the Left?
In what may be a preview of things to come in 2011, Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett put OLB (and sometime DE, with his hand in the dirt) Brian Orakpo (+2.8) on the left side for the majority of his snaps, even though Orakpo usually always plays on the right side. In this game, he only ended up rushing from the right end twice, and once was after he began the play walking around over the middle. Before he got hurt on a strip sack near the end of the first half, this move led to what could have been one of Orakpo’s best days of the year. This included tallying two sacks (including the above-mentioned forced fumble), a pressure on the elusive Vick, a tackle in run support, and beating Todd Herremans on another running play to force a holding penalty in just 34 snaps. If this half of a game is any evidence, Haslett would be wise to move Orakpo around more next year.
Young Talent Shines Through
A big reason why the Redskins were able to hang around in this game was some youthful talent in the run game. Leading the charge were rookie RB Evan Royster in his second career start and FB Darrel Young, who had only played seven snaps before this season. Royster was solid, gaining 113 yards on 20 carries, 80 of those yards coming after contact while getting stuffed for no gain only once and converting all of his third-down runs. At 10:38 in the second quarter he had one of his best runs, avoiding four defenders while also freezing a safety downfield. Fellow rookie Roy Helu, though clearly banged up, also contributed, especially with a gimpy 47 yard catch-and-run TD.
Part of the running backs’ success can be attributed to good blocking from Young. Young took turns neutralizing defensive ends (Jason Babin on the second Redskins’ play of the game), linebackers (Casey Matthews at 9:15 in 2nd Qtr), defensive tackles (Cullen Jenkins at 9:52 in the 2nd Qtr), and safeties (Nate Allen at 12:02 in 3rd Qtr). He also had a 12 yard carry in which he slapped away Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to pick up the first down and caught all four passes thrown his way for 40 yards. A great day at the office.
Santana Moss – You’re Better Than That!
Despite signing a three-year extension last year, veteran Santana Moss had a game here that represented his 2011 season: disappointing. It started early, as Moss got behind the secondary at 7:08 in the first quarter, but dropped what would have been a long TD catch. The ball certainly could have gotten there sooner, not allowing DRC to catch up and interfere (legally) with Moss just enough, but the ball was still in his possession so the catch should have been made. All in all, Moss caught three of eight balls thrown his way (though two of those throws were essentially throw aways) for 45 yards with two drops, including an almost-but-not-quite diving catch. His biggest sin, however, occurred near the end of the first half with the Redskins set up at 1st-and-goal. Moss was blatantly interfered with in the end zone, the refs didn’t make the call and Moss completely lost his composure, taking off his helmet and moving his squad back 15 yards for the penalty. Unacceptable.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
DRC Ends His Debut Season in Philly on a High Note
It’s very likely that Asante Samuel has played his last snap in Philadelphia, so the Eagles’ staff must have been happy to get Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie starting reps for the gig he’ll take over. Playing all the meaningful snaps at LCB, DRC earned his second highest grade of the year (+1.2), allowing only one of six catches thrown at him to be caught for a total of three yards, three of those incompletions coming on third down. His biggest play came with 12:33 left in the 2nd Qtr, getting in the way of a deep pass to Anthony Armstrong that resulted in a tipped pick to the safety. He still has some work to do in run defense – he conceded a first down run to a fullback – but was otherwise solid. He also got in a nasty hit on Jabar Gaffney on an incompletion (6:24 2nd Qtr).
Mixed Day for Safety Play
It was a mixed day for the young Philadelphia safeties. Second-round 2010 pick Nate Allen had his best game of the year (+3.3). He allowed none of the three passes thrown at him to be completed (including knocking down two passes) and made a heads-up play by intercepting a tipped pass downfield. He was stood up on one run by the fullback, but otherwise did solid work in the run game, notching four solo tackles, one of which was a stop.
The other safety, Jaiquawn Jarrett, also a second round pick but still a rookie, did not fare as well as Allen. He missed a tackle in the run game, couldn’t get anywhere near the QB on his three blitzes (including on the Redskins only TD of the day) and completely lost Darrel Young on a 20 yard reception. He did have four tackles, including two stops, but more is needed if he wants to take the job over from former seventh round pick Kurt Coleman who sat out due to a biceps injury.
The Left Side is the Right Side
Once again, the left side of the Eagles offensive line came to play. Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters and the Pro Bowl-snubbed LG Evan Mathis were perfect in pass protection, which at this point isn’t a surprise as both are our highest-rated in their respective positions. The two weren’t quite equal, however, thanks to Peters’ -0.1 run blocking grade and Mathis’ +1.4 grade. One play epitomizes this contrast: with 3:25 left in the first half, a 4-yard run on 2nd-and-1 finds Mathis perfectly cutting DE Stephen Bowen while Peters completely fails to engage LB London Fletcher at the second level, resulting in Fletcher getting a solid hit on the running back. Despite only having four negatively graded games in run blocking, Peters will likely look to improve his already stout game in this area next year.
– The Redskins had a “season best” five field goals blocked; no other team before Sunday had more than two blocked FGs.
– Orakpo’s two sacks were the first sacks he’s gotten against the Eagles in his three year career.
– Both teams missed six tackles on defense.
PFF Game Ball
Evan Mathis. Perfect in pass protection, dominating in the run game, no surprise, no overall negatively graded performances on the season. One of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs, but PFF will recognize such exceptional work.