The Skins kicked off a brutal stretch in their schedule with a tough victory over the Eagles in Philly. I was expecting Donovan McNabb to get a rude reception from Eagle fans much like the one he received at the ’99 draft. Instead, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. The rest of the game did not go as smoothly. It was physical, mistake-filled, and left some key casualties for both teams. Michael Vick was injured in the first half and did not return to the game. Kevin Kolb stepped in and played admirably, but the Skins defense held him in check when it mattered most. Clinton Portis was also injured and sat out most of the second half. Despite this setback, the Skins ran the ball effectively, caused a couple of turnovers, and won the game 17-12. The Skins are now 2-0 in the NFC East after losing all six division games last season.
Positives – The running game, which made a re-appearance last week, was dominant yesterday. The Skins gained 169 yards on 35 carries but the bulk of it came from Ryan Torain who had 70 yards and a touchdown. Even McNabb had 39 yards on the ground including an 18-yard scramble to keep the clock running on the final drive for the team. Torain looked very solid, bursting into his cuts, and juking out Eagle defenders on a couple of occasions. While McNabb struggled at times, he did manage to complete two long passes: a 57-yard bomb to Anthony Armstrong and a 31-yard touchdown to Chris Cooley. In fact, McNabb has completed several passes over 30 yards this season and given the offense a big play dimension they’ve lacked the past few years. Defensively, Jim Haslett utilized more 4-man fronts and press coverages to help out against the run while not giving up big pass plays. It worked. The Eagles had 110 yards rushing but no big runs that wore away the Skins defense. Also, the Eagle receivers were held in check. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin only had 4 receptions and 34 yards combined. On third down, where the Skins defense has had their troubles this year, the Eagles only converted 5 of 14 chances. Even Albert Haynesworth created a good push in the pocket and occupied blockers effectively. This is also the first recap where I’ve mentioned Haynesworth, so he must have done something right.
Negatives – McNabb’s arm and lack of accuracy betrayed him at times. He forced one interception and threw a few short yardage passes near the ground. The Skins third down conversion rate is still lacking and drives are not being sustained as they should. This could be due to a lack of quality receivers and poor pass protection. Joey Galloway had one reception against the Eagles and has been almost nonexistent this season. Even Santana Moss was held without a catch. McNabb needs more time to complete these passes, particularly on third down. The Skins defense looked solid but still needs to tighten up their run defense. Using the 4-3 more often should help but the defensive line as a whole needs to improve their play. Maake Kemoeatu looks a step slow and Kendric Golston may not be a good fit for this defense at all. Also, the linebackers are not shooting the gaps or covering as well as they should. Andre Carter was benched in favor of Lorenzo Alexander and only looked effective when he lined up at defensive end. This game looked encouraging for the defense but their level of play will need to improve as a potent Packers offense comes to Landover next week.