Redskins’ decisive win over Eagles is a verdict for defense

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Perry Riley jumped up from the turf, fresh off a quarterback sack, and went right into a B-boy stance. The Washington Redskins' 31-6 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday featured rare occasions for the defense to celebrate, so players seized the opportunity whenever they could. 

The win keeps the Redskins‘ faint postseason pulse beating ahead of their Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys in Dallas. They ended their three-game losing streak and improved to 4-6. They are now two games behind the NFC-East-leading New York Giants, who were idle, with six games to play.

Riley mugged for the cameras in the third quarter by folding his arms and nodding his head with a swagger Washington’s defense had not previously earned the privilege of flaunting in any game this season.

Such flashes of showtime were the payoff for the Redskins‘ best game of the season. The defense forced three first-half turnovers, slowed the Eagles‘ cadre of speedy skill-position players and harassed rookie quarterback Nick Foles. Its complete performance injected a bit of hope into a season that two weeks ago seemed lost.

“We always thought we were a pretty good defense,” Riley said, “but just going out there and putting it on the field like that, it definitely boosts our confidence.”

They avoided the fate they dealt to the Eagles, who dropped to 3-7 — a record no team in NFL history has overcome to make the postseason. And considering defensive breakdowns have been Washington’s greatest obstacle this season, Sunday’s game provided players with the formula required to make a run at the playoffs.

“To be able to get out of that and get a win, I think it’s going to do huge things for this next game and from here on out because I think there’s a feeling of ‘Hey, we’re back in this,’” left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said.

The Redskins‘ margin of victory was the largest since October 2007. They held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since 2008.

Defensive players credited coordinator Jim Haslett’s scheme for finally generating an effective pass rush. It helped that Philadelphia played without three first-stringers on its offensive line. The Redskins stunted on pass rushes, and the play designs helped free blitzers.

On Riley’s sack, for example, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan crashed down on the left tackle, and Riley looped around the right edge unblocked.

Riley noted how Washington’s misdirection and creative rush designs created confusion and slowed Philadelphia’s linemen.

“We had a couple times where I would line up on the inside and rush outside,” he said. “Their tackles would bite our ends with the inside stunt, and that would give me the free corner.”

On the back end, the Redskins capitalized on opportunities to create turnovers, something they failed to do in lopsided losses to Pittsburgh and Carolina in the previous two games. They took advantage of Foles, who started in place of concussed quarterback Michael Vick.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall intercepted a pass that linebacker London Fletcher deflected on the game’s third play from scrimmage. His 22-yard return set up fullback Darrel Young’s 6-yard touchdown reception two plays later.

“For the first time, I feel like we played a full game,” Hall said. “The way this group of guys were focusing in this locker room the whole week of preparation, it wouldn’t have mattered who you had out there.”

Brandon Meriweather showed what the Redskins have been missing with him sidelined to this point with a sprained left knee. He had an interception and was credited with seven tackles before spraining his right knee in the second half.

It all helped a Redskins offense that has carried the load too often this season.

“Whenever your defense plays like that, it makes you feel as an offense that you don’t have to press to try to score every time,” Griffin said.

When the drubbing was complete, the Redskins left the celebrations on the field. Coach Mike Shanahan gave players 12 hours to enjoy the victory before looking forward to Thursday’s game against Dallas.

Some guys started before they departed the locker room.

“We actually played as the defense that we know we can be,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “Now it’s just all about being consistent.”

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