On Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition (what?), the Washington Redskins faced the simplest mathematical playoff problem there is; win and get in.
That is exactly what they did, beating the Eagles 38-24 in Philadelphia.
Just like everyone predicted going into the 2015 NFL Season, the Redskins have clinched the NFC East and are heading to the playoffs. What’s more, it is the first time that the Redskins have clinched a playoff spot before Week 17 since 1999. There was plenty more history made tonight, and we’ll get to that plus a whole lot more in what is going to be a fun edition of What worked, what didn’t, and what sucked!
- If there is anyone who still doubts that Kirk Cousins can be a legitimate starting Quarterback in the NFL, they must be running out of poorly formed arguments by now, as Cousins once again led his team to victory with excellent play. He finished the day 31/46 for 365 yards, 4 touchdown passes and no turnovers. Cousins is now the Redskins single-season record holder for completions, and he was firing accurate darts all game.
- A huge reason that Cousins has been playing so well recently is Tight End Jordan Reed, who now holds the Redskins single-season record for receptions. Reed finished his day with 129 yards on 9 catches including two first half touchdown receptions. Simply put, Reed is unstoppable when on-song, and he has been on-song for over a month.
- The Redskins defensive front had an impressive outing, holding the Eagles Running Backs to a total of 41 yards on the ground for a combined 2.9 yards per carry. To make things even better, they were able to sack Sam Bradford five times. Rookie Linebacker Preston Smith led the way with three sacks, and Will Compton and Ricky Jean-Francois contributed one each as well.
- Whilst free agent pick ups like Terrance Knighton, Chris Culliver and (at least earlier in the season) Junior Galette had a lot of words written about them in newsprint, the aforementioned Ricky Jean-Francois has been nothing short of immense for the Redskins, both on and off the field. His versatile play has seen him line up all over the defensive front all year, but perhaps even more crucial has been his emergence as a true leader. In what was the biggest game the Redskins have played since 2012, it was Jean-Francois who led his team mates pre-game in a huddle, and whatever he said clearly worked.
- Among the many moves that have been made this year, the move of DeAngelo Hall to Safety has been yet another successful one. On the NFL Network pre-game coverage, Hall of Famer Deion Sanders singled out Hall’s transition to Safety, stating “He’s been killing it, and it’s a move that could enable him to play for another three years”. For his part, Hall helped seal the victory today with a late game fumble return touchdown. Hall is now the only player in NFL history with five INT returns for touchdowns, and five fumble returns for touchdowns.
- With Matt Jones ruled inactive before the game, and Chris Thompson still not 100% healthy, the still relatively new Redskins Pierre Thomas stepped up and contributed in a big way today. He had 4 rushes for 22 yards, but was more effective in the passing game with 7 catches for 67 yards, including multiple first downs when the game was still technically in the balance.
- Although they weren’t perfect (more on that below), credit the Redskins Offensive Line with giving Cousins plenty of time in the pocket today against a formidable Eagles pass rush.
- Josh LeRibeus continues to have his struggles playing Center. When the Redskins were in shotgun formation, too many of LeRibeus’ snaps were above the head of Cousins, forcing him to extend up to get the ball, and allowing the Eagles precious extra time to get to the Quarterback before he can get rid of the ball. Now that the Redskins have clinched a spot in the playoffs, it is vital to remember that starting Center Kory Lichtensteiger is eligible to return from Injured Reserve the week of the first playoff game. If he’s healthy, expect him to step straight back in as the starter.
- Although there were positive signs on a few plays, for all intents and purposes the Redskins were unable once again to establish any sort of productive ground game. Combined, Alfred Morris and Pierre Thomas notched up 71 yards on 21 carries for 3.3 yards per carry. In these post-game articles all year we’ve written about how the Redskins will need to improve this element of their offense if they want to make any sort of waves in the playoffs. Well, now we’re knocking on the door of January and the Redskins will be there week one; it’s time to fix it.
- In a play that will literally rival Mark Sanchez and the famous “buttfumble”, Kirk Cousins inexplicably took a knee with 6 seconds left on the clock, no timeouts, and with the ball only a handful of yards away from the endzone. No word yet on what the moniker for this play will be, as we doubt that “kneegate” will catch on, but it was hilarious and ridiculous, and left all who saw it scratching their respective heads.
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