Survive and advance. That’s what the Eagles did Tuesday night when the Birds (7-7) survived a 10-0 deficit early, then outscored Washington 27-7 over the last three quarters to walk away with a 27-17 win and advance further to grabbing a playoff spot.
“It just shows guys really just staying together through it all and understanding the ups and downs throughout the game,” said safety Rodney McLeod, who totaled four tackles for the game. “Just keep pushing - keep believing, more importantly. That’s what we always stress, man. You’re never out of it until the clock hits zero. [We] had a little slow start but we bounced back strong and we can build off of the three quarters that we played well in going into this next ball game.”
When the Eagles-Washington game scheduled for Lincoln Financial Field was postponed to Tuesday December 21 because the Football Team was overwhelmed with COVID issues, sports talk radio shows throughout the Delaware Valley went wild with comparisons to the Eagles 24-14 loss to the Vikings on Tuesday, December 29, 2010.
That game was also moved from Sunday to Tuesday over fears of a snow blizzard (that never happened).
Back in 2010, the Eagles were playing their first game since the Birds staged a historic come-from-behind win against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. The Eagles clinched the NFC East erasing a 34-10 deficit.
The emotional hangover showed.
Unknown quarterback Joe Webb threw for 195 yards and ran for a touchdown in his first career start filling in for an injured Brett Favre, and the lowly Vikings stunned Mike Vick and the Eagles 24-14 in the NFL's first Tuesday game since 1946.
That nightmare returned in the first quarter of the Eagles must-win game against an undermanned Washington team that was being led by an unknown quarterback named Garrett Gilbert.
After the Eagles defense forced a Washington punt on its first drive, The Birds coughed the ball up on their first two drives, resulting in a one-yard touchdown run by Antonio Gibson and a 22-yard field goal by Brian Johnson.
The first turnover occurred on a third-and-one at the Eagles 22-yard line. Jalen Hurts hit tight end Dallas Goedert right in the hands on a short pass, only to see Goedert mishandle the catch right into the waiting arms of Washington safety Landon Collins who returned it to the Eagles 26-yaed line.
Seven plays later the Football Team had a 7-0 lead.
Goedert used that mishap to fuel what ended up being a career day.
“At the start of the game, it was a great play call,” said Goedert, who finished with a game-leading seven catches for 135 yards. “The coaches had it dialed up. Tyree (Jackson) did a great job of getting the pick on my guy. I was looking up the field to score on that first play that bounced off of my foot. But no, I don’t think it was a little bit of rust. It has been a long time since we have played, but I was happy that we were able to continue to fight throughout the whole game. None of us really cared how it started; we just cared how it finished. We got the win and that is all that matters.”
The second turnover happened after Hurts led the Eagles from their own 31-yard line, all the way to the Washington 16 where, on a second and six, Hurts was strip-sacked by defensive end Montez Sweat, who cleared COVID protocol on Monday. Collins recovered Hurts’ fumble and returned it to the Washington 47-yard line.
One the first play from scrimmage Gilbert hit Terry McLaurin with a 46-yard dime at the seven-yard with
The catch set up the Johnson field goal.
The crowd at the Linc started to boo…it looked like Joe Webb reincarnated.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards was asked if he was surprised Washington QB Garrett Gilbert made plays that made him look like he has played all season. Gilbert finished 20 0f 31 for 194 yards, no interceptions or TD passes. He was sacked twice.
“No, I mean he’s a good player and he got the start for a reason. He came in and made the right reads and kept his team in the game,” said Edwards, who finished with six total tackles, a tackle for loss and a defended pass. “I thought he did well and we did a good job of affecting him, too. We wanted to make him as uncomfortable as we could.”
OFFENSE STARTED TO ROLL IN THE SECOND QUARTER
Credit Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni and Hurts. The Eagles offensive unit picked itself up off the mat and tied the game 10-10 at the half.
The Eagles scored first on a 20-yard Jake Elliott field goal. Hurts drove the Birds 75 yards on eight plays. The drive stalled at the two-yard line.
The touchdown came after the Eagles defense forced a three-and-out, taking over at their own 23-yard line.
Hurts led his team on a 77-yard, 11-play drive that ended with Hurts sneaking in from the one.
The Eagles took the opening drive of the third quarter and drove 75 yards on six plays including a 20-yard catch-and-run to Goedert that set up a first and goal from the one.
Hurts against snuck the ball in to give the Eagles a 17-10 lead they would not relinquish.
The Eagles offense amassed 238 yards rushing as a team on 41 carries. Running back Miles Sanders set another career high with 131 yards on 18 carries. Jordan Howard barreled his was to 69 yards on 15 carries.
Hurts finished 20 of 26 for 296 yards passing with one touchdown pass. H was sacked three times and was charged with an interception.
Hurts also rushed eight times for 38 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
The Eagles got all this production with deep backups Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta manning the guard positions.
The second year quarterback seemed to respond after getting chewed out by Sirianni on the sideline after his fumble.
Hurts said he told his coach not to be afraid to get on him if he is making mistakes.
“I’ve been telling him all year that I’m a coaches’ kid,: Hurts said. “Basically all the coaches’ kids out there know what that means. It means they’ve been coached. They’ve heard everything. In high school I lived with the guy that was chewing me out. I made it clear to Coach all year, ‘You know, you can get on me a little bit.’ So after the fumble, he came up to me and said what he had to say. Then later on in the game he comes back and jokes with me and says, ‘I guess I’m just going to start coaching you like your dad coached you.’ So it was a funny moment. Whatever he said worked.”
The Eagles last TD came after the Football Team had closed the gap to 20-17 with 11:44 left in the fourth quarter after Jaret Patterson scored on a one-yard run.
On the next drive, Hurts hit seldom used wide receiver Greg Ward with a 19-yard pass that Ward made a remarkable back shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone.
Sirianni was asked how his team was able to overcome the shaky start.
"I think we just settled in,” the coach said in his post-game press conference. “Again, you never want to start like that, and it was rusty. It was really rusty, and you never want to start like that. Give them credit, too. They did some good things too -- I know they were in the right place with the drop, and they got pressure on Jalen on that. That's a good defense, and so we just -- I just give the guys credit for having a dog mentality. We were down 10-0 and they just kept playing and they played a really good game the rest of the way out.
“It was big when the defense held them to three and we were only down 10-0 and the offense came alive and it was a good team win. As disappointing as the slow start was, you saw a lot of guys contribute today and that was just a great team win.
“You saw wide Jalen Reagor contribute in a big way today, and I was really excited about that because he works his tail off at practice and he's got a lot of talent. I was happy for him to make some big plays. [DE] Tarron Jackson on defense, you saw it was a full team win of guys making plays. So started off rusty, but they bounced back because that's the type of team we have, resilient, dog mentality, next-play mentality.”
DEFENSE STEPS UP WHEN IT COUNTED MOST The Eagles defense held Washington to just 63 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Fletcher Cox was in Pro Bowl form recording three total tackle, 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
Cox was asked what he thought about the defensive performance as well as his own performance.
“I would say we started a little slow,” Cox said. “But we did pick it up at the end. We stepped up. We started slow and the biggest thing was getting back on track and responding after being down 10-0. We just needed to get stops, get them in a third-and-long.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsonii