Domo: Eagles' defense a running joke

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The Redskins’ Matt Jones picks up a first down as Eagles defenders give chase.

LANDOVER, Md. - This one had the stink of some of last year's ugly defeats, when teams were able to run the ball right down the Eagles' throats.

This one resembled that October loss to Carolina when Jonathan Stewart and the Panthers rushed for 204 yards against them, and that November defeat to the Bucs when they made Doug Martin look like the second coming of Walter Payton, and that 23-point December beating by Arizona, which put up 230 rushing yards against them.

Sunday's score was a little closer than those three games. The Eagles only lost this one to the Redskins by seven points, 27-20. But that says more about who Washington is than it does about the Eagles, who gave up an embarrassing 230 rushing yards in their second straight loss.

In last week's 24-23 loss to the Lions, the Eagles were gashed for 77 rushing yards on 17 carries in the first half. But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz made some schematic tweaks at intermission and his unit held the Lions to just three yards on 10 carries in the second half. The Eagles still lost the game, but it wasn't because they couldn't stop the run.

On Sunday, though, Schwartz wasn't able to fix the leak. A Redskins offense that entered the game averaging just 86.4 rushing yards per game, that had been averaging the fourth fewest rushing attempts in the league, ran the ball at will.

"We couldn't stop the run," said safety Malcolm Jenkins. "We weren't staying in our gaps. We were missing tackles.

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"They didn't do anything that surprised us. Nothing mind-blowing. Most of it was just downhill runs. They were putting their foot in the ground, and the next thing you knew, they were in the secondary."

Redskins running back Matt Jones rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Chris Thompson and Robert Kelley combined for 96 yards on 14 carries. Jones had five runs of 10 yards or more, including a 57-yarder on third-and-7 with 1:27 left that effectively killed the Eagles' slim comeback hopes.

"It would be different if we didn't feel we were talented enough," Jenkins said. "But we feel we got the guys. But everybody seems to be taking turns blowing their assignment or just getting beat or committing penalties.

"Everybody's got to take it upon themselves to look critically at what they're doing and what their assignment is, so we can stop the bleeding."

Much like in the first half against the Lions last week, the Eagles were repeatedly victimized by their own aggressiveness, overpursuing and not staying in their gaps, which left huge running lanes for Jones, Thompson and Kelley.

Kelley gained 45 yards on a second-quarter cutback run that helped give the Redskins an early 14-0 lead.

"I don't think we tackled great today," Jenkins said. "One of the things we harp on is everybody playing fast and taking a shot (at the ballcarrier). And if you miss, we're banking on other guys getting to the ball.

"Today, more so than not, when one guy did miss, there weren't enough hats right there behind him. And all of a sudden you have tackling problems."

Before Sunday, the Redskins had rushed for more than 90 yards in just one of their first five games. Had 145 on 26 carries in a 31-20 Week 4 win over Cleveland.

They beat the Ravens last week, 16-10, but rushed for just 60 yards and averaged 3.0 yards per carry.

The Eagles, meanwhile, had held their first four opponents to 73.3 rushing yards per game, which was the third-lowest total in the league. They were 13th in opponent rush average (3.9).

"We had been doing a good job against the run," middle linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "For us, that's the key. We've got to stop the run and make them throw it and then let our pass rush get them.

"I've been saying that for four-five weeks now. That's what we're predicated on. When we can't stop the run and are letting them gash us and make big play after big play in the run game, that's not good. Because if you don't stop the run in this league you're not going to be successful. It's that simple."

The Eagles had given up just 20 rushing first downs in their first four games. On Sunday, they gave up 10, including seven in the first half, when the Redskins scored 21 of their 27 points. They gave up seven double-digit-yard runs, which is half as many as they gave up in their first four games.

"It was everybody," Hicks said. "It was the front (line). It was the LBs. It was the DBs. It was everybody. That was a complete team failure in the run game. It's not acceptable and we need to get it fixed."

I'd love to tell you what Schwartz thought of his defense's implosion. But he doesn't talk to reporters after games. He won't be available until Thursday, when the focus will be on the Eagles' next opponent, the 5-0 Vikings.

"You don't expect it," head coach Doug Pederson said of the 230 rushing yards his defense gave up. "(The Redskins) pride themselves on the run game and the play-action pass. That's kind of what they do. Kirk's (quarterback Kirk Cousins) good at that.

"It's something we've got to evaluate and make sure as coaches that we're doing the right things to help our players to be in position to make plays."

One thing that certainly didn't help was a second-quarter groin injury to defensive tackle Bennie Logan. He left the game and never returned.

Before he got hurt, the Redskins had rushed for 80 yards on 12 carries, including Kelley's 45-yard run. After he left the game, they rushed for 150 more yards on 21 carries.

Backup tackles Beau Allen and Destiny Vaeao did not play well. Neither, quite frankly, did Logan's tag-team partner, Fletcher Cox. Cox was handled pretty well by the Redskins' offensive line, and also had a couple of more bonehead penalties, including a roughing-the-passer penalty on a third-and-4 at the Washington 4-yard line with 25 seconds left in the half. The penalty gave the Redskins a new set of downs and they scored three plays later.

"They were able to run the ball on us and control the game," said defensive end Connor Barwin. "I don't know exactly what happened. I have to look at the tape. I know we were out there a long time. I think that affected us to some level."

The Redskins controlled the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the first half, and more than 34 minutes overall. They ran nearly twice as many plays as the Eagles in the first half (39-20).

"They do a nice job of just kind of churning out yards," Barwin said. "We knew that. We talked about that. That was a big focus for us this week. But we obviously didn't get it done."

By the numbers

* The Eagles have been outscored 48-24 in the first half in their last two games. They've given up 34 first downs and 484 net yards in the first half the last two weeks.

* Carson Wentz failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season. But for the fourth times in five games, he didn't throw an interception. He has just one pick in 157 attempts in his first five NFL starts.

* On their first possession, the Eagles used four different personnel groupings on six plays.

* The Eagles converted just four of 12 third-down opportunities against the Redskins. They went into the game tied for 26th in third-down efficiency. They have converted just 21 of 63 third-down opportunities (33.3 percent) in the first five games.

* Eight of the Eagles' 12 third-down situations Sunday were 9 yards or more.

* Carson Wentz was 4-for-8 for 98 yards on third down, but threw for just two first downs.

* In the first five games, seven of the Eagles' 63 third-down situations have been 3 yards or less.

* The Eagles committed 13 penalties against the Redskins. That makes 27 in the last two games.

* The Eagles failed to register a sack against the Redskins. That's the first time this season they haven't had a sack in a game. It didn't happen at all last year, even though they finished with just 37 sacks.

* Sunday's loss was the fourth in a row to the Redskins. The last time the Eagles lost four in a row to Washington was in 1985-87.

* Wentz's 11 completions were his fewest in five starts.

* The Eagles' 239 net yards were their fewest of the season. So were their 12 first downs.

* The Eagles didn't turn the ball over against the Redskins. It's the fourth time this season they haven't had a turnover in a game.


pdomo@aol.com

@Pdomo

Blog: philly.com/Eaglesblog