The Washington Redskins opened their 2017-18 season Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins came into the game riding the coattails of a five-game winning streak against the Eagles including sweeping their long-standing rival the last two seasons. A sixth straight victory was not to be as Washington struggled to move the ball on offense against a much-improved Jim Schwartz-coached Philadelphia defense that was directed at causing issues for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
For the Redskins defense, the day started on an awkward moment as linebacker Preston Smtih sacked second-year Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and then rookie-defensive end Jonathan Allen had serious pressure on him the very next play. In that moment, Redskins fans had a rush of excitement as the team’s number one offseason goal, improving the defensive, appeared to have been accomplished. And then Allen missed the tackle. What happened next possibly shaped the entire days as Wentz was able to miss outstretched arms from Allen and deliver a pass to a then wide-open Nelson Agholor who was able to streak down the sidelines for a 58-yard touchdown. The play set the tone for what would ultimately be a close game that the Redskins never really were in control of. The play was one of those back-breaking moments where a defense seemingly does everything they can, but when receivers have five to six seconds to move around downfield, it’s hard to keep them covered. On that day, the Redskins were led defensively by Allen (four tackles and countless pressures) and inside linebacker Zach Brown who led all defenders with 12 combined tackles on the day including two for losses.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was pretty direct with his analogy of the game.
“You have four turnovers, 0-for-2 in the red zone, three-for- 10 on third down. They were eight-for-13 on the third down, you don’t have to look at the stat sheet for very long to see who won and lost.”
The day wasn’t a complete bust despite the loss for the Washington defense as they had two sacks and an interception that linebacker Ryan Kerrigan returned for a touchdown, the third pick-six of his career. Redskins cornerback Josh Norman also batted down several passes throughout the day, almost bringing in three different interceptions. The defensive unit only surrendered 22 points and was able to hold the Eagles to under a hundred yards rushing in defeat. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz continued his dominance of the Redskins, hauling in eight catches on eight targets for 93 yards.
If the Redskins hope to challenge in the NFC East this season, their offense will have to improve – and fast. The defensive unit only surrendered 22 points Sunday, meaning the game was definitely winnable for a team that has the firepower that Washington does. Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor had multiple balls pass directly through his hands, and Kirk Cousins watched as several of his passes flew over the outstretched hands of several Redskins receivers. One such play to Jamison Crowder on the goal line sailed directly over Crowder’s head and into a waiting Eagles defender’s arms. The series of events likely cost the Redskins their chance of winning the game or at their shot at keeping it interesting.
Even with that, Washington still had a chance all the way until the end when the Philadelphia defense proved to be too much one last time as Kirk Cousins was sacked yet again. This time, the ball came out and was returned for a touchdown by Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. The play was reviewed by officials, but the call of a fumble and a defensive touchdown was confirmed. The fumble was the second of the day for Cousins who finished the day 23-40 for 240 yards with one touchdown, and one interception to go along with 30 yards rushing.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was not happy after the loss. Gruden still has yet to win an opening day game as a head coach.
“Well, I mean, they’re a good team on defense. It’s frustrating. I think we’re better than that up front. We’re better than that at receiver – dropping balls – and we’re better than that at quarterback. We all had our hand in it – play-callers, offensively, it wasn’t good enough obviously. We still had a chance to win there in the two-minute. The defense kept us in the game, but unfortunately, a turnover for a touchdown cost us.”
The Redskins will have to find answers quick as the team will travel west next week to take on the LA Rams who opened their season Sunday with a 46-9 thumping of the Indianapolis Colts. The Rams’ current coach is former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
[Featured Image by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images]