And the nightmare ends... at least for a couple weeks.
The Eagles jumped all over Redskins during the first half of Sunday's game in our nation's capital, scoring on four consecutive drives to amass a 20-point lead. They wouldn't score again the rest of the afternoon, but the defense played surprisingly well, doing just enough to withstand a John Beck-led fourth quarter comeback. With their 20-13 victory, the Birds head into the bye week with a 2-4 record, and for the time being have put themselves back in the postseason conversation.
Juan Castillo's defense set the tone early on, a huge departure from recent weeks. Kurt Coleman intercepted Rex Grossman on Washington's first drive, one of the safety's three picks in the game. Michael Vick led the offense on an 82-yard drive, capped with a 7-yard touchdown on a tight end screen to Brent Celek -- who by the way had a big role in the game plan.
Following a three-and-out, the Eagles marched right down the field again, and would eventually find themselves on the goal line. They would not be denied today though, as LeSean McCoy took the handoff and bounced it outside for an easy six, capping a 72-yard possession.
Philadelphia would stall in the red zone on their next two series, but Alex Henery picked up a pair of field goals to extend the lead to 20. However, those finishes proved to be a sign of things to come.
The Eagles could not score in the second half. They moved the ball inside the 20-yard line on their opening possession, but Vick's pass intended for Celek was deflected, and collected by O.J. Atogwe on the 1. Vick was then nicked up on the next series, and Vince Young promptly threw an INT in relief. Vick returned and the offense moved into scoring position, but failed to convert a 4th and 2 from the Skins 32, an area many teams might have opted to go for three. Finally, a pair of drives ended with punts.
Thankfully the defense was up to the task. Grossman was pulled after throwing his fourth interception of the game, and replaced by Beck, a career backup. Ryan Torain managed just 22 yards on 10 carries, as the defense held Washington to a paltry 42 yards on the ground. The pass rush is clearly missing something without Trent Cole, but Mike Patterson and Darryl Tapp each came up with a timely sack.
It was a solid effort all around that indicates they may be starting to gel on the other side of the ball. Coleman obviously played at a high level, and Nate Allen added a pick of his own in his second consecutive strong performance, perhaps solidifying the defensive backfield finally. They did allow 94 yards receiving to tight ends, but most of those came on screens and short swings rather than down the field.
Meanwhile, the offense continues to give an uneven effort, even if there was a lot to like here. LeSean McCoy carried 28 times in a contest where the Birds dominated the time of possession, racking up 126 yards and the score. Maclin was the top receiver with five catches for 101 yards, while Vick had a steady day with 237 yards in the air and another 54 on the ground.
Most importantly, they protected the ball. After turning it over 14 times over the previous four games, it was only the two picks today -- one of which was Young. However, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot in the red zone, coming away with touchdowns on two of five trips. That needs to get turned around, as we're not sure this defense will hold some of their more offensive-minded opponents to 13 points.
But for today, a win is a win, and there were plenty of positives to take away from this. They protected the ball. They played defense. They limited bone-headed mistakes. Now the Eagles have the bye to continue fixing the things that are still broke, get some key players healthy, and gear up to make the postseason run we all expected.
Yes, a postseason run. If they play more like they did today, that dream is not so far-fetched.