By David McDonnell
The Washington Commanders outplayed the Eagles for most of Monday Night Football and duly gave their NFC East rivals their first loss of the season.
Key to the Washington win was their rushing attack and they ran the ball down the throat of Philadelphia 47 times, averaging over three yards a carry. It kept Jalen Hurts and his offence sitting on the sideline for long periods and when Taylor Heinicke needed to convert third downs he routinely found his best receivers, particularly Terry McLaurin who had 128 receiving yards on the night.
The Eagles got off to a terrific start when Josh Sweat knocked the ball out of Heinicke’s hands and two plays later, Jalen Hurts broke the plane for an early touchdown for the home side.
The Commanders answered back, working the ball downfield on a 13-play drive, which included three third down conversions, and Antonio Gibson ran in from two yards to tie the game.
Before the end of the first quarter the Eagles were seven ahead once again when Hurts faked a run and then passed over the defensive line to Dallas Goedert for another six-pointer as this contest threatened to turn into a shootout.
Rookie Derrick Forrest picked off Jalen Hurts to give the Commanders possession and 16 plays and 86 yard yards later, Brian Robinson Jr managed to break the plane from short yardage to give the Commanders the lead. Washington’s plan of keeping Hurts off the field was working and their 51 plays in the first half set a new NFL record this season.
It left the Eagles trailing at half time for the first time all year.
In the third quarter, Heineke found McLaurin for 42 yards for the biggest play of the night, but a redzone stop on third down left Slye to kick Washington nine points ahead.
On the first play of the fourth quarter Hurts found Devonta Smith who brushed off a tackle and ran into the endzone. It was a birthday TD for the former Heisman winner and left only two points separating the sides.
CJ Garner Johnson then got his sixth interception of the season when Heinicke underthrew a deep ball to McLaurin. Soon after Washington forced a Goedert fumble and Slye added a 55-yard field goal to extend the lead to five.
Then came the most important play of the game. Quez Watkins was found over the top but as he got to his feet Benjamin St Juste knocked the ball out and the rookie safety Forrest collected his second turnover of the night.
By the time Hurts got the ball back there were 3.30 left on the clock but they couldn’t convert a first down. The Eagles were about to get the ball back when Heinicke took a knee on third down and Brandon Graham collided into the quarterback to give the visiting team another set of downs.
The Eagles did get a last play with a five seconds left. It led to a mis-placed lateral and Casey Toohlill scooped and scored from a yard out to add some gloss to a close fought contest.
The Commanders are now 5-5 for the season, while the Eagles stay top seeds of the NFC alongside the Vikings with a record of 8-1.