It Ain't Over Yet: Eagles Hold On to Lead, Keep Playoff Hopes Intact

It Ain't Over Yet: Eagles Hold On to Lead, Keep Playoff Hopes Intact

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.

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles are coming off their third straight loss and have dropped five of their last six. 

The Redskins have dropped two straight, but are still very much in the playoff hunt at 6-5-1.

The Birds are looking for their first win against the NFC East this season. Here are five matchups to watch.

Eagles defensive line vs. Redskins offensive line
In the matchup in Washington, the Redskins' O-line owned the Eagles' D-line to the tune of 230 rushing yards and nearly 500 yards total. The Eagles also failed to record a sack. And that was at a time when their line was playing fairly well.

The Eagles' line has come under serious fire and for good reason. They've grossly underperformed for a unit that's supposed to be the team's strength. As for the Redskins, their line has been very good all season and they'll get All Pro Trent Williams back after the massive tackle served a four-game suspension.

DeSean Jackson vs. Eagles' corners
DeSean has been on a roll. The Eagles' corners have not. In his last three games, Jackson has nine catches for 228 yards (good for 25.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. 

Last week in Cincinnati, the Eagles were burned by the formidable trio of Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core for 11 catches for 219 yards. Each receiver had at least one reception of 29 yards plus. It could be a long day for Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and Jalen Mills.

Carson Wentz vs. Joe Barry
It's no secret that Wentz has been struggling. In his last three, Wentz  has three touchdowns to six interceptions and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Equally as alarming is that Wentz is 83 of 141 over that span. That's a ridiculous 47 attempts per game. Yes, the Eagles have been behind in those games, but Doug Pederson still needs to find a way to give this offense balance.

Barry's unit hasn't exactly set the world on fire, ranking 23rd in yards per game and 20th in points allowed. They've let up 31 points in each of their last two games, but it is important to note that they've played the Cowboys and the Cardinals. The Eagles don't have playmakers like Ezekiel Elliot and Dez Bryant or David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Allen Barbre
Kerrigan looked unstoppable in the NFL debut of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Kerrigan racked up 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries in the Redskins' win. Kerrigan has already reached double-digit sacks for the second time in his career and has notched a sack in each of his last three.

Barbre has performed admirably in the absence of both the suspended Lane Johnson and the injured Vaitai. It's also pretty clear that Barbre's best position is guard. It's going to be a stiff test for Barbre to contain Kerrigan. 

Jordan Matthews (maybe) vs. Josh Norman 
With Paul Turner performing well in the slot, it'll be interesting to see if Pederson decides to use Matthews on the outside more. Matthews is coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of the Eagles' loss to the Bengals and is listed as questionable on Sunday. Even if Matthews is 100 percent, it's not an ideal matchup for the Eagles.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

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Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK -- Lamar Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman Trophy contenders early in the season and by the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.

The sensational sophomore quarterback became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson despite some late-season struggles.

Baker Mayfield finished third and Oklahoma teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was fifth.

Watson, who finished third in Heisman voting last year, led a stacked group of contenders entering this season that included five of the top seven vote-getters in 2015.

Jackson outdid them all in his first season as Louisville's full-time starter, accounting for 51 touchdowns and averaging 410 yards per game in total offense. He ultimately won going away, with 2,144 points to Watson's 1,524. By percentage of possible points received, Jackson's victory was the sixth largest in Heisman history, and he became the youngest winner at 19 years, 352 days.

Jackson is the first Heisman Trophy winner to play on a team that lost its last two games of the regular season since Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. He's the first to enter the postseason without a chance to win the national title since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in 2012.

No matter. Jackson did so much before November it was difficult to deny him the award because of a couple of missteps at the end.

He provided a signature moment against Syracuse, hurdling a defender on his way into the end zone, and then played his best against Louisville's toughest competition.

In a romp over Florida State and a close loss at Clemson, Jackson threw for 511 yards, ran for 308 and accounted for eight touchdowns. After ripping apart Florida State in September, he earned the stamp of approval from his idol, former Virginia Tech and NFL star Mike Vick.

Jackson left that Oct. 1 game in Death Valley as a threat to run away with the Heisman, but losses to Houston and Kentucky, when he committed four turnovers, in late November provided an opportunity for others to sway voters.

Watson made the biggest surge, but ultimately fell short.

Jackson continues a recent trend of breakout stars winning the Heisman. He is the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007, joining Manziel (redshirt freshman), Jameis Winston (redshirt freshman), Mark Ingram (sophomore), Sam Bradford (sophomore) and Tim Tebow (sophomore).

Jackson came to Louisville as a three-star recruit from Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Some colleges were not sold on him as a quarterback, but Jackson was such a dynamic talented Louisville coach Bobby Petrino altered his offense to accommodate Jackson's speed and elusiveness.

Jackson flashed brilliance as a freshman and showed what was to come in the Music City Bowl against Texas A&M. He had 453 total yards and led Louisville to a victory.

Still, with so many well-established stars from Watson and Mayfield to running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU, Jackson entered the season without much fanfare.

Just the way he likes it.

Jackson spent this season adjusting to newfound fame, growing into the role of face of the team and trying to stay out of the spotlight. He said he cut down on trips to the mall to avoid the inevitable crowds he drew.

He is about to become even more popular. Especially back in Louisville, where he has another year before he can even consider his next big jump -- to the NFL.