I won't elaborate on my feelings on this matter too much, but holy shit.
Let's get to the lists.
Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed were the two best players in this game, and I think it's fair to say that's an obvious statement. Since we're all in agreement, let's move on and briefly discuss who else shined or didn't.
#1. Preston Smith
Sure, he's an obvious choice, perhaps as much so as Cousins and Reed. But after a game like the one he had, against Jason Peters, no less, it's damn near impossible to leave the rookie off. For a second-round pick, Smith garnered very little hype, in part due to the presence of Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, as well as the signing of Junior Galette. Then, of course, there were the myriad other newsworthy tidbits going around Redskins Park before the season began — did you hear Robert Griffin III got benched? — and Smith's presence got somewhat lost in the shuffle.
He has been impressive throughout the season, having won additional playing time thanks to the absence of Galette and Kerrigan's early-season injury woes, but he's totally upped his game over the past month or so. Smith recorded three sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday, increasing his season total to seven, second only to Kerrigan's 8.5. Even when he wasn't bringing Sam Bradford down, he was chasing him from the pocket and forcing him to make plays on the move. Bradford, who is decisively not Cam Newton or Russell Wilson, did not have an overwhelming degree of success in that regard.
#2. Mason Foster
Another excellent performance from the midseason acquisition. Foster displayed freakish athletic ability on the first play of the second quarter, breaking through the line to chase down Darren Sproles, who is not easily chased down in the open field, for a six-yard loss. He finished with six solo tackles and an assist, and the guy seemed to be in on every play defensively. There was one play where tight end Zach Ertz got free up the middle for a 17-yard gain in which Will Compton stood up and appeared to yell at Foster; it seemed Compton thought Foster was supposed to be covering Ertz, but that was likely a miscommunication. I'm not faulting the guy who's been in Washington for less than three months too much for that.
#3. Pierre Thomas
What do you know, a player Scot McCloughan added in the middle of the season ended up being a key piece to a win. I wrote about Thomas' role with the Redskins at the time of his signing, thinking he could be a big addition for the passing attack if he was given a chance. The poll from that post suggested readers agreed, with 59 percent of voters thinking he'd manage at least 20 touches for Washington by the end of the season; Thomas has 12 so far, but 11 came in Saturday's game with Matt Jones unavailable.
Against Philly, Thomas caught seven passes (on eight targets) for 67 yards, and he provided the safety net he so often acted as for one Drew Brees in New Orleans. Jones and Chris Thompson have the chance to fill a similar role, but Jones is used more in the run game and Thompson, who did catch a touchdown in the game, needs to stay healthy long enough to develop a rapport with Cousins. A big part of being a safety net is, y'know, being there. On Saturday, Thomas was always there when Cousins needed help, and his ability to turn a broken play into a handful of yards time and again helped open up the defense for everybody else.
Honorable Mentions: Bashaud Breeland, Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Will Compton, Brandon Scherff, Dashon Goldson, DeAngelo Hall
#1. Morgan Moses
It was not a strong game by Moses, but one sequence stands out as especially bad. On the Redskins' second drive of the second quarter, Cousins found Pierre Garcon for a 15-yard gain to start things off, then Thomas rushed for three yards. On the next play, Moses got absolutely abused by Fletcher Cox (it happens, Cox is a beast) and gave up a seven-yard sack. The play after that, a 3rd-and-14, Moses was flagged for a hold, which was declined as the play went for an incomplete pass. Moses has been better than most people — including myself — expected him to be this season, but this was not his best game.
#2. Jamison Crowder
Even when things go right for Washington, the special teams units always seem to struggle. The Redskins haven't had a really good return man since Brian Mitchell, and while Crowder isn't the worst they've had in that time, he's not high up that list. He struggles to find a balance between moving forward and making defenders miss, and he either goes side-to-side a bunch before getting tackled or he immediately sprints forward directly into the coverage. Statistically, his best game for punt returns this season came in the second matchup against the New York Giants, when he returned two for 24 yards — one of those went for 16 yards, his best return of the year.
As a receiver, Crowder is growing, but he's still playing a secondary role behind Garcon, Reed and DeSean Jackson. That's not a knock against Crowder — many receivers would fall behind that trio in the pecking order. Nonetheless, he caught at least four passes in seven straight games this season, from Week 3 to Week 10, but he hasn't had four catches in a game since. He also hasn't been targeted more than four times since, and it's difficult to say how much of that is due to Reed and Jackson thriving as they have compared to Crowder maybe not doing as much with his catches as others do.
That said, he played 62 of the Redskins' 75 offensive snaps against the Eagles, so clearly the team likes him, and he's now caught two two-point conversions this season, so there don't seem to be any trust issues. It's likely an issue of three guys ahead of him each being really good at certain things — Jackson is the best deep-ball receiver in the league, Garcon is one of the best third-down receivers in the league and Reed is Reed — but you'd still like to see him distinguish himself a bit more.
#3. Will Blackmon
If this game had ended differently, Dustin Hopkins likely would have occupied the final spot on this list. Hopkins missed his first PAT of the season in just about the worst game possible, and he's missed two of his past nine field goal attempts. But the Redskins won, rather handily so, and therefore Hopkins escapes the eternal shame that comes with finding one's name on this list.
Blackmon, however, does not. He is partly to blame for Jordan Matthews (who is 6-foot-3) putting up 104 yards, his third-best receiving total of the season — example No. 593 of why he should not cover bigger receivers — but that doesn't go entirely on him. Breeland spent some time on Matthews and gave up some catches as well, and cornerbacks are always at least partly at the mercy of their safety help.
Where Blackmon does not get a pass (get it?) is on the sixth play from scrimmage, when he opted to tackle Josh Huff, who did not have the ball, in the endzone. It gave the Eagles a 1st-and-goal on the one, and they promptly scored on the next play, going up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game. Giving a division rival that much momentum, at home, with the playoffs on the line is a huge mistake, and it could have been the start of an absolute trainwreck for Washington.
The Eagles certainly did their best to give the Redskins their fair share of momentum lose this game — how do you struggle so much to hold onto the football — but Washington deserves more credit than the Eagles deserve blame. The Redskins kept making errors, such as the Blackmon pass interference and the Cousins Catastrophe to end the first half, but they bounced back time and again to pull out the win. It was a downright inspired performance by a team that was determined to keep its season alive, and that fills the heart with positive feels.
Go team. Go sports. Go America.