Survive And Advance
Birds Overcome Last-Gasp Commanders Rally, Prevail In OT For NFC East Lead
PHILADELPHIA – Under sunny skies and picture-perfect October football weather, the Eagles (4-0) hosted the Washington Commanders (2-2) Sunday afternoon for the first divisional showdown of the season, but needed overtime to secure the 34-31 win.
The Eagles’ defense forced a quick 3-and-out to start the extra period, and Eagles kicker Jake Elliott converted a 54-yard field goal to keep the Eagles unbeaten.
While much was made throughout the week of potential Eagles mismatches – particularly pertaining to their defensive line against Washington’s front – the Commanders remained competitive throughout.
Just as it appeared the game had been sealed courtesy of a 28-yard touchdown catch A.J. Brown in the game’s waning moments, the final 103 seconds were all Washington needed to force overtime.
Commanders quarterback Sam Howell led a 10-play, 64-yard scoring march, culminating in a 10-yard Jahan Dotson touchdown catch, knotting the game at 31-31 as time expired.
Untimely penalties and uncharacteristic lapses allowed the Commanders to hang around, but the Eagles stacked enough positive plays to persevere.
Jalen Hurts completed 21-of-31 pass attempts for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver A.J. Brown corralled eight receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets.
On with the observations.
* The Eagles once again opened with All-Pro CB James Bradberry in the slot and Josh Jobe outside. Jobe allowed a 14-yard completion along the far sideline to Terry McLaurin but batted away a pass for Jahan Dotson three plays later. Jobe, known for his physicality, got hands on Dotson.
* Surprised to see McLaurin – who reeled in both targets for 29 yards – involved early given the unrelenting Eagles pass rush. Those quick-hitting plays generally designated for RB Antonio Gibson and WR Curtis Samuel went to McLaurin, too. Credit Commanders OC Eric Bieniemy for conjuring ways to get the ball into the hands of their best playmaker early.
* Washington’s 14-play, 75-yard opening scoring drive was largely aided by a Zach Cunningham holding penalty in the red zone, ultimately wiping away a would-be field goal attempt to extend the drive. The Eagles were plagued throughout by costly penalties.
* The Eagles responded with a 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive on their opening possession, capping it with a 5-yard D’Andre Swift touchdown run. OC Brian Johnson pressed all the right buttons on the possession, dialing up seven passes and five running plays to keeping the Commanders off balance. Hurts completed 7-of-7 pass attempts for 49 yards while Swift logged 16 yards on four carries.
* The middle of the field appeared to be ripe for Jalen Hurts‘ taking, and the Eagles’ gamut of receiving options prospered. A.J. Brown was the early beneficiary, snaring two early targets for 21 yards.
*The Eagles defense provided little resistance on Washington’s second drive – a seven-play, 68-yard march culminating in McLaurin’s fumble recovery in the end zone after Bradberry separated the ball from RB Brian Robinson. The Commanders’ drive was aided by an offsides from SLB Nolan Smith and an unnecessary roughness penalty tacked against S Terrell Edmunds on consecutive plays. The back-breaking play was a 24-yard McLaurin reception on a 3rd-and-4.
* The Eagles shot themselves in the foot with too many penalties early, logging five for 22 yards with 10 minutes still remaining until the break. LG Landon Dickerson’s offside penalty on a 4th-and-1 wiped away a successful Hurts plunge with 10:36 remaining.
* For all the talk this week of the Eagles’ defensive line, their first sack came courtesy of LB Nicholas Morrow, who dropped Commanders QB Sam Howell for an 8-yard loss. Since joining the starting linebacker tandem, Morrow – who began the season on the Eagles’ practice squad – has performed admirably. The patchwork veteran LB tandem of Morrow and Cunningham have been more than serviceable.
* Speaking of Morrow, the 28-year-old registered eight tackles to go along with three sacks.
*The Eagles’ third offensive possession was one to forget. Ona 2nd-and-9, Commanders DE Chase Young sacked Hurts for a 4-yard loss. Hurts responded on the ensuing play by sailing a deep shot to a wide-open WR DeVonta Smith for what would have been a touchdown.
* Watched S Tristin McCollum at gunner on the far side of the field. He was forced out of bounds, but tracked the ball well, swarming Commanders PR Jamison Crowder but failed to corral him. Crowder rolled up 14 yards on the return.
* P Braden Mann, through six quarters, has yielded 120 yards on three punts (40.0 yard average).
* When RG Cam Jurgens exited with an injury and ruled out, which was announced during the Eagles’ opening drive coming out of the break, Sua Opeta served as his replacement. The nine-play, 45-yard drive accounted for just three points as pressure began bearing down on Hurts. The Commanders were credited with five quarterback hits.
* The absence of TE Dallas Goedert in the Eagles’ offense remains baffling. While Goedert has shown extremely well as a blocker, he’s been largely invisible as a dynamic receiver, though it’s not all his fault. Embattled Commanders LB Cody Barton has struggled in coverage and his lapses should have presented opportunities for Goedert.
* The Eagles’ four-play, 69-yard third-quarter scoring drive – which culminated in a highlight-reel worthy Brown catch-and-run – showcased Brown’s ability to elude defenders en route to the end zone. Great vision. However, the play also featured outstanding downfield blocking from WR Olamide Zaccheaus, who caught my attention in that area during training camp.
*The Eagles’ run defense, as expected, largely proved stout for much of the game, forcing the Commanders to become one-dimensional. Philadelphia, which came into the game allowing just 48.3 yards per game, surrendered 107 but Washington averaged just 3.8 yards per run.
* While one can appreciate the tone-setting manner in which Edmunds plays, the veteran safety committed two unnecessary roughness penalties, the most egregious occurring midway through the final frame. Howell, while eluding Eagles DT Jordan Davis, scrambled toward the left sideline before Edmunds burst onto the scene like a heat-seeking missile, launching himself at the end of the play. The penalty issued Washington a fresh set of downs and the Commanders punched in the game-tying touchdown five plays later, courtesy of a 16-yard Brian Robinson touchdown run.
*Curious late-game play-calling from both teams offensively with the game hanging in the balance. Instead of feeding RB Kenny Gainwell, who was used to salt away Monday night’s win against the Buccaneers, the Eagles took to the air. Back-to-back Hurts incompletions returned possession to the Commanders with 6:28 remaining.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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