Washington doesn’t have a Patrick Peterson capable of completely nullifying one side of the field as he did last Sunday night against Nelson Agholor (above).
By Harry Allison
Here’s a Christmas Day reminder to all you nervous nellies in Eagles Nation who are afraid about tomorrow night’s game against the Redskins, which the Eagles have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive:
Last Sunday, even though they got waxed 40-17, the Eagles totaled 424 yards against an Arizona defense that allows an average of 329.6 per game. And Sam Bradford threw for 361 yards, which is 118 more than the Cards allow per game on average.
Bradford looked as sharp as he has all season early in that game. He said Wednesday it’s just been a matter of feeling comfortable with his knee and in Kelly’s system.
Now, he says, he knows his receivers and the plays better and can anticipate throws a second earlier. Bradford does seem now to be making the proper reads on early downs, which is keeping the offense more on schedule. Of course, the running game pretty much disappeared for the Eagles in Week 15 and so the offensive output didn’t look or feel as complete.
Washington’s defense is nowhere near as talented as Arizona’s. The ‘Skins have allowed the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL, and they’ve given up 26 touchdown passes with just nine interceptions. Quarterbacks have a 96.2 rating against them.
Bradford had his best statistical game of the season the last time these teams met, which was Oct. 4 at FedEx Field. He went 15 for 28 for 270 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. He set season-highs in that game in yards per attempt (9.64) and passer rating (122.6), completed passes of 30, 39, 45 and 62 yards, and also had a season-long 14-yard rush.
True, the Skins have played better defense of late. Pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan is the obvious player to watch. He lines up on both sides, as an outside linebacker or a defensive end, and Eagles coach Chip Kelly said this week it’s crucial to know where he is at all times. Kerrigan leads the team with nine sacks and 42 QB hurries, and six of those hurries — a season high — came in that game against the Eagles. Of course, Jason Peters played just six snaps in that game. When Peters left, Matt Tobin moved to left tackle and played poorly.
Washington’s secondary looks better than it did heading into that first matchup. Bashaud Breeland has settled in at left cornerback after getting torched repeatedly earlier in the season. Breeland did allow a 48-yard touchdown to Sammy Watkins last Sunday, but aside from that has allowed just 10 catches on 28 targets for 101 yards over his last four games.
The Redskins’ other starting cornerback now is veteran Will Blackmon, a journeyman the Eagles should be able to take advantage of. Washington doesn’t have a Patrick Peterson capable of completely nullifying one side of the field as he did last Sunday night against Nelson Agholor.
DeAngelo Hall, who missed the first meeting, is now playing safety for the ‘Skins. He had 10 tackles against the Bills last Sunday despite playing just 68 percent of the defensive snaps. Hall is not the player he was early in his career, but his presence will make completing deep bombs over the middle a bit more difficult. In the first meeting, Bradford was 4 for 5 for 176 yards with two TDs on passes 20-plus yards over the middle.
But the defensive backs the Eagles victimized most in that game — safety Trenton Robinson and cornerback Chris Culliver — are both gone. Robinson was waived earlier this month and Culliver is on IR.
The Eagles were just OK running the ball against the ‘Skins earlier in the season, with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles combining for 17 carries and 73 yards (4.3).
This is obviously a huge game that will determine whether the Eagles’ playoff hopes survive or die before the final weekend. But the offense should be feeling pretty good about itself. Jordan Matthews is coming off his best game of the season, and Zach Ertz continues to look better and better each week.