Boykin on interception: 'Is this real life?'
Brandon Boykin picked off Robert Griffin III in the end zone with 24 seconds to play, ending the Redskins' comeback try and sealing a 24-16 win for the Eagles. (USA Today Images)
Brandon Boykin couldn’t believe what he saw.
“I just saw the ball floating in the air, and I was like, ‘Is this real life?’” Boykin said. “‘Wow.’ So I just had to go up and get it.
“I didn’t care if I ran into my own teammate, I just wanted to go up and make a play and end the game, and that’s what happened.”
Boykin’s interception of Robert Griffin III in the end zone with 24 seconds left Sunday put an end to a scary Redskins comeback bid and clinched the Eagles’ 24-16 win -- their first win at the Linc since September 2012 (see Instant Replay).
The Eagles had led, 24-0, early in the fourth quarter, before RG3 engineered touchdown drives of 62 and 85 yards to turn a rout into a precarious one-possession game.
It was almost exactly like the opener, when the Eagles led, 33-6, late in the third quarter before hanging on for a 33-27 win.
This time, Griffin drove the 'Skins from their own 4-yard line down to the Eagles’ 18 when he tried to loft a 3rd-and-1 pass out of the end zone.
But thanks to tremendous pressure from Fletcher Cox, Griffin wasn’t able to get his legs into the pass, and the ball fluttered up in the air and right to Boykin.
“When the ball’s in the air, it was really slow,” Boykin said. “A lot of thoughts went through my head. When I got it, I was just trying to make sure my feet were in bounds. I looked down and I was good, I heard everybody cheering. … I couldn’t believe it.”
The Redskins had all the momentum. They outgained the Eagles, 231-51, in the fourth quarter.
But after giving up big play upon big play to RG3 and the Redskins in the fourth, the Eagles finally made a big play to send the fans home happy from the Linc for the first time in nearly 14 months.
“It’s kind of fun to get in that situation if you’re a competitor,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “You’re just scrapping every play. You know it takes just one big play to finish the game, and Boykin made a great play making that catch in the end zone.”
Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles seemed to be rolling toward their first shutout in 17 years.
A few minutes later, they were scrambling to avoid blowing a 17-point lead after three quarters for only the third time in franchise history.
“It’s all about finishing,” Cox said. “We thought we would shut them out, but things happened. They made a few plays in the second half that they shouldn’t have made. Big plays happen. Let’s go to the next play. Let’s not dwell on that play and then let another big play happen.
“We won. That’s the biggest thing. We finished the game and won.”
“Everybody had that look in their eye on that last drive like, ‘We’re not going to be denied,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said.
“There wasn’t much that needed to be said. I felt like everybody knew we had to step up and make a play, it was just who was going to make it. We knew someone was going to make it, we just didn’t know who.”
It was Boykin, the second-year slot corner. Boykin didn’t play most of the game, since the Redskins don’t play many three-wide snaps, but he propelled the Eagles into first place in the NFC East with his fourth interception of the year and his second in two weeks.
Cox got terrific pressure on the play and appeared to alter the trajectory of Griffin’s pass.
“I had it in my head that something had to happen,” Cox said. “I knew a big play was coming, so I stayed calm and I got pressure on him, and he threw the ball and Boykin picked it off.
“I knew they were going to throw the ball. I figured I would just bring my best pass rush and get after it and get to RG3.”
When Griffin drove the 'Skins inside the Eagles’ 20 in the final minute, it was one of those crucial moments that really determines what course a team’s season takes.
Ryans said the Eagles had the ideal mentality as the final drive evolved.
“We’re expecting something good to happen, whereas in past times it would have went the other way for us,” Ryans said.
“But now this year, things have been going our way, the ball has been rolling to us. So it’s just a good feeling when you have that confidence and you have that solid competitiveness on defense, that want-to type attitude, that not-be-denied type attitude on defense.”
The Eagles are now 6-5 a year after going 4-12, and they’re in first place in the NFC East a year after finishing last.
And their defense, among the worst in NFL history four games into the season, has now held seven consecutive opponents to 21 points or fewer, something the Eagles haven't done since 2007.
But most importantly, when everything was on the line and the Eagles were facing extraordinary adversity, they handled it.
And it won them a game.
“That’s where you grow the most,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. “Obviously, we’d love to have that be 24-0, but we grew more in that battle at the end than I think we could have ever grown in any other way.
“And when you can grow a young defense or a young team, well now they have one in the bank where they know, ‘Hey, we can finish a game and make plays to win it, and I think that growth is going to be invaluable for us going forward.”