Eagles Can Concentrate on What Really Matters with Undefeated Season Hopes Shattered | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
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The 1972 Miami Dolphins can keep their undefeated season, annual guzzling of celebratory champagne and pretentious attitudes. While the historical feat of not losing a single game for an entire season has yet to be matched during the Super Bowl era, the self-importance of such an act for five decades has become boorish.
From a macro perspective, the Philadelphia Eagles posted a great start with eight consecutive victories to open the season before falling 32-21 to the Washington Commanders on Monday Night Football. Despite the surprising result, the Eagles are still the NFC’s best team, and raising a Lombardi Trophy is all that really matters.
Some outcomes simply can’t be explained, which only adds to the allure of pro football’s popularity. While every squad strives to win each and every contest, certain efforts warrant burning the tape afterward and never thinking about them again.
The Eagles endured such an effort Monday. The previously pristine team that committed three turnovers all season coughed up the ball four times against the Commanders. Obvious mental mistakes certainly didn’t help matters.
“It’s on us,” Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts said after the game.
An 8-1 record is still tied for the league’s best. Furthermore, Philadelphia decisively beat its current counterpart—the Minnesota Vikings—in Week 2.
Even so, overreaction to the loss will be unbearable for the next six days.
First, proclamations of a blueprint being created to beat the Eagles will almost certainly be (erroneously) made. Washington executed its game plan and deserves credit for doing so. After all, the Commanders ran 81 total plays and more than doubled the Eagles’ time of possession.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
“We found that one of the best ways to slow Jalen Hurts down is to keep him off the field,” Commanders head coach Ron Rivera told reporters after the contest.
Is it really, though?
Washington moved the ball and strung together four drives of 12 or more plays. The approach is intentional on both sides of the ball.
The Commanders wanted to control the clock. Conversely, Eagles coordinator Jonathan Gannon built a defensive scheme on the idea of keeping the ball in front of defenders and forcing offenses to work for every single yard.
“I think it’s going to be really hard for a team to beat us dinking and dunking, and it’s also going to be hard for a team to beat us kicking field goals, because of our offense,” James Bradberry said two weeks ago, per NBC Sports Reuben Frank.
“The way our offense can score, that puts a lot of pressure on the opposing offense. So if we can limit the big plays, it just makes it really tough for teams to score against us. It’s a huge priority for us.”
Washington consistently extended drives but averaged only 4.1 yards per play. Comparatively, Philadelphia managed 5.6.
The Eagles still had a wonderful opportunity to snatch a victory despite the issues experienced throughout the night. Unfortunately, Quez Watkins fumbled the football after a 50-yard pass with Philadelphia trailing by five points and 5:43 to play.
Had Watkins held onto the ball, the Eagles would have been on Washington’s 23-yard line and driving to take the lead with a possible touchdown.
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
During the previous possession, tight end Dallas Goedert fumbled the football thanks to an obvious missed facemask penalty.
Turnover stats can be highly volatile. In the Eagles’ case, they’ve been on the positive side of the ledger all season. A couple of plays/calls didn’t go their way Monday, which became the primary reason behind the loss.
Mental mistakes played their part as well.
Plenty of attention will revolve around roughing the passer penalty called on Brandon Graham to give Washington its final game-clinching first down. Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke took a knee and gave himself up on 3rd-and-7 with 1:40 remaining. Graham continued his pursuit and ran into Heinicke, thus prompting a penalty flag.
Maybe the Eagles would have gotten the ball back and scored. Maybe they wouldn’t have. It doesn’t really matter since one penalty late in the contest didn’t determine how Philadelphia played throughout the entire game.
“I wish I could have that call back, but at the end of the day, I wish we could have a bunch of calls back,” Graham told reporters. “But, y’know what? They won. For me, I’d wanna make up for it by what I do next week, how I respond. I’mma take that one on the chin. Of course, we all gonna just flush it and move on.”
Graham added, “We can’t put the game in the refs’ hands. In that position, I just gotta know. If he goes down, it’s OK. For me, I was just hustling to the play and trying to make sure he was down and just trying to get off the field.”
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
Basically, the plan to beat the Eagles is simple: An opponent must force them into multiple turnovers and hope they make numerous uncharacteristic mental errors. Oh, a couple of field goal conversions over 55 yards need to be thrown in there as well. Easy stuff, really.
A couple of key injuries on defense didn’t help matters. Therein lies some concern. Both nose tackle Jordan Davis (ankle) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (hamstring) are currently on short-term injured reserve. Neither can return before Week 13, and the Eagles missed their contributions Sunday.
Washington played physically at the point of attack. While the Commanders averaged only 3.1 yards per carry, the offense put in work between the tackles. Davis’ size, agility and power will make that far less attainable once he’s back on the field. Meanwhile, Maddox can eventually help a unit that allowed Washington to convert 12 of 21 third downs.
However, the schedule should help the Eagles. The Indianapolis Colts are next on the docket. Though the Colts won their first game under the supervision of interim head coach Jeff Saturday, they did so against the hapless Las Vegas Raiders.
Philadelphia will be favored and should get back on track with the Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans and New York Giants rounding out the next month of play. Those three will be difficult but winnable.
One loss doesn’t negate all of the good Philadelphia achieved so far this season. The Eagles still feature an elite offensive line, a dynamic dual-threat at quarterback, multiple weapons in the passing game and a proven defense.
Nothing ever goes according to plan. Recent Super Bowl winners show how a bad loss or two can’t hamper a historic season.
Last season’s Los Angeles Rams didn’t win a game in November. Two years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got off to a slow start. The 2019 Kansas City Chiefs somehow lost 19-13 to the Jacoby Brissett-led Colts.
Those old Dolphins can keep their undefeated season. What the Eagles really want is another league title and Philadelphia is more than capable of representing the NFC for that opportunity.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.