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6 Oct 2023

The great escape

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October 6, 2023 Category: Sports Posted by:

The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t firing on all cylinders. That they keep winning in spite of that should scare the rest of the league. 

ABOVE PHOTO: Eagles defense sacks Washington quarterback Sam Howell. (Photos by Webster Riddick)

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN

If the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles aren’t playing their best football after the four first weeks, the rest of the league will really be in trouble when they do. 

But the mark of a good football team is finding ways to win when things aren’t necessarily working, and that’s what the 4-0 Eagles did in a thrilling 34-31 overtime win over the Washington Commanders in front of a sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. 

“We’ve won in a different than way than we’ve had to win so far this year,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. “I think that builds character. I think it builds a tighter team. It’s good when you’re able to win different ways because it tells you a lot about the character of your football team and I think we showed that today.”

Eagles Jake Elliott kicks a game winning 54 yard field goal.

Jake Elliott’s 54-yard field goal with 4:04 left in overtime kept the Eagles unbeaten over a game Commanders squad that was coming off a blowout loss at home against the Buffalo Bills. It was one of four field goals that Elliott hit for the game. 

“I was in that zone thinking it was going to come down to me in the fourth quarter. Obviously, the long touchdown pass (Hurts to Brown) prolonged it a little bit,” Elliott said. “I try to get into that mindset knowing that it’s coming down to me … I was happy to put that one through.”

The Commanders forced the overtime session with a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Howell to wide receiver and former Penn State star Jahan Dotson as time ran out in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles had taken a 31-24 lead prior to that on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts to wide receiver A.J. Brown with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter.

Throughout the first three games of the season, Hurts has been seemingly on the periphery of events due to inconsistent play in the first three weeks of the season. But against Washington, Hurts completed 25-of-37 passes for 319 yards and two touchdown passes, both to Brown. 

“I thought it was one of his best played games this year,” Sirianni said. “I thought he was clutch. You can override anything that goes on with a quarterback when he makes the plays when the play are needed and I thought that’s what [Hurts] did today. We needed a completion on that third and forever and he got a completion. We needed a touchdown, and he got the touchdown.”

Brown, who caught nine passes for 175 yard and two touchdowns, said Hurts played with a little fire today.

Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown makes a touchdown

“He kind a woke up a little bit and it gave everybody a boost,” said Brown, whose 59-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter gave the Eagles their first lead of the game. “Most of the time Jalen, if the game’s on the line or throws a good ball, he’s going to be mellow. But that fire and that desire showed up today.”

Hurts said winning games like this helps to bring the team and gives them confidence to know how to react when the team is in tight ball games like Sunday’s win over Washington. 

“It’s great to have games like this because it shifts the spirit of the team,” Hurts said. “I think we can never get comfortable with winning. … When you experience moments like this that does so much for the character of the team.”

In the first half, the Commanders in no way resembled the team that got blasted on their homefield last week by the Buffalo Bills. But then again, the Philadelphia Eagles defense wasn’t exactly the same squad that held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to under 200 yards of total offense. 

The Commanders scored on three of their first four possessions. Washington scored touchdowns the first two times they possessed the football on two 75-yard drives. 

The first came on a one-yard run by wide receiver Curtis Samuel and the second came on a fumble recovery in the end zone by wide receiver Terry McLaurin after Eagles linebacker Nick Morrow pried the ball loose from Washington running back Brian Robinson Jr. at the one-yard line. 

Eagles Milton Williams and Brandon Graham going after Commanders QB Sam Howell.

The Eagles answered Washington’s first touchdown with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a five-yard touchdown run by D’Andre Swift to tie the game at 7-7. 

The Commanders took a 17-7 lead late in the second quarter on a 27-yard field goal by Joey Slye. The Birds cut the deficit to 17-10 on a 41-yard field goal by Elliott to end the first half.  

In the second half, the Eagles score 14 unanswered points on two more field goals by Elliott and Hurts 59-yard touchdown pass to Brown.  Washington tied the game midway through the fourth quarter at 24-24 on a 15-yard run by running back Brian Johnson Jr.

Now that the Eagles are one of two last undefeated teams in the NFL — the other being the San Francisco 49ers — all eyes will be on them as they take on the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles next Sunday. The game starts at 4 p.m. and you can catch it on Fox-29.

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