Eagles fight back to defeat the Commanders 38-31

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) reacts after a touchdown against the New York Giants during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The Eagles overcame an ugly first half and two red zone turnovers in a 38-31 win against the Washington Commanders in Landover, MD.

Even with Jalen Hurts clearly banged up from a bruised knee that he has been dealing with for the last month, the connection between him and his best friend, A.J. Brown, single handedly kept the Eagles in the game when at times, it looked bleak. For another week, Hurts also overcame another turnover and led the Eagles to an impressive drive to take the lead and finished with a solid day in the box score throwing for 319 yards with four touchdowns.

Brown finished the game with a pair of touchdowns and 130 yards on eight receptions, setting a new NFL record for six consecutive games with 125-plus receiving yards.

A tale of two halves

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, right, hands off to running back Kenneth Gainwell, left, in the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

It was an ugly start for the Eagles on both sides of the football.  Jalen Hurts and the offense went three and out on the first drive. Sam Howell and Washington’s offense scored in a blink of an eye on a three-play, 54-second drive capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Howell to Terry McLaurin on their second possession of the game.

Hurts and the offense started to find a rhythm, but ultimately had to settle for a 51-yard field goal from Jake Elliot to make it a 7-3 game. Yet, despite the secondary getting gashed, the Commanders putting together another impressive 58-yard touchdown drive, a Kenneth Gainwell fumble at the five-yard line to abruptly end what looked to be a promising drive, Hurts orchestrated a flawless scoring drive right before the half going 7-for-7 for 63 yards capped off with an acrobatic A.J. Brown touchdown that might rank as one of the top catches of the season.

The secondary once again let Howell pick up big chunks to lead to a 61-yard field goal to close out the half. However, with the poor performance in the first half and the Eagles with just six rushing yards in the first half, somehow, the Eagles trailed by just a touchdown.

Philadelphia came out strong in the second half, destined to scored a touchdown, after a defensive pass interference on 4th and 2 on a deep pass to Brown was called against Washington to put the ball on the one-yard line. In came the “Brotherly Shove” formation, a near automatic for this team, but a snap that wasn’t handled cleanly by Hurts fell to the grass at FedEx Field and the Commanders fell on it.

However, the Eagles offense and defense were able to make plays when needed. Both teams exchanged touchdowns before Reed Blankenship redeemed himself after a tough first three quarters. Blankenship picked off a Howell pass to set the Eagles up inside the 20. Hurts then connected two plays later to newly added wide receiver, Julio Jones, for the go-ahead touchdown.

Howell provided the scaries

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

For whatever reason, Sam Howell loves playing against the Eagles and thrives. He set the tone early starting the game 20-for-21 for 185 yards and two touchdowns. It was clear the game plan from offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was to get the ball out of Howell’s hand quickly to prevent the vaunted Eagles’ pass rush to take advantage of Washington’s offensive line, who has allowed the most sacks in the NFL entering Week 8.

Howell finished the game throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns, setting a new-career high in touchdown passes in a game.  He has now passed for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns in three career games against the Eagles.

Defense took step back

GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 12: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (24) warms up during Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on February 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

A week removed from holding the high-flying Miami Dolphins to 17 points, it appeared the defense and secondary more notably, took a step forward. However, against Washington, Howell looked at times, like an All-Pro quarterback. The secondary played softer coverage and struggled to make plays on key downs.  Allowing Howell to throw for nearly 400 yards and four scores is a step backwards with that offensive line protecting him. Despite the 4th quarter interception by Reed Blankenship, the secondary caught a break with two drops by Washington late in the fourth quarter. They will need to clean things up leading into the big NFC East clash against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys next week who dismantled the Rams.

Brown is truly always open

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) tries bit fails to catch a pass in front of Washington Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller (29) and Washington Commanders safety Darrick Forrest (22) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

If A.J. Brown isn’t on your list of top five, even three wide receivers, you may need to revisit your list. He entered the game with five consecutive games with 125-plus receiving yards, the first wideout to have such a stretch since Calvin Johnson in 2012. He extended that streak with a 16-yard grab in the 4th quarter as part of the game-tying drive for the Eagles.

Brown came down with one of the best catches we’ve seen so far through eight weeks of the NFL season near the end of the first half and provided a much-needed score when the game could’ve unraveled for the Eagles.

Backbreaking red zone turnovers

Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell (14) runs with the ball under pressure from the Washington Commanders during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Eagles had two impressive drives come to screeching halts in both halves. In the second quarter, it was Gainwell’s fumble on the Washington 3-yard line to end a 10-play drive. Perhaps the more surprising red zone turnover was when the “Brotherly Shove” a near automatic scoring play on the one-yard line for the Eagles had a botched snap where Hurts couldn’t handle it cleanly and the Commanders fell on the football to take the wind out of the sailsnafter the drive was extended with a pass interference call against Brown that put the tip of the football on the plane of the end zone.

Red zone inefficiency has been a common issue with the Eagles this season, noted by Jason Kelce and the offense, and two costly turnovers certainly won’t help.

The now 7-1 Eagles will return home next Sunday for a huge showdown against the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field with kickoff starting at 4:25 p.m.

AP Photo/Adam Hunger