Each week this season, we’ll have an oral history of a play, trend or scheme from the Eagles’ previous game using the coaches all-22 film. This week, we spotlight Brandon Graham’s game-clinching sack in Sunday’s 30-17 win over the Redskins.
FOURTH QUARTER, 1:43 LEFT ON THE CLOCK, EAGLES, 22-17
The Redskins faced a second down and three on their own 32-yard line. The Eagles dropped into a quarters zone and rushed four. Graham, who had already had a strong game, but had yet to record a sack, said he knew pre-snap that Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins would drop to throw.
Graham: We knew he was throwing by our film study and what we picked up. Certain people in the game, it’s this. Certain stuff the tackles do or the guys do, it’s run or pass. Certain tips. And then it was the end of the game and they need to score.
Graham rushed from the left vs. right tackle Morgan Moses. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was lined up to his right.
Graham: It was just a speed rush around the edge. I know [Moses] liked to try to wall me outside so that [Cousins] could step up. But I knew Fletch was going to stay inside, so it made me want to go with the speed because I knew Fletch was going to balance me up and help me in case he escaped inside of me.
Both Graham and Cox had one-on-one matchups.
Graham: They got a lot of trust in their guys up front and we knew that going in. They didn’t get away from what they do. They like to get five [receivers] out and they have five-man, six-man protections, sometimes the [running] back stays in to see if somebody’s blitzing. But really he never chipped outside too much.
Cox faced off against right guard Brandon Scherff.
Cox: My guard kind of overset me, which he had been doing the whole game. It was only a matter of time until I took the inside move, which I did.
Both Graham and Cox won their matchups, but the former got there first.
Cox: I swiped inside and see the quarterback still have the ball. As I’m reaching for the quarterback I see out of the bottom of my peripheral [view] that Brandon – I see a white jersey – that Brandon is already on him reaching for the ball.
It took Graham only 2.48 seconds to hit Cousins, who cocked to throw.
Graham: They need to get down the field and I’m thinking quick game because that’s what they do. That time he stood back there a little too long. The [Eagles secondary] must have got rid of the first read and then next thing you know he tried to get rid of it because he felt the pressure. I’m just happy I used my left hand.
The football was out and Cox was nearest.
Cox: So Brandon knocks the ball out and, boom, at this point the game is tight, so you got to get the ball and try and score. But my main focus was to make sure I secured the ball before I tried to take off running.
The ball bounced right in front of Cox as Cousins fell to the ground.
Cox: The ball that bounces up is one of the hardest balls to recover. You’re just thinking it’s going to stay there, but when that ball is bouncing up you got to really secure it.
Cox ran 20 untouched yards into the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown.
Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks: I just saw Fletch taking off and kind of high-stepping into the end zone.
Cox celebrated with a Michael Jackson dance.
Cox: It was Thriller.
The ruling on the field was touchdown. All turnovers get reviewed, but this one appeared as if it could be overturned. Cousins may have gotten the ball out before Graham made contact.
Referee Brad Allen: I just have to go with my gut. And my gut said fumble.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden: [Cousins] said [the referees] couldn’t tell if the ball ever left his hand or not.
Cousins said he watched a replay on the FedEx Field Jumbotron.
Cousins: We’d like to think that we had a chance there to get the ball back, but I always expect when the play is allowed to be reviewed and they can go over it again that they’re going to make the right call.
The Eagles defense stayed out on the field and watched on the Jumbotron, as well.
Cox: We just had to stay on the field. Once they started reviewing the play, I think the field goal unit was right there, and we were on the field ready to go. But it was a fumble.
The replay official reviewed the fumble ruling and the play was upheld.
Allen: There was nothing conclusive that would overturn the ruling on the field. All the views we had were inconclusive, so we have to stay with the ruling on the field.
Gruden: It sounded like it was rejected – blocked – but then I don’t know.
Graham said he was even more convinced that it was a fumble after watching the coaches film.
Graham: Oh, it was a fumble. I seen the picture. I seen the picture where I’m hitting it and it froze, then I see the one before it and I had him.