Final Notes: Eagles 38, Commanders 31

After losing 14-3 at the hole in the first half, the Eagles made the comeback against the Commanders and won 38-31. The sky briefly fell in Philadelphia before people began adding mid-February PTO to their work calendars at the final whistle.

Here you will find my observations from the first half Here. Here’s what I’ve seen in the last two quarters…

The heights

• It won’t count among his eye-popping stats, but AJ Brown drew a DPI penalty at the goal line after a deep fourth-and-3 throw by Jalen Hurts on the first drive of the third quarter. The only way to prevent a catch from Brown during his current heat is to impede him.

• 2023 was a vintage year for Fletcher Cox. He made his biggest play of the day on the Commanders’ first drive of the half, fending off a third-and-12 screen pass and forcing a punt. This was his best season since 2019.

• Britain Covey is better than the average Eagles fan thinks. He had another good return in the third quarter, returning the ball 25 yards and giving the Birds great field position at their own 49 yard line.

• A “Sure, why not” moment was a 17-yard pickup on a fourth-and-4 in the third quarter from Hurts to DeVonta Smith. Hurts rolled around a bit, fired off a prayer, and Smith (apparently) held on to move the sticks. The Eagles wisely moved forward and quickly ran a play afterward to prevent Washington from challenging a play that likely would have been overturned. This is great situational football. Riverboat Ron Rivera is on the ball as always and misses the chance to challenge!

• This play by Smith led to another crazy touchdown catch by Brown, in double coverage:

As I said in my first-half observations, Brown should be the favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year right now. He became the first player in NFL history to have 125 or more receiving yards in six consecutive games, finishing with 130.

• For the first time in a minute, both Brown and DeVonta Smith got their goals. Brown continued his all-time dominant play, and that’s no exaggeration, while Smith threw a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter:

With Landover, they appeared to be part of the NFL’s top receiver duo. They combined for 15 catches, 229 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first time since Week 16 against Dallas last season that both had at least 99 receiving yards.

• Hurts’ passing numbers were pretty damn good: 319 yards on 8.4 yards per attempt and four touchdowns. The bone bruise on his knee is clearly still affecting his mobility and pocket presence, but he’s getting it sorted out and playing with his arm.

• Sam Howell got a break from his role as the Eagles’ kryptonite when Reed Blankenship picked him off in the fourth quarter, giving Philly the lead on a goal-to-go situation. Gigantic. While the great Hurts-Smith-Brown offensive trio is the reason for the Birds’ win, the selection of Blankenship struck a chord everything. He was long overdue for a big play.

• Julio Jones, a longtime Eagles foe, had his first big moment in green with a green touchdown in the fourth quarter:

That’s why you sign the guy! He is a red zone threat that makes up for Quez Watkins’ absence from the lineup. Phenomenal throw from Hurts that Jones caught.

It was also great to see the offensive line pushing Jones to celebrate after the TD. It’s clear that Jones has already endeared himself to his new teammates.

• Howell had been sacked 40 times through Sunday, by far the most in the NFL this season. It was a frustrating day for the Eagles pass rush until the end. The Birds didn’t get their first sack against Howell until just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, but it came when they needed it most. Haason Reddick had a strip sack on Howell and gave the ball back to the Birds to burn some time and extend the lead with a little brotherly shove trick:

This will keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes!

• The Eagles’ defense was irritating at times, but when push came to shove, they produced two game-winning drives.

The lows

• After that penalty against Brown created a simple brotherly shove situation in the first half, Hurts did the unthinkable and fumbled. The Eagles will be killed in the Takeaways vs. Giveaways category in 2023. Two goal-to-go fumbles cost them a whopping 14 points. They had converted 14 straight quarterback sneaks before that huge whiff. The game should have been in Washington’s favor, but credit to the Birds for fighting back.

• Guys in burgundy were open the entire time, even though there were some poor throws and drops late in the game. The formula for scoring points with this Eagles D is simple: They use quick throws to neutralize the pass rush before attacking a thin linebacker group and an injury-plagued secondary.

• Major losses to injury: Jalen Carter and Darius Slay. Keep an eye on this before we head to Dallas next Sunday night.

The whoas

• Nolan Smith, who faced Covey on the aforementioned punt return, stopped a play that could have been even bigger. That summed up a lot of the strange vibes of the afternoon.

• What was wrong with the person who kept waving his hand in front of the TV camera? Can’t a multi-billion dollar operation get around this, or is this just a peculiarity of FedEx Field?

• The “Let’s go Eagles!” The chants that echoed through the stadium shortly before Blankenship’s interception were powerful.

• Great news for Eagles fans: The Birds won’t play Washington again until next fall.

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