You knew it would happen. You knew the Eagles would lose a game. You didn’t know they would play this poorly in the process.
The Eagles went from Sept. 11 until Nov. 14 before facing this kind of gut-churning adversity. Their undefeated season was being threatened by Washington, their aura of invincibility teetering.
Which team was 8-0? Which team was 4-5? After the Eagles’ performance on Monday night, those were fair questions to ask.
And when it was over — the Eagles’ undefeated streak ended in a sloppy, 32-21 loss.
- “We played like crap,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “We didn’t do a good enough job.”
HOW THEY LOST
The Eagles lost in the way NFL teams typically lose games. They lost the turnover battle — fumbling away the ball on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter.
The entire Eagles roster made mistakes, they had breaks go against them. They couldn’t control Washington’s ground game. The Commanders gained 152 yards on 49 carries. The 3.1-yard per-carry average wasn’t impressive, but Washington gained key yards at key times.
“The run game. We weren’t knocking them back,” defensive end Brandon Graham said of the Eagles’ defensive problems.
Most importantly, the Eagles couldn’t stop the Commanders on third down. Washington converted 12-of-21 third-down plays.
When Graham slammed into Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke with 1:38 to play, the unsportsmanlike penalty gave the Commanders a first down and the chance to salt away the clock and the game.
“That’s on me,” Graham said.
- “The three turnovers lost us the game; the time of possession loses you the game,” Sirianni said. “We lost it together — offense, defense, special teams, coaching. We lost it together.”
As poorly as the Eagles played, they still had a golden opportunity midway through the fourth quarter, trailing 26-21. Jalen Hurts connected with Quez Watkins on a 50-yard play. Watkins scrambled to his feet but had the ball punched out from behind. Washington recovered at its 27, and the Eagles’ best chance to win was gone.
In the first half, the Eagles were pushed around, bullied and picked apart by Heinicke and his offense.
The vaunted Eagles’ defense spent as much time on the field in the first half as the officiating crew.
Who put them there? The Washington offense, which dominated the time of possession by a staggering 23:49 to 6:11 in the first half.
Heinicke owned the Eagles’ secondary to the tune of 12-of-21 passes for 145 yards. The Commanders ran for 100 yards on the ground and the Eagles’ third-ranked defense seemed powerless to stop them.
Heinicke was so impressive that you knew the Eagles’ crowd longed for the return of exiled ex-Eagle Carson Wentz, whom the Eagles dominated in Week Three.
In the first half, Washington had three impressive, time-draining drives, converting 9-of-12 third-down plays.
Meanwhile, the Eagles abandoned their running game in the first half. Miles Sanders had one carry, Kenny Gainwell had one and Hurts had two — totaling 24 yards.
SENDING A MESSAGE
Trailing 7-0, the Commanders sent muscular notice that they didn’t come to Philly only to gorge themselves on cheesesteaks. Washington went 75 yards in 13 plays — including three third-down conversions — to tie the score at 7, using 7:21 of the clock.
Washington’s offensive game plan was to run the ball, use play action to complete medium-length passes, and keep third downs manageable.
Trailing 14-10, Washington went on a 16-play, 86-yard drive that put it ahead 17-14.
The Eagles answered … with a three-and-out, 27-second drive. The Eagles were hanging on as the half wound down, as Washington got the ball back and Joey Slye banged a 58-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
The first half ended 20-14, the first time the Eagles trailed at halftime this season.
For a team playing only its second game in 28 days, the Eagles stormed out of the gate. With the power and ease they showed in taking a 7-0 lead, this game felt like the others the Eagles played in amassing their 8-0 record.
The game’s first three minutes told the story of the Eagles’ season. After forcing a three-and-out, the Eagles’ special teams let them down again. Rarely used undrafted rookie safety Reed Blankenship blew up punter Tress Way but was called for an obvious roughing the kicker penalty.
On the Commanders’ next play, defensive end Josh Sweat strip-sacked Heinicke, the fumble recovered by tackle Marlon Tuipulotu at the Washington 18.
Three plays later, Hurts scored a touchdown on a simple quarterback sneak — you should take notes, Josh Allen — to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
But the game soon changed and it was the Commanders who made that happen.
“It’s very important controlling the things you can,” Hurts said. “Controlling your ball security. Overall just a lack of detail and execution. Today, it got us.”