LANDOVER — The Washington Redskins did something in Sunday’s 23-20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles that they failed to do in their previous loss — they competed.
In the fourth quarter, it no longer mattered that the Redskins were once leading the Eagles, 13-0 at halftime.
What mattered is the Redskins needed a touchdown or they were going to lose their second consecutive game to a division opponent.
With 6:05 to play, Washington embarked on a 15-play, 90-yard game-winning drive, capped by a Kirk Cousins four-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon. The Redskins converted on two third downs to sustain the drive.
The Redskins not only took a step forward in the messy NFC East, but proved they are a better team than the one that slogged through a 32-21 loss to the New York Giants in Week 3.
“We gave up a lead, had a lot of adversity in that game,” coach Jay Gruden said after Sunday’s win. “That’s something that we’ve been trying to talk about is overcoming it. We can’t control the penalties. We can’t control what happens in the football game. We can control our effort and how long we can sustain our effort.”
With that, here are three takeaways from the win:
** On Sunday, Cousins proved he is capable of being more than just an efficient game manager. Cousins completed a career-high 31 of 46 passes for 290 yards and was 6-for-10 on the final drive. Garcon made a great catch on the touchdown, but Cousins also made a great throw in a tight window. The Redskins were not playing to seal a win on that final drive. They were fighting for a victory and Cousins did not turn the ball over.
After two interceptions against the Giants, Gruden emphasized that the Redskins do not want Cousins to play timid. He was hardly shy on that last throw, which shows the confidence he has in himself and his receivers.
** The Redskins entered the game with a minus-5 turnover ratio, which ranked second-worst in the NFL. They were plus-1 against Philadelphia — not spectacular, but certainly a start. The Redskins are one of just three teams in the NFL yet to record an interception (the other two, the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, are playing Sunday and Monday night, respectively).
The Redskins talked this week about needing to improve the pass rush if they wanted to force more turnovers, and they did that against the Eagles. They sacked Philadelphia quarterback Sam Bradford five times. They had just four combined in the three games before Sunday. With pressure like that, interceptions will come.
** The Redskins trusted their younger players on Sunday. Veteran receiver Andre Roberts, who has struggled with dropped passes in the first three games, was inactive. That meant more playing time for rookie Jamison Crowder. Crowder received a game-high 12 targets and had seven receptions for 65 yards — six of which came in the second half. Third-year running back Chris Thompson had two catches for 24 yards, but what was notable about his performance was the third-down back getting six carries — just one less than Matt Jones.
Thompson rushed for 53 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. Finally, we saw Rashad Ross get a chance to be a deep threat. He had three targets and one catch — a 43-yarder that could have gone for more if he didn’t have to slow down and come back to the ball.