- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — Barry Cofield wasn’t heaping praise on himself or teammates along the Washington Redskins‘ defensive line Sunday after the 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins allowed 411 yards, and the veteran nose tackle said he’ll spend the week reminding guys of what needs to be better.

There’s some tightening up the Redskins‘ defense could do, but by forcing two turnovers against the Eagles, the unit continued to establish its identity and ability to change games.

“That’s the most important thing that we do as a defense. A lot of times we give up yards. We don’t have, a lot of times, the horses to really shut a team down for 60 minutes sometimes,” Cofield said. “But the big plays we make down the stretch, the turnovers we create, the offense capitalizes, that’s what helps us get by.”

What helped the Redskins get by Sunday was a monster game by Ryan Kerrigan and some opportunistic playmaking by Cofield, London Fletcher and rookie Richard Crawford.

Kerrigan chose the right time to come up with his first sack in more than a month, stripping Eagles quarterback Nick Foles of the ball on the final play of the first quarter. Philadelphia led 7-0 at the time and was driving, but when Crawford scooped up the ball along the sideline, momentum shifted.

“That’s what we’ve been doing the past couple games, that’s why we’ve been winning,” Kerrigan said. “Especially today we got a couple turnovers, especially at key points.”

Fletcher’s interception, his third in as many games, came after Cofield tipped Foles’ pass at the line. The veteran inside linebacker didn’t miss his chance to make a difference.

It was the ninth interception by a linebacker this season, the most for the franchise since 1991, when the Redskins won the Super Bowl.

There may not be a Pro Bowl-caliber player on this defense, but the sum of its parts has been more than good enough to frustrate opponents.

“For Ryan to get those sacks, that had to be good coverage. And for London to get that interception, Barry had to tip the ball. It goes hand-in-hand,” defensive lineman Kedric Golston said. “That’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t really matter who makes the plays as long as the play is made. That’s kind of the motto we’ve had all year, understanding that, you know what, as long as you win, everybody’s doing good.”

On a day that quarterback Robert Griffin III threw an interception that went off receiver Joshua Morgan’s hands, it was crucial that the Redskins‘ defense force two turnovers. The offense turned them directly into 10 points.

Couple that with the fact that the Eagles had more first downs and a time-of-possession edge, and the importance of the turnovers was magnified.

“You’ve got to get turnovers to win in this league. They came up big when they had to. We had a few sacks, we had a few key turnovers and it’s always the difference in winning and losing a game,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “They did a good job of controlling the tempo of the game, but we took advantage of the turnovers.”

It took big plays beyond the turnovers to get the job done against an Eagles team that came close to tying the score in the final seconds. Kerrigan provided the bulk of the pressure with his career-high two sacks.

He credited defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s game plan, but there was a smile on the young linebacker’s face when talking about how he made a difference.

“You know, it feels good to have one of my better games in a win, especially a hard-fought win like this where it came down to the last minute to get the win,” Kerrigan said. “We’ve just got to keep using this and keep building on it for next week.”

Sacks, however, weren’t what Redskins players were talking about after beating the Eagles and extending their winning streak to six.

“Statistics, sacks, yards, all the stuff is great,” Golston said. “We want to be all of it, but we understand in today’s NFL, the telltale stat over the last 20 years has been turnovers. If you can win the turnover battle it highly increases your chances of winning the football game.”

Along with forcing turnovers, winning games is something the Redskins have gotten pretty good at doing. And the two are not mutually exclusive.

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