The Eagles' ability to hit on big plays in the passing game was key to their success in wins against the Lions and Jaguars.
In two and a half quaters, Michael Vick had completed nine passes of 25 yards or more, and DeSean Jackson was averaging 24.5 yards per catch through three games.
When the offense was putting points on the board and clicking, it was because Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were getting downfield for huge chunks of yardage. That's the way it was last year when the franchise broke several records offensively, and that's how it was for the two and a half quarters prior to today.
The Redskins were well aware of that. And defensive coordinator Jim Haslett made the decision to take away the Eagles' big plays and force the Birds to dink and dunk their way down the field. His strategy worked to perfection. Against the Redskins, Jackson's longest reception was 9 yards. Entering the game, he had accounted for over 41 percent of the team's receiving yards. Against Washington, he had just three catches for 19 yards.
Maclin, who had scored a touchdown in every game before today, was targeted just twice and finished with one catch for 15 yards.
I asked him afterwards what the Redskins did specifically to take away the Eagles' big plays.
"They weren't letting anybody get behind them. They [the safeties] were out of there, way out of there," Maclin said. "You gotta take what they're giving us. You can't be greedy."
Kevin Kolb had a chance to hit Jackson on a big play near the sideline in the fourth quarter, but his throw was off-target. Afterwards, Jackson said he thought the wind had an effect on the pass. Kolb said it's a play he has to execute. He gave the Redskins' defense credit, but added that the Eagles hurt themselves.
On the flip side, the Redskins' ability to hit on a couple big plays in the passing game was the difference. Overall, Donovan McNabb did not have a great game, completing just 8 of 19 passes for 125 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
But on the Redskins' second drive, he found tight end Chris Cooley for a 31-yard touchdown to put Washington up, 14-0. On the Redskins' third drive, McNabb connected with Anthony Armstrong for a 57-yard completion on 3rd-and-15. Washington ended up with a field goal and a 17-3 lead.
The Eagles' defense actually held Washington scoreless in the final 39 minutes and 11 seconds of the game. In the second half, the Reskins punted five times and turned it over once.
But the two big pass plays were key in getting them an early lead that they never relinquished.