The Philadelphia Eagles are 4-0 after beating the Washington Commanders in overtime. The Birds keep winning ... but it doesn’t feel quite as awesome as it should? Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
Where would the Eagles be without their kicker this season?
Elliott’s played a big role in the team’s undefeated start.
He had makes from 41, 47, and 36 yards out (in that order) before nailing the game-winning 54-yard field goal in overtime.
Elliott’s kick was the longest game-winning field goal by an Eagles player in overtime since the 1970 merger.
He is cementing himself as one of the NFL’s very best kickers and the best kicker in Eagles franchise history.
We can’t not note that Brown’s taunting penalty almost contributed to the Eagles losing. The Commanders were able to start their final drive of regulation, which resulted in a touchdown to send the game to overtime, at their own 36-yard line instead of their own 25.
Of course, Brown ultimately did more help than harm. He caught nine of his 13 targets for a whopping 175 yards (19.4 average) and two touchdowns. Brown did a great job of generating yards after the catch, like he did on his first touchdown reception. He also broke up a near-Jalen Hurts interception on a YOLO ball down the left sideline.
Sunday marked the sixth multi-touchdown game of Brown’s NFL career and third of his Eagles tenure. He is the first Eagle to produce 175+ receiving yards and two touchdowns in a game since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.
Brown ranks sixth in the NFL in receiving yards after four games. He’s pretty good.
Smith caught seven of his nine targets for 78 yards. Most importantly, he made an awesome leaping contested catch on an underthrown deep ball ... as seen here:
This grab ultimately set up Elliott’s 41-yard field goal that cut Washington’s lead to seven points entering halftime.
It’s well-established by now that pre-draft concerns about Smith’s size were unfounded. But here’s another reminder anyway.
The guy is simply good at the game.
Gonna repeat what I said about Morrow after the Bucs game:
Kinda crazy how he went from not even being on the Week 1 roster to being the Eagles’ top linebacker wearing the green dot and relaying calls from Sean Desai.
Again, not a perfect player. There are some issues in pass coverage, where he’s allowed a 102.8 passer rating wen targeted. But he’s clearly outperforming expectations.
Morrow is the second-highest graded off-ball linebacker by Pro Football Focus this season, only behind Roquan Smith.
Nicholas Morrow finished the game with a career-high-tying 11 tackles (10 solo), a career-high 3.0 sacks, 3 TFLs, 3 QB hits and 1 FF.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 1, 2023
Morrow is the first #Eagles player to record 10+ tackles, 3.0+ sacks and 1+ FF in a game
Zach Cunningham has been doing some nice things, too. It’ll be interesting to see how the Eagles handle the playing time at linebacker once Nakobe Dean returns. He’s eligible to be activated in Week 6, though it’s not perfectly clear if he’s going to be healthy to play by then.
Blankenship had a rare bad moment when he failed to tackle Brian Robinson to the ground on a touchdown run. But he was much more often good than not. Blankenship nearly picked off Sam Howell on a deep shot to Terry McLaurin; the play was ultimately credited as a pass breakup.
But his biggest play, of course, involved his hand/arm getting stepped on to prevent a big McLaurin catch along the left sideline in overtime. More luck than skill there but Blankenship being close in coverage allowed the Eagles to have fortune go their way:
This was Hurts’ best game as a passer this season. He finished 25/37 (67.6%) for 319 yards (8.6 average), two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. For the first time in four games, he did not turn the ball over. That’s obviously pretty important and usually par for the course for him.
Jalen Hurts (8,865) surpassed Nick Foles (8,703) for the 9th-most passing yards in #Eagles franchise history.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 1, 2023
Hurts did leave some throws on the field, which has happened more often than you’d like to see this year. But he more than made up for those by making very nice plays with his arm, including a pin-point accurate throw to a tightly-covered Dallas Goedert over the middle. Or when he hit A.J. Brown in stride between two defenders along the left sideline.
Zooming out a bit, the Eagles have simply won a lot with Hurts as their starting quarterback. Whether you subscribe to #QBWinz or not, you have to admit this is pretty impressive:
The Eagles have won 21 of their last 22 regular-season games (.957) started by Jalen Hurts. Since 2021, Hurts’ .765 winning percentage (26-8) leads all NFL QBs.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 1, 2023
A notable negative that stuck out on Sunday was Hurts once again mostly being a non-factor as a runner. He did have a great 24-yard scamper after escaping pressure by stepping up in the pocket and taking off upfield. Outside of that play, though, he had eight carries go for just 10 yards. What gives?
Hurts is clearly sliding earlier and more often than he did last year. There’s obviously merit to him protecting himself. But not to the extent where it significantly neuters his rushing value. Hurts averaged 5.2 yards per carry over his first three seasons. He’s currently at 3.4 this year. Anecdotally, he looks slower on a lot of his runs. Defenses have not exactly been flummoxed by designed Hurts runs. Something that needs to be figured out.
Hurts rushing stats by starting season
2021: 9.3 attempts per game, 52.3 yards per game, 5.6 yards per attempt
2022: 11 attempts per game, 50.7 yards per game, 4.6 yards per attempt
2023: 10 attempts per game, 33.5 yards per game, 3.4 yards per attempt
OZ was an unsung hero in this game. His downfield blocking helped pave the way for Brown’s catch-and-run touchdown. He also made a crucial first down grab between two defenders on 3rd-and-8 during the Eagles’ final touchdown drive.
OZ is up to 69 yards over his last two games. Quez Watkins has 64 yards in his last nine games combined.
Covey gained 38 yards on his three punt returns, including a long of 20 that set the Eagles up at their own 43-yard line on their final touchdown drive. Covey is averaging 16.8 yards per return on nine tries so far this season. Pretty good.
Unfortunately, Covey might be in jeopardy of missing Week 5 due to a concussion. No NFL player has played in the very next game after suffering a concussion this season.
Pretty frustrating crew. The Eagles were negatively impacted by questionable calls in multiple high-leverage spots.
- 4th-and-6 at the 9-yard line got turned into 1st-and-goal at the 4-yard line with this very weak defensive holding penalty on Nicholas Morrow that was incorrectly attributed to Zach Cunningham. The Commanders started the game 7 to 0 instead of 3 to 0.
- Landon Dickerson was called offside on a Brotherly Shove attempt where Washington is also very offside and Daron Payne has his friggin hand under the ball. The Eagles punted from their own 45-yard line instead of having a first down at midfield.
lol at flagging an OG whose hand is in line with the football but not the DT doing the exact same thing with his hand AND his helmet pic.twitter.com/1ul6jNdKKQ— Shane Haff (@ShaneHaffNFL) October 1, 2023
- A weak pass interference penalty on James Bradberry turned another third down stop into 1st-and-goal at the 10-yard line. The Commanders ended up settling for a field goal anyway but the Eagles could’ve had a better chance at scoring a touchdown instead of a field goal on their final drive of the first half if they didn’t have to burn two timeouts and see 20 extra seconds go off the clock.
- A 3rd-and-10 getting turned into a first down with bogus defensive holding on Darius Slay. The flag was thrown very late. The Commanders ended up having to punt anyway. Ball don’t lie.
- Terrell Edmunds getting called for unnecessary roughness by trying to not let Sam Howell get to the marker along the sideline. What’s he supposed to do, just let him pick it up? 4th-and-short at the Commanders’ 49-yard line turned into 1st-and-10 at the Eagles’ 35-yard line to aid Washington’s game-tying drive to make it 24 to 24.
This crew just didn’t seem to totally know what they were doing? It took the Eagles coaching staff begging for a flag for them to call one on a play where D’Andre Swift basically got face masked twice. Hurts had his face mask grabbed (albeit lightly) in the open field and there was no call.
Simple line of scrimmage penalties, such as false starts, seemed to draw more discussion than they usually do. I kept wondering aloud why they were taking so long.
Let’s be clear: the Eagles weren’t perfect on the penalty front. They need to be more disciplined. And they need to play better to the point where poor officiating can’t cost them a win. That said, Ron Torbert’s crew was just not sharp.
Gainwell gained just 14 yards on his four carries for a 3.5 average. That’s the same average he has on the season with 32 carries for 111 yards. His seven receptions have produced just 32 yards for a 4.6 average.
Gainwell is very fortunate that Lane Johnson jumped on his fumble to allow the Eagles to kick a field goal to go up seven points in the fourth quarter.
Are we really sure Gainwell is the second-best running back on this roster? Among 34 running backs with at least 32 carries, only seven rank lower than Gainwell in success rate. Gainwell ranks 53rd out of 56 running backs graded by Pro Football Focus this season (minimum 20% snaps played).
Could be good to get Boston Scott more involved when D’Andre Swift isn’t in the game.
Though they weren’t the more justified calls, he ultimately had two penalties and he failed to come up with a red zone pick that hung up in the air that could’ve prevented seven points. Edmunds had an opportunity to prove he should be a full-time starter but the job will likely go back to Justin Evans when he’s healthy.
Desai’s in a bit of a tough spot. The Eagles are banged up at several positions and they have exploitable weaknesses when it comes to pass coverage talent. On the whole, Philly’s defensive coordinator has done some good things so far this year.
At the end of the day, though, he got outcoached by the Commanders. Washington had one of the best offensive performances of Week 4:
Five best offensive performances from Week 4, based on EPA per drive:— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) October 2, 2023
The Eagles allowed 31 points, 365 yards, and 26 first downs. They allowed the Commanders to convert four of their five red zone trips for touchdowns. They did not log a takeaway. They allowed the Commanders to send the game to overtime despite having Washington in a 3rd-and-17 on their own 40-yard line with 1:07 remaining and no timeouts to work with.
I DON’T KNOWS
“A WIN IS A WIN”
On one hand, the Eagles are 4-0 and history shows that can be pretty hard to do coming off a Super Bowl loss.
On the other hand, they still haven’t played their A-game. And that can be viewed a positive since there’s hope that things will eventually click for them. But the longer that doesn’t happen, the more one can only wonder if this is who they are and better days are not coming.
Winning is certainly better than losing. But style points are not irrelevant.
This isn’t to suggest the Eagles are destined to the same fate as those two teams. But I don’t think it’s unfair to believe the Eagles need to play better moving forward. We don’t need to invalidate how things don’t feel totally right even though they haven’t lost yet.
THE COMMANDERS’ GOOD LUCK AT THE LINC THE PAST TWO YEARS
As we discussed leading up to Week 5, the Commanders’ 2022 win over the Eagles was so fluky.
The Eagles uncharacteristically turned the ball over four times. There was a jump ball interception that was once right in A.J. Brown’s hands. There was a fumble that happened immediately after the Commanders gave up a deep catch to Quez Watkins. There was another fumble that was caused by Dallas Goedert nearly getting his head ripped off by a facemask penalty that inexplicably went uncalled.
It seems like it’d be hard for the Eagles to be so unusually unlucky again.
Welp. The Commanders’ uncanny good luck continued in the first half of this game.
We already touched on the ref stuff. Statistically, the Commanders have gotten more help from officiating against the Eagles than any other team:
Most 1st downs off penalties given up since start of last season (by the Eagles):— Brent Cohen (@EaglesRewind) October 1, 2023
Today - 5 (WAS)
Week 10 2022 - 4 (WAS)
Week 3 2022 - 4 (WAS)
Beyond that, the Commanders had a red zone pick that hung up in the air like a fly ball dropped by Edmunds. Then they managed to recover their own fumble in the end zone. Another fumble by Antonio Gibson somehow bounced right back up into his hands to result in an eight-yard gain instead of a loss of yards or a turnover.
Truth be told, I never felt too worried about the Eagles losing even when they were down because I felt like the Commanders couldn’t keep getting all the breaks. And things did start to even out a bit, such as Jahan Doston dropping a third down pass and McLaurin not being able to get his foot in along the sideline late in the game.
Let’s give Sirianni credit for his part in leading the Eagles to 4-0.
That said, there were coaching issues in this game that contributed to it being so close.
Brian Johnson shares blame for this as the play-caller but Sirianni cannot co-sign his offensive coordinator calling a run to Gainwell on 3rd-and-11 with a chance to go up two possessions early in the fourth quarter. That was a truly inexplicable decision.
Sirianni defended the play after the game:
Nick Sirianni said he doesn’t regret the Eagles’ run with Kenny Gainwell on 3rd-and-11 from the Commanders’ 16-yard line. pic.twitter.com/Df3bkdDPGA— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 1, 2023
He is wrong about the play he referenced from the Bucs game. That was a 3rd-and-6, not a 3rd-and-8. There’s a big difference between running on 3rd-and-6 and 3rd-and-11. With the former, you can more realistically set up going for it on 4th-and-short. Also, it should be noted that the converted run came with D’Andre Swift, who is MUCH better than Gainwell, at running back.
I couldn’t help but feel like the Eagles deserved to give up a game-tying touchdown to make it 24 to 24 after such an uninspiring 3rd-and-11 call. You can’t pay your franchise quarterback over a quarter of a billion dollars to take the ball out of his hands on 3rd-and-11 to instead rely on a guy who might be the third-best running back on the team. It’s not like the Eagles were guaranteed to get a touchdown if they passed it in that situation. But you have to go down with a better attempt than that garbage.
Also, I do think it’s fair to quibble with the Eagles scoring too quickly with Brown’s final touchdown. This isn’t hindsight analysis; I texted it in the moment:
Here’s the look at Swift on that 2nd-and-4 play from the Commanders’ 28-yard line:
It would’ve been smarter to run the clock and kick the field goal with time expiring.
The Eagles are very fortunate that Ron Rivera didn’t decide to go for two at the end of regulation. He had every reason to do so.
The positives: Hurts had his most productive passing game. The Eagles produced 34 points, 415 yards overall, and 6.2 yards per play. They had one of the most efficient Week 4 offensive performances:
Five best offensive performances from Week 4, based on EPA per drive:— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) October 2, 2023
The negatives: The 3rd-and-11 Gainwell run. The Eagles only converting four of their 12 third down attempts. Only producing one touchdown on two red zone trips, which means they’ve scored two touchdowns on their last six red zone trips this season.
Why can’t the Eagles get Goedert more effectively involved? I don’t know. Hence his placement here.
Goedert through his first four games played each season:
2018: 15 targets, 10 receptions, 90 yards, 1 TD
2019: 10 targets, 5 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD
2020: 19 targets, 14 receptions, 153 yards, 1 TD
2021: 16 targets, 13 receptions, 188 yards, 2 TD
2022: 20 targets, 16 receptions, 240 yards, 1 TD
2023: 19 targets, 13 receptions, 88 yards, 0 TD
As you can see, this is his slowest start since his second season. And he was playing through a leg injury and splitting snaps with Zach Ertz back then.
It’s obviously not as simple as only feeding him since Brown and DeVonta deserve their targets. But that dynamic existed last year when he got off to a career start. The Eagles need to figure this out.