They never make it easy, do they? They have to play with your emotions, get your heart rate up 180 and freak you out for 3 ½ quarters before they figure things out.
But a win’s a win, and for the second time this month the Eagles struggled against the Chiefs, let Sam Howell tear them down and kept finding ways to lose before finally finding a way to win.
It took overtime on Oct. 1 at the Linc. On Sunday at FedEx, the Eagles fought back from an early 11-point deficit and a seven-point deficit in the 4th quarter to defeat the Commanders 38-31.
The Eagles trailed by seven before scoring 21 points in the final nine minutes of the game.
Jalen Hurts was magnificent, AJ Brown made history and Reid Blankenship turned the game around and the Eagles are now 7-1 and still have the best record in the NFL.
Here are our 10 immediate takeaways from the Eagles’ 25th win in their last 30 games:
1. This football team has serious qualities. They don’t always play well. They don’t always play smart. But they have that rare ability to dig deep when things are falling apart everywhere and get the train back on track, and that’s not easy to do. They have a mental toughness that you just don’t see very often, and that allows them to perform at a high level when the pressure is greatest. In New England, they blew a 16-point lead before rallying to win by five. Against the Vikings, they nearly blew a 20-point lead before winning by six. They allowed the commanders to take them into overtime with a last-second drive earlier this month. And while you’d like them all to be 38-6, it’s just not happening for this team right now, but they’re 4-1 in one-possession games — 4-1 in games that get your heart rate up 180 — and there’s something to be said for a team that knows how to win and keeps finding different ways to win. Things are going to get very difficult. The Cowboys and then a bye and then the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks again. This is the stretch we’ve been waiting for since the schedule was released in April, and these games look very, very tough. The Eagles will definitely need to play better to navigate these six games and secure the four wins that would make the streak successful. But I’ll tell you what. I wouldn’t bet against them. They just keep winning. Even when you have no idea how.
2. I have nothing left. I have no words There are no adjectives to adequately describe what we are seeing from AJ Brown. I don’t think the right words even exist. Brown had eight targets, eight catches, 129 yards, two more touchdowns and became the first player in NFL history with six straight games of at least 125 receiving yards. No one—not Jerry Rice, not Larry Fitz, not Randy Moss—had ever done that before. Jalen Hurts has done an amazing job getting him the ball and the two have a really remarkable connection with each other. But Brown is just playing crazy right now, making tough catches, trampling defenders and corners once he gets the ball in his hands and finds the end zone. And he does it consistently week after week. We used to get excited here when Torrance Small had 86 yards. Or when James Thrash caught a 26-yard pass. Or when – oh my God! – Travis Fulgham had four straight 70-yard games. We have now entered a new realm. Brown is doing things that no one else has done.
He’s on another plane now. And you sense that he is not done yet.
3. I liked the matchup between the Eagles’ pass rush and Washington’s offensive line, and I liked the matchup between the Eagles’ secondary and Sam Howell. How could you not after the way the Eagles defense played Sunday against the high-flying Dolphins. The Eagles did find a way, but hey, Sam Howell broke that defense, and if it wasn’t for Reid Blankenship’s huge interception with eight minutes left in Washington territory, who knows? Howell — who had been sacked 40 times entering the game, the 2nd most in NFL history through seven games — wasn’t sacked until the final minute of the game and completed an absurd 39 of 52 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns. He was driving the ball up and down the field against the Eagles utility and you could excuse it as if it was Kevin Byard’s first game and the very inexperienced Sidney Jones was in the slot and Bradley Roby was still out. But it’s not like the Eagles have communication issues there. They just beat them. I’ve liked the way the Eagles’ pass rush has played over the past month, but Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick and Co. they just couldn’t generate any serious pressure on Howell, and he showed in the first game that if he has time in the pocket, he can make all the throws. That defensive performance was good enough to beat Washington, but it wouldn’t be good enough to beat the Cowboys, Chiefs, Bills, 49ers and Seahawks. They have to be better.
4. I’m not sure there’s a more revealing stat than turnover margin. The Eagles are 20-1 under Nick Siriani when they are plus-one or better, with 20 straight wins. When they were zero or worse, now they are 12-13. That’s why their current decline in turnover margin (is there anything?) is so concerning. They were minus-1 on Sunday with two turnovers and one score, and it was their sixth straight game without a positive turnover margin and fourth straight minus-1 or worse (their longest streak since 2012). It’s so hard to win like that, and they’re talented enough to beat the Rams, Dolphins and Commanders at minus-1, but they’re making it really tough. Over the past five games, they have just two scores — Darius Slay’s interception of Tua Tagovailoa last week and Blankenship’s pick on Sunday — and have committed nine fumble returns. That should be impossible. They have to find ways to protect the ball and they have to find ways to create runs or they’re going to be in a lot of trouble over the next few months.
5. Bad fumble on the goal line, sure, but Jalen Hurts was magnificent on Sunday. Completed 76 percent of his passes (29-for-38) for 319 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. You know the knee has been bothering him, but he just has the ability to deal with injuries, whether it’s the ankle in 2021, the shoulder last year or the knee this year. Hurts became just the third Eagles quarterback with a 300-yard, 4-TD, 0-INT, 75 percent game. Donovan McNabb did it twice — in 2005 vs. the 49ers and 2007 vs. the Lions — and Foles did it against the Raiders in a seven-TD game in Oakland in 2013. Still too many mocks, but when he can take over a game like that without a run — he only had two carries for seven yards before a couple of knee drops — it just shows you how locked in he is as a passer, as a quarterback. So hard. So talented.
6. Where the hell was D’Andre Swift in the first half? I think Brian Johnson does a good job overall, but he tends to forget about the running game at times, and when the Eagles got to halftime and Swift had one carry for three yards, it looked like opening day all over again. Johnson finally started recruiting Swift, who rushed 15 times for 56 yards in the second half with a touchdown in the 4th quarter. I understand you liked the matchup between the Eagles passing game and the Commanders secondary, but Swift is too good to be ignored like that.
7. We’ve talked so much about AJ Brown lately that it’s easy to forget about DeVonta Smith, who has kind of taken a backseat to Brown for most of this year. But Smith is really, really good, and it was good to see him do well with seven catches (on seven targets) for 99 yards, including that 38-yard touchdown. Obviously, the Commanders should have challenged the 18-yarder, but they didn’t. Smith is quietly having another very good season. He’s 39 for 482 and is on pace for 83 catches for 1,024 yards and seven touchdowns, and as teams start paying more attention to Brown, Smith will get more opportunities and he’s had a few drops this year, but Jalen Hurts has a big confidence and I expect a big second half from him.
8. Reid Blankenship may have had the worst game of his career — and it’s easy to forget that it was just his 10th career start — but he battled from start to finish, and that’s why he deserves so much credit for that interception. which really saved a game. Blankenship would be the first to tell you he was awful on Sunday. But the highlight of the game? The Eagles had just tied the game at 24-24 and, after a penalty, Washington had 2nd-and-15 at its own 20-yard line when Blankenship stepped in front of Terry McLaurin for his third career interception. His 17-yard punt return — and penalty — gave the Eagles a 1st-and-goal inside the 10. Two plays later, Jalen Hurts gave the Eagles the lead for good with his 8-yard TD pass to Julio Jones. The way Sam Howell threw the ball? Finishing a drive without a touchdown was huge and then setting up a TD? I don’t know if the Eagles would have won the game without that interception. You like to see a guy who has been struggling all day keep grinding, stay confident and play critically. It wasn’t Blankenship’s day for 52 minutes. Then he made the play of the day. That’s huge.
9. That Julio Jones touchdown was huge for several reasons. On one level, that gave the Eagles the lead for good. But in the bigger picture, it raised the possibility that Jones could become the WR3 the Eagles needed. I don’t know when or if we’ll see Quez Watkins again. And Olamide Zaccheaus wasn’t really a factor other than the Tampa game. Maybe Jones can be more than a future Hall of Famer to come. That touchdown made him the oldest Eagles WR with a touchdown catch since Irving Fryer (by Coy Detmer) in 1998. Yes, he’s 34, but it was a big play at a big time from a guy who just got here . I’ll tell you what, I’ll take the 34-year-old Jones over Kes or OZ. We’ll see, but this could turn into another big move of the season from Howie Roseman.
10. Jake Elliott’s 51-yard field goal in the first quarter was his fifth 50-yard field goal of the year, tying his own franchise record for 50 yards in a season … with nine games remaining. Elliott also had five 50-yarders in 2017 and five last year. What a weapon. He hasn’t been asked to kick long the past few weeks, but he’s made 9 of his last 10 from 50 yards and beyond (and 14 of his last 16). The dude is such a weapon.