Undisciplined, lackluster, mysteriously and shockingly out of it.
How do you explain this?
Put poor coaching and poor execution together and you get Commanders 32, Eagles 21.
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Washington was ready to play and the Eagles weren’t.
The undefeated record is gone, the 1972 Dolphins are celebrating and the Eagles have a few things to figure out to get things back on track.
Here’s our 10 Instant Observations from a disastrous evening at the Linc.
1. Darius Slay getting torched by Terry McLaurin. Jalen Hurts throwing his first interception in five games. A.J. Brown getting out-muscled on a deep ball and then falling down on a big third down. Quez Watkins with a terrible fumble. After building a quick 14-7 lead, the Eagles just seemed out of sorts for much of the game. Maybe it was the long layoff after a Thursday night game. Maybe it was just an inevitable letdown after eight straight wins. But what it really looked like was a Washington Commanders team that wanted this game more than the Eagles did. The Commanders don’t have the talent the Eagles have, but they were the aggressor on both sides of the ball. They were more physical. They were more intense. They were hungrier. Honestly, the Eagles looked like they were sleepwalking through the first half and into the second half, and that’s on everybody but nobody more than Nick Sirianni. He’s really done an incredible job with this team, but the simple truth is that he didn’t have his team prepared Monday night, and Ron Rivera did. By the time the Eagles finally woke up and started resembling the team that opened the season 8-0, they just made too many mistakes to come back. Penalties, turnovers, negative plays. Sirianni has been fantastic, but this time he just didn’t have his team ready to play.
2. The Commanders’ offensive line really took it to the Eagles’ defensive line, and I didn’t see that coming. They were more physical from start to finish and really neutralized the Eagles’ pass rush after Josh Sweat’s early on Washington’s second pass play of the game. With little to no pass pressure, Taylor Heinicke had his way finding open guys down the field way more than he should have, and Washington’s running game was able to grind out enough yards to keep the chains moving. Washington doesn’t have a high-powered offense – 25th in yards per game, 29th in yards per play, 22nd in rushing yards, 21st in passing yards, 23rd in sacks allowed and 27th in scoring – but when you win the line of scrimmage, you can do a lot of good things, and Washington’s lightly regarded o-line just beat up the Eagles’ d-line.
3. The lack of pressure from the Eagles’ edge players is really a concern. The edge rushers had 9.0 sacks in the Eagles’ first four games, but they have just three – including Sweat’s sack early Monday night – in the last five games. Robert Quinn hasn’t made an impact yet, Haason Reddick has one sack in his last four games, B.G. doesn’t have a sack since Week 3 and Sweat has just one since Week 3. It’s not like Heinicke was getting rid of the ball faster than Carson Wentz back in Week 3, the Eagles just couldn’t get near him.
4. I never, ever complain about the refs. But how on Earth do you miss the facemask on Dallas Goedert early in the 4thquarter on the play he fumbled? If Jamin Davis doesn’t yank Goedert to the ground by his facemask, there is no way he lose that football (or gets hurt). The Eagles had all the momentum in the world, they had just scored and gotten a takeaway, they were driving to a possible go-ahead score, and the refs just blew the game. They call every phantom pass interference, they never miss one of those stupid taunting penalties, and if a defender even looks at the quarterback the wrong way it’s a personal foul. But as egregious a facemask as you’ll ever see and nothing. That play didn’t lose the game for the Eagles, but it was an absolute garbage no call.
5. Darius Slay has had a hell of a season and he’s one of the NFL’s best corners, but yikes. That was the worst game he’s played as an Eagle, and who knows, it might have been the worst game he’s ever played. Heinicke didn’t hesitate to go after him, and Terry McLaurin made catch after catch against Slay, who was on McLaurin most of the night. McLaurin finished with eight catches for 128 yards, including receptions of 14, 18, 26 and 41 against the No. 1 pass defense in the league. It was that kind of day. Whether it was Slay, Hurts or A.J. Brown, the Eagles’ best players just weren’t very good Monday night. You’re not going to beat anybody when that happens.
6. Last time I checked, Miles Sanders is one of the best running backs in the NFL and was enjoying a career year. He entered the night 7th in the NFL in rushing yards and 9th with 5.0 yards per carry, and I know the Eagles didn’t run many plays in the first half, but no matter what the circumstances, one carry before halftime and two in the first 40 minutes is inexcusable. Sanders is one of your best weapons. Use him. There was a point late in the third quarter where the Commanders had run 38 rushing plays and the Eagles had run five. That just can’t happen. Eventually, Shane Steichen started dialing up Sanders and he ran the ball well in the second half. But it was too little, too late. The passing game just seemed out of sync for so long, and the best way to get a sputtering offense back into rhythm is to start leaning on what you do really well, and the Eagles run the ball really well.
7. I thought Sirianni goofed declining that penalty on Washington midway through the 4th quarter. It was 3rd-and-12 on the 36, and during an incomplete pass Washington was flagged for an ineligible man downfield. That’s a five-yard penalty, and it would have given Washington 3rd-and-17 on the 41. As it turned out, he declined the penalty and kicker Joey Slye nailed a 55-yard field goal. Slye had made a 58-yarder earlier in the game, but I like my chances with a 60-yarder. Now, maybe Washington gets a DPI or something, but in that situation you take that chance and trust your defense to get a stop and force a 60-yard kick or possibly a punt. Sirianni is such an aggressive coach, but that was a really passive decision.
8. Fletcher Cox has had a fabulous career and got off to a pretty hot start this year, but he’s really faded the last few weeks and we’re just not seeing much at all in the way of playmaking, run defense or pass pressure from the six-time Pro Bowler. Cox worked hard this offseason to bounce back after a lackluster 2021 season, and for a while he looked rejuvenated. But not lately. He really got pushed around Monday night, and it was tough to watch. Javon Hargrave is very good, but Marlon Tuipulotu and Milton Williams, the young depth guys, just aren’t giving the Eagles a whole lot, and what we thought would be a position of strength hasn’t been.
9. It feels like special teams has one huge screw-up every week. Whether it’s getting a field goal blocked, giving up a big return, allowing a first down on a fake punt, a muffed punt, it’s something every week, and special teams is truly this team’s Achilles’ heel. Monday night, it was Eagles rookie Reed Blankenship committing a ridiculous personal foul roughing the punter that gave the Commanders a fresh set of downs on their first possession. Now, as it turned out, the first play after the personal foul was Josh Sweat’s strip sack that led to a quick Eagles touchdown. But that doesn’t change the fact that special teams has been a disaster for the Eagles this year. It hasn’t cost the Eagles a game yet, but if they don’t get it cleaned up, when they face a good team – and they’ve got a few coming up - it sure could.
10. Speaking of a lack of discipline … we all love Brandon Graham, but he has to know better than to dive on Taylor Heinicke when he’s given himself up – and already been touched down by Haason Reddick - with a minute and a half left in the game on a 3rd down at the Washington 38. Who knows what would have happened if Washington had to punt? The Eagles get the ball back and at least have a chance. B.G. has been around long enough to go nowhere near Heinicke. Awfully unfortunate. But that’s the kind of day it was.