LANDOVER, Md. — There was some serious scoreboard watching in the Washington Redskins locker room. A near-perfect game from Robert Griffin III buoyed the hopes of a team that hadn’t won a game in over a month.
“Did Dallas lose?” right guard Kory Lichtensteiger asked a group of reporters.
In the Philadelphia Eagles locker room, it was the same old same old. The losing streak had reached six games, accelerating the countdown toward the possible end of Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure as coach.
“I don’t know how it can get much worse,” tight end Brent Celek said.
Sunday’s meeting for last place in the NFC East left a thick line between the Redskins and Eagles. The 31-6 victory allows Washington (4-6) to feel like a playoff contender for at least a few more days, while Philadelphia (3-7) is doomed to spending six more weeks enduring endless questions about the future of the franchise.
“We knew this game right here was going to be make or break for either one of our teams,” Washington linebacker London Fletcher said.
The Redskins’ hopes remain intact largely because of Griffin, who completed 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards, including touchdown passes of 6, 49, 61 and 17 — one in each quarter. He also ran 12 times for 84 yards and was again serenaded with chants of “RG3.”
“I’m tired of talking about Robert,” said Santana Moss, who leaped between two defenders and fought his way into the end zone for the 61-yard score in the third quarter. “Nothing’s going to change; Robert’s going to go out there and be special. That’s the gift that he has, he’s a special guy. He brings that kind of ‘specialness.’ I don’t know if that’s a word, but he brings it to our offense.”
There was another chant in the final minutes, the familiar “We want Dallas!” The Redskins have a short week before heading to Texas for a Thanksgiving visit to the Cowboys (5-5), who, by the way, pulled out the win in overtime against the Browns.
“If we had lost today, we’re going into this next week with a whole different mindset of, hey, ‘spoiler’ — maybe fight to see if the stars align just right,” Lichtensteiger said. “But now we have a legitimate shot with the way this division is right now. There’s definitely a belief right now.”
That’s a long way from the statement Mike Shanahan made after a loss to Carolina, when the coach pretty much gave up on the postseason and talked about evaluating talent for next year. Shanahan has since changed his tune and says every game the rest of the way is like a playoff game.
“It was a game we had to have,” Shanahan said Sunday. “We knew that.”
The Redskins also finally found a formula for beating a rookie quarterback: force turnovers and have your own rookie play better. The defense got three takeaways and four sacks while facing Nick Foles, the third-round pick from Arizona who was making his first NFL start because Michael Vick is sidelined with a concussion.
Foles’ first drive ended with a pass tipped to DeAngelo Hall for an interception. Foles also got picked on his second drive when he threw into double coverage to safety Brandon Meriweather, who made his season debut after missing the Redskins’ first nine games with a knee injury.
The win snapped the Redskins’ remarkable eight-game losing streak against rookie quarterbacks that began in 2006.
“That’s the kind of football we’ve been wanting to play all year,” said Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. “And especially with Philly having a young quarterback, we wanted to really get after him.”
Still, the Eagles with Foles resembled the Eagles with Vick: capable of moving the ball downfield, only to have all the hard work negated by turnovers, penalties and a patchwork offensive line.
Philadelphia entered the game with an NFC-worst minus-11 turnover differential; it’s now minus-14. The Eagles committed nine penalties for 70 yards, including a pair of first-quarter false starts by right guard Jake Scott, who has been with the team less than a week.
Foles, who made his NFL debut in relief last week after Vick was injured, completed 21 for 46 for 204 yards. LeSean McCoy had 15 carries for 45 yards before being carted off in the final two minutes with a concussion.
“I don’t sense a lack of focus,” said Reid, who declined to directly answer a question about his job security. “That’s not what I sense. I see them playing hard. I see them focusing in at practice. At times, maybe we’re trying too hard.”
NOTES: The Eagles have their longest in-season losing streak since dropping seven in a row at the end of 1994. … Griffin completed passes to nine receivers and has only three interceptions in 277 attempts this season. Foles already has three in just 78 attempts. … Washington last beat a rookie quarterback on Dec. 24, 2005, a 24-9 win over Ryan Fitzpatrick and the St. Louis Rams. … Meriweather, who had been sidelined with a left knee injury, hurt his right knee in the third quarter, but he’s expected to play against Dallas. … Washington WR Pierre Garcon returned from a foot injury and caught three passes for 5 yards. … Penalties remain a problem for the Redskins: 13 for 80 yards.