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October 29, 2023

Final observations: Eagles 38, Commanders 31

The Eagles mounted a comeback win over the Commanders with elite receiver performances from A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

Eagles NFL
Jalen-Hurts-Eagles-Commanders-2023 Brad Mills/for PhillyVoice

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts had an outstanding four-touchdown day in the team's comeback win over the Commanders.

After being down in an early 14-3 hole from a first half slopfest, the Eagles pulled off the comeback against the Commanders, winning 38-31. The sky was briefly falling in Philadelphia before people started throwing PTO on their work calendars for the middle of February by the final whistle. 

You can find my first half observations here. Here's what I saw in the final two quarters...

The Highs

• It won't count toward his eye-popping stats, but A.J. Brown drew a DPI penalty at the goal line on a deep fourth and three throw from Jalen Hurts on the first drive of the third quarter. The only way you can prevent a catch from Brown during his current heater is to interfere with him. 

• 2023 has been a vintage year for Fletcher Cox. He made his biggest play of the day on the Commanders' first drive of the half, shutting down a third and 12 screen pass and forcing a punt. This has been his best season since 2019. 

• Britain Covey is better than the average Eagles fan thinks. He had another quality return in the third quarter, taking it back 25 yards and gifting 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 four in the third quarter from Hurts to DeVonta Smith. Hurts rolled around a bit, fired up a prayer and Smith (apparently) held on to it to move the sticks. The Eagles wisely went up and ran a play quickly after that to prevent Washington from challenging a play that would've likely been overturned. That's great situational football. Riverboat Ron Rivera on the ball like always and missing the chance to challenge!

• That play from Smith resulted in yet another bonkers Brown touchdown catch, this one coming 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 theirs. Brown continued his all-time dominant play, and that's not hyperbolic, while Smith hauled in an ultra clutch game-tying fourth quarter touchdown:

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

• Hurts' passing numbers were damn good: 319 yards on 8.4 yards per attempt and four touchdowns. That bone bruise to his knee is still clearly hampering his mobility and pocket presence, but he's gutting it out and making plays with his arm.

• Sam Howell took a break from being the Eagles' kryptonite when Reed Blankenship picked him off in the fourth quarter, setting Philly up with a goal-to-go situation to take the lead. Huge. While the big offensive trio of Hurts-Smith-Brown is the reason the Birds won, that Blankenship pick swung everything. He was mightily overdue for a big play.

• Julio Jones, a long-time enemy of the Eagles, had his first huge moment in green with a go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter:

That's why you sign the guy! He's a red zone threat who offsets Quez Watkins' absence in the lineup. Phenomenal throw from Hurts that Jones hauled in. 

The offensive line rushing Jones to celebrate after the TD was great to see as well. It's clear that Jones has already endeared himself to his new teammates.

• Howell was sacked 40 times coming into Sunday, by far the most in the NFL this season. It was a frustrating day for the Eagles' pass rush right until the end. The Birds didn't get their first sack on Howell until just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but it came when they needed it the most. Haason Reddick had a strip sack on Howell, giving the Birds the ball back to burn some clock and pad the lead with a little Brotherly Shove trickery:

That'll keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes!

• The Eagles' defense was infuriating at times, but when the chips were down, they came up with two clutch-as-anything plays. 

The Lows

• After that penalty on Brown on the half's opening drive set up an easy-as-anything Brotherly Shove situation, Hurts did the unthinkable and fumbled. The Eagles are getting 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. That should've been the game in Washington's favor, but credit to the Birds for fighting back.

• Guys wearing burgundy were just open all the time even if it resulted in poor throws and drops late in the game. The formula to putting up points on this Eagles' D is simple, utilizing quick throws to neutralize the pass rush before attacking a thin linebacker group and an injury-plagued secondary. 

• Big injury losses: Jalen Carter and Darius Slay. Monitor that this week leading up to Dallas next Sunday night.

The Whoas

• Nolan Smith bouncing into Covey on that previously mentioned punt return stopped what could've been an even bigger play. That summed up a lot of the afternoon's weird vibes. 

• What was up with the person waving their hand in front of the television camera constantly? Can a billion-dollar operation not work around that or is this simply a FedEx Field special?

• The "Let's go Eagles!" chants echoing throughout the stadium moments before Blankenship's interception were tremendous.

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

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