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Spadaro: A glorious Sunday as Eagles dominate Commanders on 'home' turf

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

LANDOVER, MD – In front of a sold-out "home" crowd at FedEx Field on Sunday, the Eagles used a knockout combination of a relentless pass rush and a big-play offense to drub the Washington Commanders with 24 first-half points on the way to a 24-8 win that opened the NFC East portion of the 2022 regular season.

It was an overwhelming display of football dominance as the Eagles upped their record to 3-0 and to single out one player or even one side of the ball would be an injustice, because the Eagles swooped in and blew the doors off of the Commanders in front of a FedEx Field crowd that was, decidedly, an Eagles majority. To be fair, then, let's point out some of the highlights of a road win that felt extremely satisfying ...

• A week-long storyline was Carson Wentz playing against the Eagles for the first time, and it was something the fans certainly enjoyed. When it came time for the game, the defense feasted on No. 11. Philadelphia sacked Wentz six times in the first half, including the final snap of the first quarter and the first two for Washington in the second quarter. On one of the sacks, Brandon Graham forced a fumble that Javon Hargrave recovered at the Commanders' 24-yard line. Two plays later, the Eagles' offense turned that takeaway into seven points with a 23-yard Dallas Goedert touchdown off a screen pass.

The pass rush came from everywhere. Fletcher Cox played some inside at tackle and some on the edge and contributed 1.5 sacks. Haason Reddick had a sack and a half, including a strip-sack that Wentz recovered. Graham had 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits and Hargrave won a one-on-one battle inside the reached Wentz for a sack of his very own. The Eagles didn't do anything fancy in terms of extra rushers; they just won up front and kept winning.

Wentz was just 3-of-10 for 24 yards in the first half and by then he had totally changed his approach. Instead of dropping back and trying to extend plays, Wentz couldn't get the ball out of his hands fast enough. As a result, Washington's offense relied on the running game and the short passing game and mounted only one threatening drive – late in the third quarter – with the game even reasonably in question. That drive was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

Later in the fourth, Graham and Josh Sweat – with a pass-rushing assist from Kyron Johnson off the right edge – decked Wentz to kill a drive in Eagles territory. T.J. Edwards added one late to top it off as the Eagles registered a league-high in quarterback sacks for the season to date. That made for a total of nine quarterback sacks and Wentz was hit at least a half-dozen other times.

"You start early and it just gets going and everybody wants in on the fun," Reddick said. "It wasn't a whole lot more than us beating our man and winning our battles, and then it became contagious. We were all having so much fun."

Said Graham: "Everybody wanted to eat. We had the mindset that we wanted to get after Carson because he likes to keep a play alive and extend things, so you just keep after it on every play. Keep pushing and know the play isn't dead. Our back end is covering great and that helps. We felt like we dominated."

• The Eagles started slowly offensively but once they found their gear, boy, did they light it up. Jalen Hurts was 18-for-27 for 279 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, and wide receiver DeVonta Smith put on a clinic with a series of sensational catches – a 45-yard catch late in the first quarter on which Smith somehow hugged the right sideline and caught the football over his outside shoulder and was able to tippy-tap his feet inbounds on a play that led to a field goal, a 44-yard leaping grab between two defenders on which Smith landed on his back at the Washington 1-yard line, and then on the final play of the half, a reach-over catch on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line to put the finishing touches on Smith's seven-catch, 154-yard first half. Smith finished the game with eight receptions for 169 yards and the score.

• A.J. Brown was also sensational, catching five passes for 85 yards, including a 9-yard reception on a slant route that resulted in his first touchdown as an Eagle. Through three games, defenses have not had an answer for the Smith/Brown, Brown/Smith combination and the passing game has been devastating with the big-play strikes.

"I'm not sure what defenses are going to do, but we have enough weapons to counter whatever they throw at us," Brown said. "Keep spreading the ball, spreading the love. We'll take whatever comes our way. We all have the confidence to know we can make plays against anybody."

• Hurts compiled another huge game, throwing for 340 yards on 22-of-35 passing. He was 1-for-5 on the first two offensive drives and then unstoppable the rest of the first half as the Eagles scored 24 points in the second quarter.

"We're still trying to put that full 60 minutes together," center Jason Kelce said. "That's the goal. That's what we're striving for. And I think when we get there – and we all have confidence that we will – we're going to be tough to beat. There are a lot of pieces here. You see it when we get it going. Now we just need to do it for four quarters. There are always things to work on, things to improve. That's what is so exciting."

• The secondary limited the dangerous trio of Terry McLaurin (no catches in the first half), Curtis Samuel (3-21 in the first half), and Jahan Dotson (1-3 in the first two quarters) on the back end and it is very obvious that all of those new pieces are jelling.

"You can feel it, for sure," safety Marcus Epps said. "We're getting to know each other and we improve every day. It was fun out there today. Every time I looked into the backfield, we had the quarterback down on the ground. That's what you want. Our defensive line is the best in the league and we showed that today."

What else is there to say? As Kelce indicated, it wasn't the 60 minutes of great football the Eagles strive for, but it was plenty on a day when the vast majority of fans in the stands wore Midnight Green and chanted "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!!" for hours and hours and hours. It was a glorious Sunday for the unbeaten Eagles.

"You love to have these kinds of days," Graham said. "It's exciting. We know what we are capable of doing and today, man, in that first half we just dominated. Now, we have to get ready for Jacksonville, get our rest, and play our best game next Sunday."

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