Perhaps it took a few possessions longer than many wanted, but once the Eagles knocked off the rust from a 16-day layoff from gameday (in this case, night), it was all systems go on Tuesday against the Washington Football Team. Recovering from a 10-point deficit created by a series of self-inflicted wounds, the Eagles roared back with 20 unanswered points on the way to a 27-17 win in prime time at Lincoln Financial Field to reach 7-7 on the season and firmly entrench themselves in the middle of the NFC playoff picture.
How did they do it? The defense limited Washington and newly signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert to 237 total yards and just 63 on the ground. The offense, meanwhile, took control of the line of scrimmage and overpowered Washington's defensive front with 519 total net yards and incredible balance – 281 in the passing game and 238 on the ground, an assault that moved the ball up and down the field for most of the night.
"I've never been part of anything like this," running back Jordan Howard said after his return to the lineup after missing two games with a knee injury. Howard contributed 69 rushing yards on 15 carries. "This offense, we're getting it done in a lot of ways. And you can see the defense, even if there isn't a physical reaction, they get down. They don't know what to do to stop us."
Playing 54 hours after the scheduled 1 p.m. Sunday kickoff, the Eagles put themselves in an early 10-0 hole when tight end Dallas Goedert mishandled a Jalen Hurts pass and had it weirdly bounce off his heel into the hands of Washington safety Landon Collins. The WFT turned that into seven points and a lead on a 7-play, 26-yard drive, and then extended it to 10-0 when Hurts fumbled when hit by defensive end Montez Sweat. Collins recovered and returned the ball 23 yards to the Washington 47-yard line and Gilbert and the WFT moved the ball 49 yards for a field goal and a double-digit lead.
Then the offense got untracked, and once untracked the Eagles were impressive mixing a running game that spread the love around to Miles Sanders (a career-high 131 yards on 18 carries, Howard, and Hurts (38 yards on eight carries). The passing game put the "hurt" to the Washington defense as well, as Hurts knocked off the rust and completed 20 of 26 passes for 296 yards, with a couple of incompletions that weren't his fault, and a huge touchdown pass to Greg Ward midway through the fourth quarter that capped an 8-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to push the Eagles ahead, 27-17.
In this game, the Eagles showed patience, they showed resiliency, and they displayed a fourth-quarter killer instinct with that touchdown drive to account for the final score. Some of the parts of the ultra-important victory that stood out ...
1. Hurts had the second-possession fumble, but otherwise he was on point in his first action since November 28 against the New York Giants. It's fair to say that it took a minute to get into his groove, but once Hurts found it he was very difficult to stop. Washington seemed to want to keep Hurts in the pocket and make him beat the defense with his arm, and he did that, spreading the ball around. Goedert was targeted nine times and had seven receptions for a career-high 135 yards. Wide receiver Jalen Reagor had 3 catches for 57 yards, including a 34-yard catch-and-run to set up the scoring throw to Ward. DeVonta Smith had 3 receptions for 40 yards and Ward chipped in with 2 catches, 28 yards, and the touchdown.
"I think it was very fun being back out on the field and getting the win, which we needed," Hurts said. "Our first division win this year and it couldn't have come at a better time."
2. The running game is just awesome. For the seventh straight game, the Eagles went over the 175-yard mark and they eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark for a league-best fifth time this season. It's been a remarkable performance from the offense, and given that the Eagles were without left guard Landon Dickerson, who was on Sunday placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and replaced in the starting lineup by Sua Opeta, it was an even more impressive performance.
"It's so much fun," said Sanders, who had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. "The offensive line, they're creating huge holes for us and they're making our job easy. It doesn't matter who carries the ball. Honestly, I don't think any of us care who gets the ball, as long as we're winning games. We fell into a little hole tonight, but nobody panicked or got upset. We knew that once we got it rolling, we would be OK."
Whether Sanders has been the ballcarrier or Howard with his north-south style or Boston Scott or Kenny Gainwell, the Eagles are blowing away the rest of the league with their rushing totals. They know that, with three games remaining in the regular season, they have confidence running the football against any defense.
"No doubt," Sanders said. "Those guys up front are so physical and they're doing a great job. We're just following them."
3. Goedert had the freaky drop that became a touchdown and he wasn't able to handle another Hurts pass, but Goedert caught the other seven balls that went his way and just tormented the Washington secondary by running terrific routes, breaking tackles, and making big plays. The Eagles saw early what we're all seeing with Goedert – he is a nightmare matchup and his skill set is on par with any in the NFL at his position.
4. The defense settled in after the early 10-point deficit as Washington's offense played with a short field and at one point limited the WFT to 36 offensive yards on five possessions. Washington put together only one real scoring drive, moving 69 yards on seven plays in the fourth quarter. Fletcher Cox had 1.5 quarterback sacks, seeing some time on the edge and dominating there with four quarterback hits.
"It was big getting a division win. We knew going into this game we were 0-2 in the division, so we felt we kind of earned some respect," he said. "We put all the distractions to the side and after the slow start we got the win. It isn't how you start sometimes, it's how you finish and we finished. We responded after what I would say was a slow start."
As for moving around the defensive line, Cox was pleased.
"I wouldn't say it was new. We ran it before," Cox said. "Obviously it's different for me. I take advantage of every opportunity I get and we saw an opportunity. I had a little more room out there and took advantage. It was good for us."
5. The defense was going up against a newly signed quarterback in Gilbert, with both Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen sidelined on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. It was a unique situation for both teams, as they had spent all week preparing for Heinicke to start, only to learn of the game being postponed and Heinicke's status being up in the air late on Tuesday afternoon.
The Eagles knew they had to limit Gibson, who had just 26 rushing yards and 39 receiving yards, and they did that. They knew they had to contain wide receiver Terry McLaurin and they did that – McLaurin had a 46-yard reception but only one catch for 5 yards after that. Philadelphia attacked the line of scrimmage and took over the momentum of the game after the early 10 points allowed.
All in all, it was the kind of win the Eagles wanted to have. They came off of their bye week. They were delayed by the NFL's decision to postpone the game to Tuesday night in prime time. They just went out and played football as a team and won a game they needed to have.
Next up: New York. Sunday against the Giants is another playoff game for an Eagles team that is in the thick of it and loving every minute of the playoff pressure.
"Go out and win," Cox said. "That's our mindset."