By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—A quick inventory convinced Brandon Boykin that he had everything after the glut of media peeled away from his locker. Then it dawned on him, there was one more thing that he had to grab before leaving.
Boykin never had a game-ending interception so the ball—the game ball—had to be found. No one was going to get their hands on that ball. It was his. The Eagles’ second-year defensive back out of Georgia made sure of that. Just like he made sure no one was going to grab Robert Griffin III’s desperation pass in the final seconds of the Eagles’ dramatic 24-16 victory over Washington on Sunday but him.
Boykin’s game-saving interception propelled the Eagles into sole possession of first place in the NFC East with their third-straight victory and a 6-5 record, one victory more than the idle Dallas Cowboys, who are 5-5 and on their bye week.
Boykin’s pick also ended the Bird’s 10-game, 14-month home losing streak at Lincoln Financial Field without using a shaman.
Boykin’s play, along with a pair of LeSean McCoy touchdown runs, a swarming defense and Nick Foles’ 17 for 26 passing for 298 yards—including a 4-yard touchdown run—enabled the Eagles to win for the first time at the Linc since a 19-17 victory over the New York Giants on September 30, 2012.
That wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Boykin interception.
With :40 left to play, Washington was driving to tie the score and had reached the Eagles’ 18. On a third-and-one, Fetcher Cox flushed Griffin III out of pocket and under pressure, RGIII lobbed an airball blindly toward the end zone.
No one was around but Boykin, who cradled the ball and stepped out of bounds for a touchback with :24 to play, sealing the Eagles’ victory.
Though there was something that plagued Boykin. He felt he should have ended the game a minute earlier, when he almost picked off Griffin III when he stepped in front a pass intended for Santana Moss at the Washington 45 with 1:26 left. Instead, he didn’t reach the ball in time for what could have been a pick-six.
“I knew they had to get out bounds and as soon as [Moss] broke his route off, I knew he was going out,” recalled Boykin, whose special teams’ hustle stuck the Redskins at their 2-yard line in the first quarter. “If I was a step quicker, I probably could have ended the game a little earlier. I didn’t expect [the last Griffin III pass] to be lobbed up there just like it was. Those are the type of things that happen when you have a good pass rush. You expect people to get back there and disrupt things. I demand to make [big plays]. I demand to be a difference maker.
“The ball was lobbed up and it was amazing. I never had a game-ending interception before, so that’s pretty cool. I have more interceptions now than I had any year in college and any year in high school. That’s crazy. I couldn’t believe it, I like, ‘Wow, this is the throw to win the game for them it’s lobbed up.’ I had to make the play.”
The game marked a resurrection for Foles at the Linc. He played the role of orchestra conductor very well. Early in the second quarter, he hushed the Linc southside end zone by merely raising his hands and with the maestro’s wave asked for quiet. They complied.
Almost a month ago, if Foles raised his hands to ask for anything from a Linc crowd, he may have been greeted with other gestures.
What a difference a month makes, not just for Foles, but for the Eagles, who now have five meaningful games in December, entering their bye week.
“He has the utmost confidence in himself,” Riley Cooper said about Foles. “He is a great quarterback and he should. He is the general out there. We are all listening to him.”
McCoy finished with 77 yards on 20 carries, including a pair of 1-yard TD runs, and DeSean Jackson hauled in four passes for 84 yards.
Defensively, the Eagles had Griffin III scrambling for his life most of the afternoon. The Eagles failed to register their first shutout since they blanked the Giants, 24-0, on December 1, 1996, when Darrel Young took a short pass 62 yards for a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 12:56 left to play.
The Redskins made it interesting by stopping the Eagles and driving again to make it a one-score game, when Griffin III tossed a 41-yard rainbow that landed in the hands of Aldrick Robinson, who caught the pass lying on his back in the end zone. Griffin III’s diving 2-point conversion had the Redskins within 24-16.
A booming 70-yard punt by Donnie Jones, which rolled out of bounds at the Washington 4-yard line, forced the Redskins to drive up the field for the tying score with 3:26 left to play.
The Eagles were aided greatly by a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Pierre Garcon, who put his hands up in the facemask of the Eagles’ Cary Williams. The flag pushed the Redskins back to their 17 with 2:12 left.
Then Griffin III got going. Big completions to Moss and Garcon had the Redskins perched in a place to tie the score, sitting at the Eagles’ 18 on Garcon’s 9-yard reception. It’s when Cox and Boykin ended it.
The loss all but vanquishing the Redskins from repeating as NFC East champions.
“The game really came down to us needing to make a play,” Moss said. “It was [Young] that gave us the spark we needed and that was great. We needed to make a big play and I think we played better in the second half. As a team, I do not know how we get ourselves in some of the situations that we do. But in the end, we did make it a game. We needed to get going earlier and found ourselves too behind in the game.”
As for the game ball, Boykin found it and walked out of the Eagles’ locker room with it firmly tucked under his right arm.
“It’s coming home with me, I’m putting it in the case with the other balls I have,” Boykin said.
It’s a case that’s bound to grow.