Carson Wentz was, well, Carson Wentz. He may have changed uniforms, but the last time the Eagles saw Wentz, he was still the same, with no pocket presence, anxious under pressure and further proved why the former Eagles’ quarterback is now with his third team in three years.
The Eagles’ defense knew to speed up Wentz meant his mechanics would break down—and they did, in the Eagles’ impressive 24-8 victory over the Washington Commanders on Sunday at FedEx Field.
The Eagles sacked Wentz a career-high nine times for minus-58 yards and held Washington to 1-for-3 in the red zone. Entering the game, the Commanders had converted five-of-five red zone chances.
The last time the Eagles started 3-0 was in 2016 when they finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs, coincidentally, in Wentz’s rookie season. Prior to that, the last 3-0 start that resulted in the playoffs was the 2004 Eagles, who went 13-3 and lost to New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Could this team be heading in that direction?
There was a lot of good, hardly any bad or ugly in the Eagles’ 24-8 dominance over Washington.
DeVonta Smith’s leaping 44-yard catch over Washington’s Kendall Fuller and Bobby McCain with :25 left in the first half. It was Lynn Swann-esque, the way Smith perfectly timed the catch, with Fuller on him and McCain closing in. His reception set up his two-yard TD catch from Hurts for a 24-0 halftime lead. Earlier in the game, on the Eagles’ third drive, Smith’s 45-yard over-the-shoulder catch on first-and-10 from the Eagles’ 39 set up Jake Elliott’s 32-yard field goal. Smith had seven catches for 156 yards receiving in the first half. He finished with a career-high eight catches for another career-high 169 yards.
Smith’s 2-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone over Fuller again on the last play of the half. Fuller was right on him, and it was a sharply thrown pass that the tiny Smith outfought Fuller to grab.
Defensive end Josh Sweat and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox combining to drag down Wentz for a seven-yard sack on Washington’s third-and-five at the Commanders’ 45 on its first drive. It was a portent of things to come.
Sweat made up for his earlier whiff on the first play of the game. Cox again sacked Wentz for a six-yard loss, and Javon Hargrave entered the sack party on the next play, taking down Wentz for a third time in the first quarter for minus-seven yards. Brandon Graham and Haason Reddick combined to take Wentz down a fourth time, giving the Eagles four sacks for minus-28 yards in the first quarter alone.
It marked the first time the Eagles had four sacks in the first quarter since 1991 when Reggie White, Mike Pitts, Mike Golic and Clyde Simmons struck fear into opposing quarterbacks. The Eagles became the first NFL team to have four sacks in the first quarter since, ironically, Washington had four sacks in the first quarter on October 13, 2019, against Miami, when they went by another name.
Of the Eagles’ nine total sacks, eight came from the starting defensive front (2.5 sacks from Graham, 1.5 each from Reddick, Sweat and Cox. Linebacker T.J. Edwards had the other sack).
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis’ pass deflection on Washington’s second play on first-and-10 at the Washington 40.
Graham’s strip sack of Wentz on Washington’s fourth drive at the Commanders’ 23. That resulted in Hurts’ 23-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert with 13:18 left in the half.
Center Jason Kelce and guard Isaac Seumalo’s blocks that set Goedert free on the touchdown. Kelce hid the tight end screen well and got out on Washington linebacker Jamin Davis, while Seumalo took out Washington’s Cole Holcomb to create an open lane.
On the Eagles’ fifth drive, Hurts connecting with A.J. Brown for 38 yards on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 19.
On the Eagles’ sixth drive, Hurts hitting A.J. Brown for his first TD of the season on a third-and-eight at the Washington 9. Brown muscled his way through Washington nickel corner Benjamin St-Juste to reach the end zone.
On the last play of the third quarter, Sweat, despite being held by Washington left tackle Charles Leno, forcing Antonio Gibson to turn back and get finished off by safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and nickel back Avonte Maddox for a 10-yard loss at the Eagles’ 14. Sweat took down Wentz for the eighth sack for minus-55 yards.
Maddox taking down Logan Thomas at the Eagles’ 1 on fourth-and-goal with 14:10 left to play.
The Eagles’ defense. In Week 1, the Eagles gave up 35 points and 386 yards of total offense to Detroit, and those numbers dropped to 7 points and 264 yards of offense against Minnesota in Week 2 and now to 6 points (against the Eagles’ second team defense) and 240 yards of total offense allowed to Wentz and Washington.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards’ sacking Wentz a career-high ninth time with 3:55 left to play.
The Eagles going wide to Zach Pascal blowing the fourth-and-one at the Washington 8 with 7:11 left to play in the half. It was a rare flaw in an otherwise flawless game. That stop could have given Washington a jolt of confidence, down 10-0 at the time.
The Eagles have failed to score in the fourth quarter and have now gone five-straight quarters without scoring in the second half.
The Eagles’ fourth-quarter offense resulting in their first points of the year—going to Washington on a safety.
Goedert being blown back into the end zone by Washington defensive tackle Daron Payne for a safety with 14:06 to play and Washington’s first points of the game.
Sweat’s whiff, followed by Gardner-Johnson’s miss on Washington’s Curtis Samuel’s jet sweep for 15 yards on the very first play of the game.
Hurts’ badly executed shuttle pass attempt to Jack Stoll on second-and-goal at the Washington 1 with :22 left in the half.
Davis’ personal foul with :49 left in the third quarter, giving Washington a fresh set of downs at the Eagles’ 14. Davis had lined up over the long snapper on Washington Joey Slye’s converted 47-yard field goal. Commanders’ coach Ron Rivera opted to take the points off the board, which ended up with the Commanders getting nothing. Washington did get a safety on the field flip.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com 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.