November 15, 2022
The Philadelphia Eagles are no longer undefeated, as the Washington Commanders dealt the Birds their first loss of the season in an ugly, odd game. As always, win, lose, or tie, we hand out 10 awards.
The Commanders knew full well that they were not as talented as the Eagles, and so their game plan was to shorten the game. They ran it, and ran it, and then ran it some more, bleeding as much clock as they possibly could along the way. And they were successful in doing so. They had four scoring drives that took off at least six minutes and thirty seconds.
That would be a total of 29:18, almost half of the game. The Commanders doubled up the Eagles in time of possession, 40:24 to 19:36. There was one point in the game in which the overall time of possession favored Washington, 32:12 to 7:35.
They successfully played keepaway for the better part of three quarters and deserved the win.
Here were the Commanders' rushing stats on the night:
|Commanders run game||Rushes||Yards||YPC||TD|
The Eagles' run defense will no doubt be questioned in the wake of this loss, seeing as the Commanders were able to hold onto the ball for so long, and because they rushed for 152 yards, but this was not a dominant rushing performance. The Commanders averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Their long rush was 11 yards. What Washington was able to do was use their run game to stay on schedule and stay out of second/third and long.
Of course, once the Eagles got the Commanders into third-down situations, they could not close. The Commanders finished 12 of 21 on third down on the night, at one point during the game they were 12 of 16.
The Eagles' defense was often passive on those third-down conversions, as the corners played a lot of off coverage, and it felt like Jonathan Gannon rarely sent blitzes. They waited for Taylor Heinicke to make mistakes, which he eventually did, but after a lot of the damage was already done.
Terry McLaurin abused the Eagles in high-leverage situations, catching 8 passes for 128 yards.
The Eagles won the turnover battle in every single game this season leading into Monday night:
On Monday night, the Eagles were -2, and they turned it over four times:
The most harmful of the above turnovers was Watkins' fumble. The Eagles were down five with six minutes left in the game, when they hit on a big play deep down the field to Quez. And then... pain.
Goedert caught a screen, and he was dragged to the ground by his facemask, which almost certainly helped lead to his fumble.
Not sure how the refs missed the facemask. Washington got away with one here pic.twitter.com/2QR52pBT4B— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 15, 2022
I'm not sure how a dozen officials on the field can miss that, but whatever. Had the facemask penalty been called, it would have been Eagles ball at their 48-yard line. Instead, Washington was awarded the ball at the Eagles' 34.
As long as we're talking about officiating, we would be remiss if we didn't mention Graham's roughing the quarterback call at the end of the game. On a third down, Heinicke dropped back to throw, and when he didn't have any receivers open, he went to the ground, conceding a sack to keep the clock running, thus forcing the Eagles to call their final timeout.
Except... this happened:
A roughing penalty is called on Brandon Graham pic.twitter.com/A4zeDuoYmI— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) November 15, 2022
As you can see, Heinicke was beginning to get back up after going down. Graham is rushing hard after him, but attempts to ease up before sliding into him on his knees. He contacts Heinicke with both hands up in a "bracing for impact" type of motion, as opposed to a striking motion, and Heinicke sells the contact with an effective flop. The official then threw the flag. Game over.
It's never great when you're an official and you have to answer questions after a game. Here was the explanation of the play.
NFL referee Alex Kemp on Brandon Graham's personal foul: "I had ruled the quarterback had clearly given himself up. Therefore, he is down and a defenseless player. The contact by Philadelphia No. 55 was not only late but also to the head and neck area.”— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) November 15, 2022
The notion that Kemp "ruled that Heinicke had given himself up" might be true in his own mind, but Graham wouldn't know since Kemp hadn't blown the whistle until Graham had already begun his slide into Heinicke.
But also, the idea that this was a head shot is laughable. I used to be a basketball referee, and if I erroneously called a foul on a kid who had clearly blocked a shot cleanly, it was easy enough to just emphatically yell, "With the body!" as if contact had occurred elsewhere on the shooter. And there was basically no way a coach could definitively argue against it. It was a great cop out.
It almost feels like Kemp knew that he probably shouldn't have whistled Graham for a late hit since he hadn't blown the play dead, so in a similar way that I would claim body contact as a basketball referee, Kemp basically said, "Yeah but his head." Except, we can all see on the replay that this was not the type of head shot the NFL is seeking to penalize.
There are good referees and bad ones. While a viewer might be able to make a case that Graham committed a penalty, it's borderline, at best, and a good referee wouldn't have thrown that flag in that spot.
The Eagles have won every game they have played this season comfortably. This was the first game in which they have even had a second-half deficit. Still, all of the above officiating snafus would not have mattered if Hurts and the Eagles' offense could have come up with a game-winning TD drive with 3:21 left to play.
Instead, they went three and out after a short run on first down, an incomplete pass on what looked like a busted play on second down, and Hurts running into a sack on third down. With the game on the line, they feebly faltered.
I guess we should mention a couple of positives from this game. Hargrave had 13(!) tackles and a sack, bringing his season sack total to 7. He now has 6 sacks in the last 3 games. Gardner-Johnson had his sixth INT of the season and extended his streak of at least 1 INT in a game to 5 games. He maintained his NFL lead in INTs.
The Eagles will have a short week of preparation for their next matchup against the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday. Normally you don't want to have to play a road game on a short week, but in this case, I think the Eagles will embrace the opportunity to flush this loss and quickly move on.
Had the Eagles taken care of business Monday night, they would have retained a two-game advantage in the NFC East over the Giants, and a three-game lead over the Cowboys. They would have also held a one-game lead over the Vikings, plus a head-to-head tiebreaker. Now... not.
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