Coming into the season, most Eagles fans main thought process goes something like this: Beat the Cowboys. Beat the Giants. Win the division. Sounds simple enough. If that’s what you’ve been thinking all offseason then you’re not alone, but it’s the other team in the NFC East that has proven to be a thorn in the Eagles side. None of us really take the Redskins seriously right? I get it, they like to make flashy moves, but there’s not really much substance to what they do and it always seem like they’re on the verge of a total meltdown. The Eagles are the better team and have been the better team. So why do the Redskins keep winning? The Eagles are going to play the Cowboys and the Giants tough but it’s the two Redskins games where they need to take care of business if they want to take the next step in their advancement. They’ve lost 5 straight times to Washington with 4 of those losses being by 1 possession.
Week 16, 2014 at Washington L 27-24 – Coming off 2 straight home losses to Seattle and Dallas, Philly had the opportunity to right the ship against the 3-11 Skins. A win here would have put the Eagles in prime playoff position. Instead what we saw was a mistake prone football team choke away a pivotal game. The loss included a pair of turnovers from Mark Sanchez, including an interception with 1:31 to play. It also included 2 missed field goals from rookie kicker Cody Parkey. That’s as many as he had missed all year. One Washington scoring drive was set up by 2 separate roughing the passer penalties on Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. Another Washington touchdown was aided by a pass interference call in the endzone. Washington’s winning drive was also aided by another Vinny Curry roughing the passer. Two DeSean Jackson 50+ yard bombs was simply salt in an open wound. The Eagles needed this game and they flat out choked. They beat themselves. This loss ended their season and was the beginning of the end for Chip Kelly.
Week 4, 2015 at Washington L 23-20 – Who else remembers screaming at the tv hoping for just one stop as Kirk Cousins ate up the final 6 minutes of the game, dinking and dunking his way 90 yards, ending in a Pierre Garcon touchdown? Oh it was horrible! “No way Kirk Cousins just did that”! To that point, Cousins was 4-9 as a starter in the league and had more turnovers than touchdowns. No one would’ve expected him to lead that drive. Another heartbreaker of a loss. More heartbreaking was that the Eagles kind of gave it away again. A missed field goal and a missed extra point by Sturgis ended up being incredibly costly. Let’s not forget the horrible end around play call that resulted in a drive killing Nelson Agholor fumble. Back to back tough losses to this team was just the start of a bitter trend.
Week 16, 2015 at Philly L 38-24 – Despite having a terrible year, the Eagles entered the game in control of their playoff hopes being just 1 game out of the division lead. It was a primetime game on a Saturday night. With the world watching the Eagles season came to an end again at the hands of the Redskins. Once again it was a game full of near misses and costly mistakes. The most lasting image of the game had to be a despondent DeMarco Murray laying on the turf after he fumbled a pitch that was taken to the house midway through the 3rd quarter. That one pretty much took all the wind out of the sails after Philly was withing 6 points. There was also the Bradford overthrow of a wide open Zach Ertz that would have resulted in a 60 yard touchdown and Nelson Agholor’s drop of a touchdown that left Eagles fans shaking their heads. Losing at home on national TV with the playoffs on the line proved to be the final straw in Chip Kelly’s coaching tenure here. He was fired that Monday and sent the entire Eagles organization in a new direction.
Week 6, 2016 at Washington L 27-20 – This one was ugly for the Eagles. I think we can all remember this as “The Big V Game”. This was the start of Lane Johnson’s 10 game suspension and rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai started at right tackle and was abused all day by Ryan Kerrigan. His poor play resulted in 2 early drive killing sacks and the offense never really got going. Their only points came off of a Malcolm Jenkins pick 6, a Wendell Smallwood kick return TD and 2 field goals. Washington was incredibly efficient both running and throwing all day keeping the Eagles off the field. Throw in 13 Eagles penalties for 113 yards and it becomes too tough to win in this league like that. Despite it all the Eagles were still within striking distance late in the game before a Matt Jones 57 yard run on 3rd down with 1:27 to go sealed the loss.
Week 14, 2016 at Philly L 27-22 – Another game that the Eagles were in right to the very end. Another game where if a couple breaks went their way it could have had a different ending. DeSean Jackson came back to haunt Philly again with an 80 yard TD catch. The Eagles drove to the Redskins 14 yard line in the games final seconds and could have kicked a tying field goal if they had converted on an earlier 2 point conversion attempt. Also, the team was down to it’s 3rd string long snapper. They went for it and Wentz was ultimately sacked by none other than Ryan Kerrigan to end the game. Again, this was a game within reach. An early Wentz interception in the redzone really hurt, as well as the Zach Ertz holding penalty that negated a 72 yard Sproles punt return TD.
So what’s the biggest problem that the Eagles are having against the Redskins? I think when you take everything into account, the biggest reason has got to be the incredibly efficient play of Kirk Cousins. For most of his career Kirk Cousins has been wildly erratic but against the Eagles the guy looks like the reincarnation of Joe Montana. In his 5 career starts against Philly, Cousins is 4-1 with 12 TD’s to only 3 INT’s, a 4/1 ratio. His career TD/INT ratio is 72/42 or roughly 1.7/1. He’s completed 63.5% of his passes and averaged 316 yards per game against the Eagles. His career ypg average is 263 and career passer rating is 93.6 but against the Eagles it’s 102.9. Throw in a couple game winning drives and it’s safe to say that “Kirk Cousins kills the Eagles”. Getting pressure on Cousins, and turning him into the quarterback he looks like against the rest of the league, will go a long way in breaking this streak.
So even though we’ve all been looking forward to big matchups with the Cowboys and Giants, it’s the Redskins they really have to worry about. Two wins against Washington will go a long way in helping this team win the division. They’ve been the thorn in the Eagles side for 3 years now and there’s no more excuses. It’s a new season with a clean slate for everyone. The Eagles are the better team on paper but now they just have to go out on the field and prove it.
After years of disregarding the Skins, it’s time for myself and the Eagles to take them very seriously. It’s only fitting that the Eagles start this new season in Washington. We’ll get a sense of what this team really is made of if it can finally get over that hurdle and beat the Redskins. Is there such a thing as a “must-win” first game? For the Eagles, conquering the team that has ruined 3 straight seasons, on their home field no less, would go a long way in setting up what could be a successful future. Fortunately for everyone, the wait is over. It’s time…
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports