Eagles aren't done - yet

Posted: October 17, 2011

LANDOVER, Md. - The Eagles didn't have to play a perfect game to get a win against the Washington Grossmans on Sunday. They just had to avoid another stupid, sloppy performance like the ones that cost them four straight losses and put this season of great expectation in great jeopardy.

In fact, they were a long way from perfect against the Redskins, far from a completed project, and that's not even counting the possibility we ever have to see Vince Young on a football field again.

The 20-13 win should have been a lot easier than it was, ending as it did with Andy Reid pleading for a better spot of the ball with two minutes to play. This should have been at least a two-touchdown win and maybe later in the season it will be.

"Nothing's ever perfect, but you could see the fight in everybody," said defensive end Jason Babin. "We needed a forklift to take that monkey off our back, but we were able to do it. The theme was that we got here by being good football players and making plays. So just go out and play the way we're capable."

They didn't quite reach that level, but the Eagles were able to avoid freighting so much weight onto this game that they would be unable to lift it. For a team facing NFL oblivion - no 1-5 team has made the playoffs in the current format - they were able to play loose and not trip themselves on their own mistakes.

For that, and for the final score, a lot of credit has to go to former Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman. Technically, Washington coach Mike Shanahan hasn't benched Grossman forever, but you have to believe it crossed his mind. Grossman threw four interceptions, including one on the first Redskins drive of the game. The Eagles grabbed that pass, grabbed the momentum and took a 7-0 lead on the ensuing drive.

That scored was aided by a couple of avoidable penalties by Washington - a roughness call on the interception and another for hitting Michael Vick late - and suddenly the Redskins were trying to play uphill. It's amazing how easy the NFL is when the other team has the dopes and the other quarterback is the one throwing four interceptions.

"We've been making mistakes in the wrong situations and we didn't do that today," said tight end Brent Celek. "There are a lot of things we can get better at. I'm not overly happy with how we played today, but we got the win and there's plenty of room for improvement."

There's a lot to improve, if only because they've got 10 games left to play, but potentially only one with Rex Grossman as the opposing quarterback.

Still, this was a step back from the brink and the Eagles get to enjoy it for two whole weeks. After a month-long stretch in which the criticism of the team in general and Reid in particular built to a crescendo, they can tell themselves everything will be all right. Since they operate in the lackluster NFC East division, it might even be true.

"I still think we can win this division. I don't think it's out of reach by any stretch of the imagination," center Jason Kelce said. "In the last four games, things went the other team's way. Balls were batted into someone else's hands, stuff like that. Today, we started getting a little luck going back to our side."

Luck is fine, and they did get some bounces, but the offense hit a second-half trough against Washington and the defense allowed itself to get burned for a late touchdown engineered by backup quarterback John Beck.

The last touchdown of the day for the Eagles came with 14 minutes, 19 seconds left in the second quarter. They could only get field goals out of a first and goal at the 9-yard line and a first and goal at the 5-yard line before the half. In the second half, Vick had a tipped pass that turned into an interception with the Eagles driving at the Washington 16-yard line.

Fortunately for the Eagles, the Redskins had Grossman in charge of capitalizing on those opportunities, which didn't turn out so well for them. When Vick left the game briefly in the third quarter after getting dirt in his eyes, the Eagles handed another gift to the Redskins, putting backup Young on the field for two ugly snaps. Young unsuccessfully tried to scramble away from a perfectly serviceable pocket on the first and then threw a terrible interception on the second.

Given the ball at the Eagles' 18-yard line, however, Grossman quickly threw the third of his four interceptions to snuff out that chance and end the best Washington hope until Beck was able to connect during too-little, too-late time.

The win wasn't always pretty, particularly after halftime, but it was pretty vital for the Eagles. They are still walking a narrow line and could fall off again with a loss to Dallas after the bye. For this one day, though, they didn't have to be told their season was over.

"We've been hearing that all week and I wasn't worried. We love our coach to death and we'll go to bat for him each and every week," Vick said. "We could be 1-13 and everything he tells us, we're going to go out and do it."

Thankfully, that theory wasn't tested. All it took to break the skid was fewer mistakes and more Rex Grossman across the line of scrimmage. It's a time-tested formula in the NFL and - guess what? - it even worked for the Eagles.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, recent columns at www.philly.com/bobford, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

 

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