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October 01, 2023

Final observations: Eagles 34, Commanders 31

The Eagles mounted a second half comeback to beat the Commanders behind some highlight reel work from A.J. Brown and a clutch overtime field goal from Jake Elliott.

In an overtime affair that was closer than any Eagles fan would've wanted, the Birds prevailed 34-31 over Washington to move to 4-0. Here's what I saw in the second half. If you want to read my first observations, you can find those here, too.

The Highs 

• In the third quarter, Hurts lofted a pretty pass down the left sideline to A.J. Brown, who showcased some elite run-after-the-catch ability, scampering into the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown:

The Eagles needed that. Hurts needed that. Everyone in the Delaware Valley needed that. Lincoln Financial Field was rocking. 

I love the aggressiveness from Nick Sirianni and the Birds' coaching nucleus after that score, going for two while trailing 19-17. A Kenny Gainwell run up gut made things 21-17. That proved handy later. 

• Nicholas Morrow, have yourself a day. After a great first half that saw him picking up a third-down sack against Sam Howell, Morrow did that yet again in the third quarter. With Fletcher Cox collapsing the pocket from the interior, Morrow flew to Howell as he attempted to maneuver around, crushing him into the Linc's grass. 

That makeshift linebacker tandem of Morrow and Zach Cunningham, especially with Nakobe Dean on injured reserve, is holding up better than even the most optimistic Eagles fan could've expected. Morrow was an August cut signed to the practice squad and then to the active roster. Cunningham wasn't even an Eagle two months ago at this time!

• Hurts built upon those early third quarter fireworks with a hell of a strike to diving Dallas Goedert just out of reach of Commanders safety Kamren Curl on a later drive for a 17-yard gain. That's the accuracy Eagles fans saw throughout 2022 and into the postseason. Hurts finally got into a rhythm. 

• Relatively speaking to how electric he's looked in the past, Hurts has looked a little slower as a runner this year. He hasn't turned the corner on those rollouts like he has in the past. He had an emphatic scramble in a tie ball game in the fourth though, juking around in the pocket and ripping off a 24-yard run. As QB1 goes, this team goes. 

• Haason Reddick gets on the board! Reddick finally recorded his first sack of the year and it came with things tied up late. With under four minutes remaining, Reddick took down Sam Howell, forcing a third and 17. A false start immediately after made things third and 22. Some energy was leaving this Lincoln Financial Field crowd before that. Reddick's sack swift changed that.

• Britain Covey's 20-yard punt return set the Birds up in great field goal position as the game went down to the wire, putting them at the Eagles' own 43. The fan base continues to underrate him after a couple bad games to start the 2022 season. He's been excellent since. 

• After not coming up with a ball he probably should've caught on that late drive, Olamide Zaccheaus redeemed himself, hauling in a pass on the immediate next for a first down right before the two-minute warning. 

• Hurts caps off his most complete passing effort of the year with a go-ahead TD throw to Brown with under two minutes remaining. Brown got open and Hurts threw the ball exactly where it needed to be. That's a narrative-shifting play for him after the (rightful) questions about his early season passing performance. Winning is the only thing that matters to Hurts, which is what you want to hear from the team's leader, but making it look good works, too.

Brown: always open, per the sign above his locker at the NovaCare Complex. That rang true on Sunday. He put up eight catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns. 

• Jake Elliott is forever clutch, knocking through a 54-yard field goal for the win in overtime:

The Lows

• The injury bug continues to run rampant. Starting right guard Cam Jurgens left the game, with Sua Opeta filling in on the Birds' first drive of the second half. Having 22 Week 1 starters suiting up in the Super Bowl back in February feels more improbable by the game.

• This is a collective statement on the young season. Hurts was much better on Sunday overall than he has been as of late, but the red zone passing offense is sputtering. The Tush Push is unstoppable, but unless the Birds are close enough to the goal line, you can't run that! With Brown, Goedert and DeVonta Smith's playmaking abilities, that group should make things slump proof.

• A third and 11 red zone run for Gainwell? I'm not sure about that one...

• Some Houdini work from Howell to start the fourth quarter gave Washington life, scrambling and firing for a first down and turning sacks into small gains, culminating in a game-tying touchdown. The Eagles' rush defense has been elite this season, but they surrendered their most back-breaking gain on a 15-yard Brian Robinson Jr. TD. Even with run-suffer extraordinaire Jordan Davis subbed onto the field ahead of that second and short play, it wasn't enough. 

A later scramble from Howell was deflating, too. On a third and eight from Washington's own nine-yard line, Howell dipped the pass rush and sprinted for 21 yards up field. Terrell Edmunds emphatically threw him to the ground, but the damage was done. 

• A game-tying TD to send what should've been a win to overtime? There's not much I can say there. Playing conservatively paired with those nagging secondary injuries did them in. The Eagles are lucky that "Riverboat" Ron Rivera cowardly skipped going for the win and played for overtime with an extra point attempt. 

• I predicted a blow-out Eagles win. A divisional game, especially on short rest, is never as easy as it seems on paper. 

• What the hell was the intentional grounding call in OT?

The Whoas

• Two best jerseys I spotted in the second half: midnight green Troy Vincent and black Georgia No. 7 D'Andre Swift.

• Morrow capped off the game of his career with a sack on Howell with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Make that three sacks on the day for him. He's a player! Morrow's earned this role and he shouldn't be losing gig at any point soon even when Dean returns from injury. 

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