Going into Sunday’s matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, all eyes were on Kirk Cousins and DeSean Jackson.
Cousins was starting his first game of the season in place of the injured Robert Griffin III while Jackson was returning to his former squad’s home turf in search of some payback.
Cousins was sharp and impressive last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but many fans and pundits questioned whether the quarterback’s stellar performance was actually due to a poor opponent.
The Washington Redskins were met by a raucous crowd in Philly as Cousins and the ‘Skins offense started with the ball. In a bit of a surprise move, Cousins came out throwing, hitting Pierre Garçon and then Jackson on two consecutive passes.
The first drive was riddled with penalties including unsportsmanlike conduct calls on both sides, as well as a hands to the face call against Philly which allowed Washington to extend their drive.
Cousins started hot, hitting five different receivers including Darrel Young who scored the first touchdown for Washington for the third straight week.
But just as quick as the Redskins scoring drive got the Philly crowd to quiet down, the Eagles’ Chris Polk dashed the Redskins special teams and took the kickoff back 102 yards for a touchdown.
The Redskins offense wasted no time bouncing back and scoring again, keyed by a big 35-yard pass to hybrid tight end, Niles Paul. Paul, who is coming off of a career game against the Jaguars, is certainly emerging as a gamer and will be a great complement alongside a healthy Jordan Reed.
A short pass from Cousins to Garçon put Washington up 14-7.
On the Eagles’ first drive, the hometown team was shaken up as their star running back LeSean McCoy suffered a head injury after a helmet-to-helmet hit from David Amerson.
Shortly after the hit, McCoy was shown on the sidelines arguing with the team staff that he was okay, but instead of returning immediately he was taken to the locker room.
Backup running back Darren Sproles took over the running duty for McCoy and promptly fumbled the ball, giving possession back to the ‘Skins.
On the ensuing drive, Cousins continued firing on all cylinders, relying on Jackson, Garçon and Alfred Morris to slice through the Philly defense.
The Redskins ended up settling for a field goal, stretching their lead to 17-7. But the Eagles got hot on their next possession, taking only eight plays to go 80 yards in 3:01 to cut the lead to three points.
The Redskins countered with another field goal from Kai Forbath, only to be dashed by Philly’s two-minute offense right before the half on an 8 play, 64 yard drive in a mere 1:06.
The first half had to be frustrating for the Redskins as their offense couldn’t have played much better, yet they couldn’t get any major stops on defense.
Philly began the second half with possession and a 21-20 lead. After two consecutive drives that culminated in field goals, the Eagles led 27-20.
On the following possession, Cousins hooked up with the former Philly star, Jackson who caught the ball in stride on a beautiful 81-yard TD pass.
At this point in the game, the Redskins had to like their chances as they were going back-and-forth with one of the hottest offenses in the league and were tied up 27-27.
The defense had tightened up a bit—holding Philly to field goals on their first two drives of the half—and were effectively taking one of Philly’s key players, McCoy–who was cleared to return after the concussion scare–out of the game.
Things got testy in the fourth quarter as Washington’s defensive end, Chris Baker was thrown out for blasting Eagles quarterback Nick Foles after an apparent interception. Eagles tackle Jason Peters went after Baker and was also tossed from the game.
According to NFL.com, Baker spoke after the game and justified the hit on Foles saying, “If I can prevent someone from making a tackle, I’m going to do what I can to help my team.”
Nevertheless, the NFL is trying to protect quarterbacks—and players in general—more and more with each passing season so what used to be “fair play” is no longer allowed when it comes to blindsiding players.
After a short review, the referees overturned the interception and the Eagles retained the ball. Foles went on to hit a streaking Jeremy Maclin for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 34-27 lead.
As the Redskins got the ball back with seven minutes to go they looked toward their new leader Cousins to orchestrate another big scoring drive.
Instead, Cousins threw an interception on an errant pass as he and Paul looked to be on two totally different pages.
The Eagles played it conservative on the next possession, but were able to tack on a 51-yard field goal from Cody Parkey.
With just under six minutes remaining and down by 10, it looked as though the Redskins were finished.
But, to their credit, the ‘Skins didn’t go down without a fight. Cousins connected with Roy Helu on a 55-yard screen pass which quickly got the Redskins into striking distance.
After a quick pass to Andre Roberts, which moved the ball to the 1-yard line, Helu finished it off with a run, closing the deficit to three points.
Once again the Redskins defense tightened up and gave the offense a chance to have the last laugh.
Unfortunately for Washington, Cousins and the offense could not take advantage of great field position and turned the ball over on downs, effectively ruining any chance of a big-time comeback.
Even in a loss, there were a lot of positives in the game, although the immediate pain of falling to 1-2 and 0-1 in the division will certainly stand out.
Cousins was impressive to say the least, putting to rest any talk that he cannot excel in big games. Cousins threw for a massive 427 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The Redskins’ secondary will certainly be a talking point this week as they were dashed on numerous occasions, not to mention the fact that they lost top cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a season ending injury.
Things won’t get any easier next week as a key Thursday Night matchup against divisional foe New York awaits Washington.
DeSean Jackson had a solid day with 5 catches, 117 yards and 1 TD. Washington’s coach Jay Gruden said the team can rally around Cousins for the next “six-to-eight weeks” meaning RG3 has a long recovery ahead of him. DeAngelo Hall is out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury. Redskins Guard, Shawn Lauvao left the game with knee swelling. Garcon and Jackson both topped 100-yards receiving, the first time that has happened for two Washington receivers since 9/14/03.