In Philadelphia, a clear indicator of the Philadelphia Eagles fortunes is the sound of fans beneath the stadium wailing “Oh, nooooo.” This was especially evident when Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, with just one second left in regulation, connected with Jahan Dotson in the end zone for a game-tying touchdown.
Interestingly, it also illustrates that Eagles fans aren’t overly concerned about their team’s early-season challenges. Many, wearing their new Kelly green throwback jerseys, departed the stadium minutes before the game’s conclusion. This exodus occurred while the Eagles were still battling for an overtime victory, ultimately winning 34-31, maintaining their undefeated record.
The Commanders had dealt the Eagles their first loss of the 2022 season, and the fact that they came very close to repeating it offered little consolation. Ron Rivera, known for his daring plays and earning the moniker “Riverboat,” chose the safer path.
He decided to kick the extra point to force overtime instead of attempting a two-point conversion that could have secured an outright victory. His team had just executed a flawless two-minute drill, with Sam Howell repeatedly dissecting the Eagles’ defense. The Eagles appeared fatigued, so why not go for the two-point win?
Rivera commented on his team’s condition, saying, “They were exhausted; it was a lengthy drive.”
It indeed was. The resilience displayed by the Commanders, especially by Howell, who had faced relentless pressure with nine sacks from the Buffalo Bills the previous week, suggested that the NFC East might not dismiss the Commanders (who are currently 2-2) so easily this season. Rivera acknowledged that the Commanders had shown promise with their drives throughout the season, but achieving it against the Eagles, especially in a critical moment, was truly impressive. He concluded with a resolute statement, pounding his fist on the lectern,
“There are no moral victories. We’ll take this as a learning experience, and I believe it will benefit us moving forward.”
Throughout the first month of the season, the Eagles have consistently emphasized that they are a team in the process of improvement, regardless of their victories. This recent win will not alter that narrative, nor will it quell the concerns of Eagles fans.
However, it is almost certainly accurate to say that some fans now possess a strong confidence that everything will ultimately fall into place. In fact, they believe it’s going to be just fine, so much so that sitting in a traffic jam seems like a reasonable option instead of waiting for the Eagles to secure a win.
Up until Sunday, much of the apprehension had been centered around Jalen Hurts and the sluggish start to the passing game.
Those worries can now be put to rest as Hurts delivered an impressive performance, throwing for 319 yards, two touchdowns, and avoiding any interceptions. It’s worth noting that the Eagles were up against one of the most formidable defensive fronts they’ve faced, yet they managed to rush for 104 yards.
Even in this Sunday’s game, the Eagles had to display patience before their offense truly found its rhythm. Hurts began the day with short passes during the opening drive but later unleashed a 59-yard bomb to A.J. Brown, followed by a 28-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
“I believe that tension and pressure help develop character,” Hurt remarked after the game. “We required a game like this. I think a victory of this nature greatly uplifts the team’s spirit because winning is no simple feat. It’s tough.”
The Eagles defense would likely concur. They experienced inconsistencies, initially struggling to pressure the quarterback (Howell was sacked five times) and permitting Howell to throw for 290 yards.
It marked the first game of the season where they allowed more than 76 rushing yards (the Commanders had 107). Nevertheless, the Eagles managed to keep the Commanders scoreless in the third quarter when they initiated their comeback.
The ultimate stroke of luck came when Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin seemingly caught a pass from Howell on third down during the initial possession of overtime.
However, McLaurin landed on Reed Blankenship’s left forearm, as evidenced by the bright red marks near his elbow, preventing him from staying in bounds and extending the drive. Consequently, the Commanders had to punt, and they never regained possession of the ball.
The Eagles have encountered numerous challenges in the first four weeks. Hurts was penalized for intentional grounding during the game-winning drive, resulting in another collective groan from the stadium crowd, adding to their total of 11 penalties that almost derailed the Eagles efforts. Additionally, a taunting penalty against Brown, following his late-game touchdown that briefly put the Eagles in the lead, provided the Commanders with favorable field position to initiate their game-tying drive. Nevertheless, the Eagles must prepare for a grueling stretch of games that begins in three weeks, following winnable matches against the Rams and Jets.
Subsequently, from mid-October onward, spanning nearly two months, they will face formidable opponents, including the Dolphins, Commanders, Cowboys, Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, and the Cowboys once again.
After the game, Brown openly acknowledged that he can’t afford to make mistakes like the taunting penalty. It was Hurts who conveyed this message to him on the sideline.
This commitment to refining the finer points of their game is indicative of the progress the Eagles are striving for. While they are still a work in progress and far from being a completed product, the ultimate goal remains distant for one of the league’s most talented teams.
Center Jason Kelce expressed a desire to secure more decisive victories, saying, “I would love to dominate an opponent, but I’ll take any win. A win is a win. Although we’re not performing at our absolute best right now, we continue to discover ways to emerge victorious.”