With a playoff spot in sight, Robert Griffin III returned to the Washington Redskins (9-6) Sunday afternoon in time to lead the Burgundy and Gold to a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) in an unanticipated nail-biter.
The two teams faced off under a rather unprecedented scenario – the Eagles had nothing to lose coming into the match-up at Lincoln Financial Field, while the Redskins faced what many deemed a must-win situation as back-to-back victories against the Eagles and Cowboys would spell the team’s first NFC East title since 1999.
Considering how the Eagles have fared this season, it seemed highly unlikely that the Redskins would fail to find themselves halfway to the crown once they handed the ball back to Griffin Sunday.
Despite the fact Griffin went 16-of-24 for 198 yards and two touchdowns Sunday there were clues that Griffin may not yet be 100 percent. After all, he only carried the ball twice for a total of four rushing yards and he donned a brace on his right knee throughout the day. However, the Redskins’ offensive line provided Griffin with key opportunities for spectacular passes – many of which landed in the hands of fellow rookie Alfred Morris who earned 91 yards on 22 carries.
Under little pressure, the Eagles took big risks against the Redskins on the opening drive. Twice, Eagles head coach Andy Reid entrusted the ball to Nick Foles on fourth and 1, and both times the Eagles converted downfield. From Washington’s 27-yard line, Foles tossed to Jeremy Maclin for the touchdown to give Philadelphia an early 7-0 lead.
It took some time for Griffin to allow the Redskins to answer. With only minutes left in the first quarter, linebacker Perry Riley broke through the Eagles’ lackluster defense to get the sack on Foles from the Redskins’ 20-yard line and, on third and 15, Ryan Kerrigan stripped Foles of the ball in time for Washington’s Richard Crawford to scoop it up.
On the opening drive of the second quarter, Griffin tossed to Morris and Pierre Garcon to set Kai Forbath up for a 45-yard field goal to trim the deficit to 7-3. He tried the same approach on the Redskins’ next drive, connecting with Garcon for 27 yards to help set up a 42-yard field goal for Forbath to make it 7-6 Eagles. The two field goals marked Forbath’s 16th and 17th consecutive shots between the posts, breaking Garrett Hartley’s record for consecutive field goals made to start a career.
But, it was London Fletcher who provided the juice the Redskins needed to awake their offense. On third and 12 from the Eagles’ 20-yard line, Foles made a short toss intended for Jason Avant, which Fletcher intercepted and ran for nine yards.
The strip was exactly what Griffin needed and, on five plays, he relied upon none other than Garcon and Morris to help set up an 11-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Morgan to give Washington it’s first lead of the day, 13-7.
Before the close of the half, the Eagles tacked on another three points on a 38-yard field goal by Alex Henery, but the Redskins nonetheless returned to their locker rooms with a 13-10 lead.
While Griffin’s injury may have limited his movement out of the pocket Sunday, there was little need for him to make any risky maneuvers. In fact, he maintained composure and showed patience as he waited for holes in the Eagles’ defense to surface.
He kicked things off in the second half with a less-than-perfect throw to Garcon, who stretched for the catch to give the Redskins a 29-yard jump to start. This time, Griffin entrusted the touchdown toss to Morris to give Washington a 20-10 jump.
The Eagles added another field goal to make it 20-13, but the RGIII Washington has looked to in hopes that the Redskins will vie for a Super Bowl run returned in full force with just under five minutes left in the quarter.
After short passes to Morris and Evan Royster, Griffin displayed what it means to be patient in the pocket and Santana Moss – appropriately nicknamed Santa Moss on Twitter for the remainder of the game – gift-wrapped a touchdown by dragging his feet to stay in bounds for the catch.
Things looked a little dicey once the Redskins’ defense allowed the Eagles’ Dion Lewis to run for a 17-yard touchdown to trim Washington’s lead to 27-20 with nine minutes left in regulation. Adding to that, the Redskins failed to pad their lead and, with 4:15 left, Foles began the first of many attempts to throw the tying touchdown.
From Washington’s 17-yard line, Foles underthrew a would-be touchdown pass to a wide-open Maclin and, on first and 5 from Washington’s five-yard line, Evan Moore just barely missed a tying catch himself. On the Eagles’ final attempt, Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen forced Foles to throw it away as the clock ran down, handing the Redskins their sixth straight victory and an opportunity to clinch the NFC East Division at FedEx Field next Sunday, Dec. 30, against the Dallas Cowboys.