Five reasons the Eagles lost to the Redskins

Robert Kelley Redskins vs Eagles
Redskins running back Robert Kelley busts through the Eagles defense for a 22-yard touchdown run in the 1st quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field Dec. 11, 2016. The Redskins won 27-22.

THE BIG RUNS

The Eagles entered Sunday’s game ranked 13th in opponent rush average (4.1). But in the previous five games, only the Baltimore Ravens had given up fewer yards per carry than the Eagles (3.2).

The Redskins, who rushed for 230 yards against the Eagles in Week 6, had only 107 Sunday. But 47 of them came on two long scoring runs. It’s the first time this season the Eagles have given up more than one rushing touchdown in a game.

The first was a 22-yard touchdown run by rookie Robert Kelley in the second quarter that put the Redskins up, 7-6. The second was a 25-yard scoring run by Chris Thompson with 1:53 left in the game that put the Redskins in front for good.

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Kelley’s TD came on a run up the middle that took advantage of the Eagles’ lack of defensive line depth. Right guard Brandon Scherff slanted across and took out backup tackle Destiny Vaeao. Tight end Vernon Davis easily stood up end Marcus Smith, which allowed Kelley to get to the second level.

If all the Eagles had been where they were supposed to be, Kelley should’ve been stopped after a 7- or 8-yard gain. But they weren’t.

Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks appeared to read the play wrong and was out of his gap, leaving a huge hole for Kelley, who then bounced outside around cornerback Nolan Carroll and raced into the end zone.

Safety Rodney McLeod didn’t lay a hand on him until he was at the 1-yard line.

Thompson’s fourth-quarter run was the real killer. It came right after the Eagles had taken a 22-21 lead on Caleb Sturgis’ third field goal of the game with 4:59 left.

It was a misdirection toss play to the left off a fake jet sweep to the right by DeSean Jackson. Right end Vinny Curry actually got penetration and was able to get a hand on Thompson in the backfield before he headed for the corner, but was unable to make a play.

Neither of the safeties was in position to make a play. Malcolm Jenkins had blitzed from the other side, and Rodney McLeod bit on the fake jet sweep. Cornerback Nolan Carroll, who was in man coverage on Jackson, followed him across the formation when he went in motion. Linebackers Hicks and Nigel Bradham got stuck in traffic.

The only player left to stop Thompson after he turned the corner was cornerback Jalen Mills. But the Redskins running back had left tackle Trent Williams as an escort. Williams easily disposed of Mills, leaving a clear path to the end zone for Thompson.

The Eagles have given up 10 run plays of 20 yards or more this season. That’s the fifth most in the league.

RED-ZONE STRUGGLES

The Eagles converted just one of four red-zone opportunities into a touchdown. Even worse, they scored just three points off their other three trips inside the Washington 20.

They drove 77 yards to the Washington 3 on their second possession of the game, only to come up empty when Carson Wentz’s pass for tight end Zach Ertz was picked off by safety Deshazor Everett. Remarkably, it was Wentz’s first red-zone interception of the season in 71 attempts.

In the second quarter, they drove to the Washington 13 and were going to go for it on a fourth and 3 when right tackle Jason Peters was flagged for his ninth false-start penalty of the season. That forced the Eagles to settle for a Caleb Sturgis field goal.

Their final failed red-zone trip came on their last possession. After the Redskins took a five-point lead on Thompson’s touchdown, the Eagles drove from their own 25 to the Washington 14, only to come up empty. Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan beat backup right tackle Matt Tobin around the edge and forced a Wentz fumble. The interception and the fumble were the Eagles’ first two red-zone turnovers this season.

The Eagles came into the game ranked 19th in the league in red-zone offense (53.7%). But they had been better lately. They were 5 for 5 in the red zone in the previous three games after converting just 7 of 18 trips into touchdowns in the five games before that.

THE CORNERS

The Eagles have given up 50 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season, including three more on Sunday, which actually was an improvement over the six they gave up last week to the Bengals and the five they gave up in each of the previous two games to the Packers and the Seahawks.

That total ties them with Oakland for the most in the league. The difference is Oakland has an offense that can offset that kind of defensive generosity. The Eagles don’t.

It was another tough day for cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills. McKelvin had five pass break-ups and played the Redskins receivers tough. But it’s feast or famine with him. He also gave up an 80-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. To his credit, he redeemed himself a little later when he jumped a lazy route by Jackson and scored on a 29-yard interception return.

Carroll and Mills let Jackson get open along the sideline for that 21-yard toe-tapper on a second and 10. Mills gave up a costly 33-yard completion to slot receiver Jamison Crowder on a second and 10 on what turned out to be the Redskins’ game-winning drive.

McKelvin, Carroll and Mills, a seventh-round rookie, are tough, physical players. The problem is none of them is very fast.

INJURIES

They clearly were a big factor Sunday. For the second time in three weeks, right guard Brandon Brooks was a game-day scratch because of an unspecified illness. He was replaced by rookie Isaac Seumalo.

Then, midway through the third quarter, Allen Barbre, the Eagles’ third right tackle this season, injured a hamstring and was replaced by Matt Tobin. Tobin had his problems with Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. It was Tobin who allowed Kerrigan to get to Wentz for the red-zone sack and fumble that squashed a potential game-winning touchdown drive with 12 seconds left.

The Eagles also lost long snapper Jon Dorenbos with a wrist injury in the third quarter and running back/punt returner Darren Sproles with a concussion early in the fourth.

Without Dorenbos, the Eagles turned to emergency long snapper Brent Celek on what would’ve been a 50-yard field-goal attempt by Sturgis in the third quarter. But they never got the kick off. Celek’s snap was a little low and holder Donnie Jones couldn't get it down.

A field goal there and the Eagles wouldn’t have needed a touchdown at the end to win.

NO BIG-PLAY GUY

The Eagles controlled the ball for 36 ½ minutes Sunday, their third-highest time of possession this season.

They outgained the Redskins, 383-334. They had eight more first downs than Washington (24-16). They converted a season-high 50 percent of their third-down opportunities.

And they scored 16 offensive points.

Because they’re getting pretty much nothing from their outside receivers, the Eagles are playing the football equivalent of station-to-station baseball.

They have had just six pass plays this season of 30 yards or more. That’s the second fewest in the NFL. Carson Wentz had 32 pass completions against the Redskins on Sunday. Just one of those 32 was longer than 16 yards.

In the seven games before Sunday, Wentz was just 8 for 35 with one touchdown and five interceptions on throws that traveled 20 yards or more in the air.

In their loss to Cincinnati last week, 62 of the Eagles’ 80 offensive plays were out of two- and three-tight-end sets. On Sunday, it was 45 of 76.

On their final drive, eight of the 10 plays they ran were with “12’’ personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs).