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Eagles vs. Commanders: The good, the bad, and the ugly

NFL: Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night marked the first time the Eagles trailed in the second half this season, marked the first time they lost the turnover battle, marked the first time they faced real adversity and it all translated into the Eagles’ first loss, 32-21, to the visiting Washington Commanders at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles turned the ball over four times, one more than they had the whole season up until Monday night, which resulted in 16 Washington points.

The Eagles were tossed around like ragdolls, especially their defensive front, which was shredded by Washington for 152 yards on 49 carries and two touchdowns on the ground.

Jalen Hurts was rendered ineffective throughout much of the game, completing 17 of 26 for 175 yards and an interception, while Commanders’ quarterback Taylor Heinicke connected on 17 of 29 for 211 yards, while running back Brian Robinson Jr. pounded the Eagles for 86 yards and a touchdown.

There was some good, some bad and a whole lot of ugly in the Eagles’ first loss this season, 32-21, to the Washington Commanders.

The Good

Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s NFL-leading sixth interception with 12:24 left in the fourth quarter. Heinicke thought he could hit Terry McLaurin, who had been roasting Darius “Big Play” Slay, when Gardner-Johnson came over for help and made an easy catch.

Birthday man DeVonta Smith grabbed a team-high six receptions for 39 yards, including a touchdown.

On second-and-nine at the Eagles’ 33 with 8:34 to play, defensive tackle Milton Williams getting out to pull down Antonio Gibson for a three-yard loss, forcing the Commanders into a third-and-12.

This play gave the Eagles new life. On third-and-six at their 34 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter, Hurts hit Quez Watkins with a 16-yard pass down the middle of the field. It kept the drive alive and, more importantly, it seemed to throw a jolt into the Eagles’ offense. The Eagles wound up scoring, bringing them to within 23-21.

Great play call by Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni on the Hurts’ old-school six-yard jump pass for a touchdown to Dallas Goedert and a 14-7 Eagles’ lead with 1:30 left in the first quarter. Hurts sold the play incredibly well, taking off as if running a quarterback draw, before pulling up and lobbing a pass to the open Goedert in the end zone.

Slay laying out Washington tight end Logan Thomas on a first-and-10 at the Washington 48 on the Commanders’ second drive.

On the Eagles’ first play of the game, Hurts taking it up the middle for a 12-yard gain on a first-and-10 at the Washington 18. Center Jason Kelce made it possible by pulling right, then slamming Washington free safety Bobby McCain down field. Two plays later, Hurts snuck in from a yard out—right behind Kelce, who limped off after the play.

On a first-and-10 at the Washington 28, defensive end Josh Sweat beat left tackle Charles Leno Jr. for a strip sack of Heinicke, which tackle Marlon Tuipulotu scooped up at the 18. It was the Eagles’ 19th takeaway of the season. The play erased an earlier miscue in which the Eagles roughed the Washington punter.

On the Commanders’ first drive, cornerback Josiah Scott’s great defense on a third-and-five at the Washington 13. Scott, playing in place of the injured Avonte Maddox, closed on Washington receiver Curtis Samuel. Scott benefitted from a poorly thrown ball.

The Bad

The Eagles’ interior defense on Washington’s second drive. The Commanders rammed it right down the Eagles’ throats, behind Robinson.

On third-and-five at the Eagles’ 30, Hurts missing a wide-open Kenneth Gainwell down the middle of the field, opting instead to look at the covered A.J. Brown with 1:12 left in the half.

The Ugly

With 1:38 left to play, defensive tackle Brandon Graham being called on a late hit for shoving down Heinicke on a third-and-seven at the 50. Heinicke had taken a knee and Graham looked like he wanted to hold up, but his momentum carried him into Heinicke. Graham was flagged for a personal foul, which essentially gave the Commanders the game.

With 5:43 left, Watkins fumbling at the Washington 27. It was third turnover for the Eagles, which matched their season total of turnovers for over eight games. Watkins hauled in a long reception from Hurts, and the ball popped out when he hit the ground.

With 9:09 to play, Goedert fumbling the ball at the Eagles’ 34. There was a blatant face mask on the play by Washington linebacker Jamin Davis that somehow was missed by the officials. It led to Joey Slye’s 55-yard field goal with 7:33 left to play.

On Washington’s first drive of the second half, Slay getting beat badly by McLaurin on a first-and-10 at the Washington 42, when the candy-armed Heinicke hit him in stride for a 41-yard gain at the Eagles’ 17. It led to Slye’s 32-yard field goal and a Washington 23-14 lead with 5:13 left in the third quarter. It was the Commanders’ fifth-straight drive in which they scored.

The Eagles’ first half. They were outhustled, outcoached, and outgained, 235 to 101. The first two quarters saw the mediocre Commanders convert 9 of 12 third downs, five-straight during one stretch. Washington ran 51 plays to the Eagles’ mere 19. The 51 plays were more than any NFL team ran in the first half this season. The time of possession was a lopsided 23:49 to 6:11, the most lopsided time of possession against the Eagles since Week Six of the 2001 season, when the Eagles beat the New York Giants in an utterly forgettable 10-9 victory, ironically, on Monday Night Football.

Washington scored on four of five drives in the first half, on a total of 49 plays, each drive averaging 12.25 plays a series. One drive lasted 16 plays, at the time the total amount of plays the Eagles ran the entire game.

The Eagles’ defense on Washington’s marathon 16-play, 86-yard drive that absorbed 7 minutes, 4 seconds off the clock in the second quarter. It resulted in Robinson’s one-yard touchdown and a Commanders’ 17-14 lead with 1:39 left in the half. The Commander converted three third downs and a fourth down on the drive.

On first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 45 with 8:36 left in the first half, Hurts throwing into double coverage on Brown at the Washington 10. The pass was intercepted by Derrick Forrest, with Commanders’ cornerback Benjamin St-Juste also bookending Brown on the coverage. It resulted in Robinson’s second-quarter go-ahead score.

Washington converted three third downs on its first-quarter touchdown drive. Two plays after Slay jolted the ball free from Logan, he somehow lost McLaurin on a third-and-two at the Eagles’ 44. The McLaurin 26-yard reception was the big play of the series.

The Eagles’ special teams. Gibson opened the game with a 41-yard kickoff return that the Eagles happened to be fortunate enough that a holding penalty was called. It was basic kickoff coverage 101, with a breakdown that gave Gibson a clear running lane.

Again, special teams made a big blunder. On fourth-and-five at the Washington 13 on the Commanders’ first drive, safety Reed Blankenship ran right into Washington punter Tress Way for a roughing call and a first down. Fortunately, the Commanders fumbled the ball away on the next play.

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for,,,, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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