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- READ: Nick Siranni on Eagles' first defeat: 'We played like crap'
- READ: Eagles’ Brandon Graham regrets putting game in ‘refs’ hands’
- READ: Terry McLaurin burns Eagles in Commanders' big upset win
- Washington game-plans to perfection. The Commanders put together the perfect strategy to not keep pace with the high-flying Eagles, and it all revolved around one core tenet: Keep the ball out of Philadelphia's hands. Washington set its own pace as it dominated time of possession, establishing an incredible 40:24-19:36 advantage by the time the game ended. At one point in the third quarter, the Commanders had more than quadrupled the Eagles' time of possession, and it showed in the final score. Philadelphia scored two quick-strike touchdowns, but without the ball, the Eagles' high-powered offense was forced to watch the Commanders methodically move down the field. Brian Robinson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, but it didn't matter, because he often gained the necessary 2-3 yards needed to convert third downs (Washington finished 12 of 21 on third down) and keep drives alive. Nothing came easy for Washington, which scored just two touchdowns in conventional methods on scoring drives of 13 and 16 plays. But combined with a stingy defense, it proved to be a winning formula that produced a shocking upset on the national stage.
- Philadelphia's defensive hesitancy burns the Eagles. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is going to want to use this tape as a teaching tool for himself. The Eagles avoided dialing up blitzes in the first half, trusting their front four to generate pressure organically, which allowed both phases of Washington's offense to find just enough success to keep drives moving. Instead of getting aggressive with the intention of forcing Taylor Heinicke to make mistakes, the Eagles opted to play coverage, and it gave Washington just enough space to pick up tough yards on the ground and allow Heinicke to find open targets downfield. Throughout the first two quarters, Washington receivers appeared to be constantly open on key downs, and it showed in the Commanders' 20-14 lead. Gannon eventually became more aggressive, boosting the Eagles' blitz rate from 22.7% in the first half to 50 in the second, but the timing didn't favor the Eagles and their comeback hopes. Instead of operating with a killer instinct, Philadelphia gave Washington too much room to operate, and the Commanders fully capitalized.
- Taylor Heinicke has presented Ron Rivera with a tough decision. Anyone who has followed the Commanders this season will likely agree: Heinicke's return to the starting lineup has injected life into this team. Washington went from a squad trudging through every game to a group that plays with passion and the belief it can win every week. The Commanders nearly pulled it off against Minnesota in their most recent game before collapsing late, and seemed to learn from that loss this time around, hanging on to win on the road. It wouldn't have happened without a few key Heinicke completions, including a deep shot to Terry McLaurin that set up a field goal to push Washington's lead to nine. Though he's not the most gifted passer, Heinicke made the most of the throws necessary to upset the Eagles in their house. His final line of 17-of-29 passing for 211 yards and one interception won't blow anyone away, but the tape tells us differently. And when Rivera reviews the last month with Heinicke in place of Wentz, he might not be so quick to go back to the usual starter.
- Eagles' usual lull sinks them. Philadelphia is notoriously excellent in the first half of games (19.4 points and 234 yards per first half in 2022), and nearly as bad in the second half (7.9 points and 142.8 yards). Usually, the Eagles do enough in the first two quarters to ride it out to victories, but when they hit the break trailing by six, it was easy to become concerned about their chances. Add in the time of possession difference, and the result was a team handcuffed by its inability to consistently get stops and turn them into points. Philadelphia nearly overcame these struggles Monday night, scoring a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter to move within two points of Washington, but the Eagles' failure to capitalize on a C.J. Gardner-Johnson interception stood as proof that Monday night wasn't their night. Too many mistakes (including a momentum-sapping first-half interception) dug the Eagles into a hole they couldn't escape for the first time this season. If they want to win a Super Bowl, they'll need to figure out how to be better in the final two quarters -- especially when they're trailing.
- A weird night ends another undefeated bid. Philadelphia ran into a perfect storm of misfortune on Monday night. The Eagles had turned the ball over three times all season, then exceeded that total with four against the Commanders. One of them came along with a missed facemask penalty, while another happened only after a deep completion to Quez Watkins that would have put the Eagles in a great position to regain the lead late. The oddities didn't end there, though: Punter Arryn Siposs lined up to boot one away just outside the two-minute warning, but felt the pressure from a rusher, and instead of kicking, he tried to escape to buy time and space to punt. The play produced an illegal man downfield penalty, but more importantly took the clock inside two minutes, robbing the Eagles of an anticipated clock stoppage they could have used to try to get the ball back with more time left to work. Finally, on the ensuing drive, Heinicke appeared to give himself up for a crucial third-down stop late in a one-score game, but Brandon Graham hit him, drawing a painful penalty that gave Washington a fresh set of downs and effectively ended the Eagles' chances of a comeback. Sometimes, it just isn't your night. Combined with Washington's ball-control offense, the Eagles just didn't get enough breaks to keep their undefeated season alive.
Next Gen stat of the game: Brian Robinson recorded 86 rushing yards after contact, the most in his young career.
NFL Research: With his pick of Taylor Heinicke in the fourth quarter Monday night, C.J. Gardner-Johnson became the first Eagle in the Super Bowl era to record an interception in five straight games.