The 50-50 plays that seemed to go wrong during the Philadelphia Eagles’ four-game skid went right for a change, and that’s perhaps the main reason the so-called dream team of the NFC East isn’t buried yet.
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The Eagles finally learned how to tackle and stop the run Sunday during a 20-13 win over the Washington Redskins. Kurt Coleman celebrated his injury-induced return to the starting lineup with three interceptions. The offense overcame a thinned offensive line and gave the ball to LeSean McCoy a career-high 28 times.
But the story of the game was also told in these snapshot moments:
-When the ball was lying on the goal line after a wayward snap, Michael Vick got to it first.
-When McCoy lost the ball at the end of a run, he was already down.
-When Brent Celek tipped the ball twice with defenders around him, he still made the catch – an incredible grab – while falling on his back.
-When a pass by Vick fluttered dangerously after being tipped behind the line of scrimmage, it landed in Jeremy Maclin’s hands instead of those of a defender.
”The last four games, I think we’ve been having a lot of things go the other team’s way,” center Jason Kelce said, ”batted balls going into their hands and stuff like that. I think today we’re starting to get a little bit of that luck shifting over back to our side.”
The Eagles (2-4) raced to a 20-0 second-quarter lead and picked off Rex Grossman four times, prompting Washington coach Mike Shanahan to answer the fans’ chants of ”We want Beck!” by giving John Beck his first regular-season appearance since 2007.
Beck got the Redskins back into the game with a 2-yard quarterback draw to cap an 80-yard drive that pulled the Redskins within seven points with 2:44 remaining, but the Eagles ran out the clock with the tail end of a 126-yard day from McCoy, who headed to the sideline and punched coach Andy Reid in the chest in his excitement.
”He knocked the wind out of me. He got me, got a good one,” Reid said. ”But I don’t really care. He can do anything he wants today.”
Said McCoy of his stout coach: ”Andy, we’re like his kids. We’re still young. I kind of punched him. … A lot of cushion there.”
The Redskins (3-2) were the division’s surprise leaders, in front by themselves this late in the season for the first time since 1999, but now their momentum has ground to a halt – and they have a quarterback quandary to boot. Shanahan said he went with Beck because the team ”needed a spark.” The coach wouldn’t say who will start next week’s game at Carolina.
”I believe in myself, no matter if the whole stadium doesn’t, the coaching staff doesn’t,” Grossman said. ”Whatever the situation is, I believe in myself.”
The Redskins also lost left guard Kory Lichtensteiger with a right knee injury that ”doesn’t look good,” according to Shanahan. Left tackle Trent Williams has a severely sprained right ankle. Tight end Chris Cooley broke his left index finger and will need surgery.
The Eagles had already shuffled their offensive line. King Dunlap’s back spasms and Jason Peters’ hamstring injury left them with two healthy tackles: Winston Justice, who hadn’t played a snap on offense this season, and Todd Herremans, the usual right tackle who started on the left side for the first time since he was a rookie in 2005.
Coleman got the call because safety Jarrad Page was out with a stinger. Coleman started the first three games before getting benched; now he’s the first Eagles player with three interceptions in a game since Joe Scarpati in 1966.
”I wasn’t getting it done, and that was apparent,” Coleman said. ”It was a humbling experience. God taught me a lesson, and I just worked my butt off the last couple weeks.”
Vick completed 18 of 31 passes for 237 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 54 yards on seven carries, including a 31-yard scamper on a third-and-10 after which he kicked a stray ball that nearly hit a Redskins cheerleader. He paused, holding his hand to his heart to display his remorse.
”It was very inappropriate to kick the ball. Sorry about that. I apologize to the cheerleaders,” Vick said. ”That was a very bad gesture, and I came out and let my emotions get the best of me.”
Vick also left for two plays in the third quarter. He said he had dirt in his eyes after getting tackled at the end of a run. Vince Young filled in, making his Eagles debut, and threw an interception that gave the Redskins the ball at the 18.
Two plays later, Coleman picked off Grossman, giving Philadelphia the type of momentum swing it had been missing much of the year – as part of a win that helps take some of the heat off Reid.
”We love our coach to death, and we’ll go to bat for him each and every week,” Vick said. ”We can be 1-13, and everything he tells us, we’re going to go out and do.”
Vick’s interception was tipped by a lineman in the third quarter. The Eagles led the league with 15 giveaways entering the game, but Grossman’s errant ways tilted the balance the other way.
”We know we have a long road to go,” Coleman said. ”But if we continue to play like we did today, then I think we’re on way.”
Notes: Philadelphia has won 10 of 12 at Washington, including a 59-28 laugher a year ago. … McCoy is the first Eagles player score a TD in six consecutive games since Ricky Watters in 1995. McCoy is also the first in franchise history to do it in six straight at the start of a season. … The Eagles, 30th in run defense entering the game, allowed just 42 yards rushing. … Washington’s inactives include CB Phillip Buchanon (neck) and WR Anthony Armstrong (hamstring).