PHILADELPHIA -- A once-comfortable lead dwindled to almost nothing and, with it, a chance to take over first place in the NFC East. The message in the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive huddle was short and to the point.
"We kept saying 'Somebody has to make a play,' " linebacker Connor Barwin said. "And somebody did."
In this case, "somebody" was cornerback Brandon Boykin, who intercepted a pass thrown by Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in the end zone with 24 seconds left in the game, a play that preserved the Eagles' 24-16 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
The win moved the Eagles (6-5) into first place in the NFC East, a half-game ahead of the idle Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins rallied from a 24-0 deficit to come within one touchdown and a two-point conversion -- they converted two of them earlier -- when Griffin dropped back to pass from the Eagles' 18. But defensive end Fletcher Cox pressured him into throwing a bad pass and Boykin was waiting for it.
"I just saw the ball floating in the air, and I was like, 'Is this real life?' " Boykin said. "It was almost like a dream."
But it was a nightmare for the Redskins (3-7), who were also 3-6 going into Week 11 last season, then ran the table to win the divisional title. But the lead on Sunday was too much to overcome and now they are 2 1/2 games behind the Eagles. That, too, could be too much to overcome.
"Unfortunately, it took us until the fourth quarter to get going," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "And we had an opportunity at the end; we just didn't take advantage of it.
"I was pleased the way our guys fought in the fourth quarter. But to win on the road you've got to play the full 60 minutes and we did not do that."
Griffin completed 17 of 35 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 81.1. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles completed 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards and a passer rating of 104.3. Even though he did not throw a touchdown pass, he did not throw any interceptions, either.
"The biggest thing for us on offense is we're not turning the ball over," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.
The Eagles scored first on a 4-yard run by Foles with 2:48 left in the first quarter and made it 14-0 on their next possession on a 1-yard run by running back LeSean McCoy, after tight end Brent Celek picked up 41 yards on a screen pass.
Those two quick strikes gave the Eagles 19 touchdown drives on the season that have lasted less than two minutes.
It appeared the Redskins were going to cut into that lead on their next possession, after a 24-yard run by Roy Helu Jr. helped them push the ball to the Eagles 5-yard line. But on second-and-goal Griffin III was blindsided by and fumbled the ball, and Cox recovered for the Eagles.
The Eagles made them pay for that by driving for a 24-yard field goal by Alex Henery, which made it 17-0 at halftime. Then, the Eagles came out in the second half and appeared to put the game away with an 80-yard, 13-play touchdown drive that made it 24-0. McCoy scored on another 1-yard run that took 5:19 off the clock, the Eagles' longest touchdown drive of the year. Their previous long scoring drive was 3:58 in a 49-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Week 9.
But the Redskins answered with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and two 2-point conversions. The first TD came on a 36-yard catch and run by fullback Darrel Young and the second on a 41-yard pass to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson with 5:57 left to play.
"We made plays, but we didn't make enough of them and we didn't make them early enough," Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss said. "Nobody on the team will give up, I can guarantee you that, but this one if is a tough one to swallow."
What the Redskins said
"To fight this hard and come this close and then lose, it's a tough thing to deal with. This game is all about making plays and they just made a couple more than we did. Hopefully, we'll learn from this, because there's still a lot of season left to play." -- Cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
"(Eagles quarterback Nick Foles) has a lot of poise. He's big and strong and he makes good decisions. I was really impressed with him." -- Coach Mike Shanahan.
What the Eagles said
"I had it in my head that something had to happen. I knew a big play was coming, so I stayed calm and I got pressure (on quarterback Robert Griffin III) and he threw the ball and (Brandon) Boykin picked it off." -- Defensive end Fletcher Cox on forcing the game-ending interception.
"It's a weight off our shoulders, to finally win at home and give our fans something to cheer about. We can go into the bye week now and relax and get our legs back." -- Wide receiver Riley Cooper on the Eagles' first home win of the season.
What we learned about the Redskins
1. It is clear that quarterback Robert Griffin III is still recovering from the knee injury that ended his 2012 season in the playoffs. He is playing better than he did at the beginning of the season, but is still not the dynamic player that earned him rookie of the year.
2. The defense has to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was able to stand tall in the pocket for most of the game. The Eagles' offense scored early and easily to take a 24-0 lead.
What we learned about the Eagles
1. It will be impossible for coach Chip Kelly to take second-year quarterback Nick Foles out of the lineup now, even when nominal starter Michael Vick finally comes back from his hamstring injury. Foles has had a passer rating of more than 100 in each of his last three games -- all victories.
2. The defense does not always look good, but it always seems to stiffen when it needs to. After a shaky start, the unit has gotten better every week and it is as responsible for the Eagles' recent success as the much-ballyhooed offense that coach Chip Kelly brought with him from Oregon.