Washington rookie defensive end Chase Young, who had a sack and a fumble recovery in Sunday’s win, doesn’t seem content with just making the playoffs, where a prime-time showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers awaits.
“Tom Brady, I’m coming!” Young shouted as he skipped off the field. “I want Tom!”
Fail: Philadelphia’s no-hat rule
“We’ve got to have a no-hat rule this week,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said last week, explaining the motivation his team had to face Washington despite being eliminated from playoff contention. “We can’t let opponents put division win hats on at the Linc. There’s a lot of pride in that, and all our focus has to be to accomplishing that this week.”
After Philadelphia allowed 70 points in its previous two games, Schwartz’s defense did its best to enforce the rule, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Washington from donning division champs gear as it headed off the field following an ugly win.
Hail: Washington’s first drive
Washington’s opening possession was, for a change, a thing of beauty. After the defense forced a punt on Philadelphia’s first drive, Alex Smith took over at his team’s 9-yard line and proceeded to lead the offense 91 yards in 15 plays over the next eight minutes. The march, a mix of runs and passes, culminated in a touchdown grab by wide receiver Terry McLaurin.
Washington avoided becoming the first NFL team this century to fail to score on its opening possession all season. New Orleans’s offense didn’t account for a first-drive score in 2004, but the Saints’ Aaron Stecker returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in Week 15 of that season.
“Yes, I was coaching to win,” Pederson, Philadelphia’s coach, said of his decision to bench rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld, a sixth-round pick by Washington in the 2016 draft, with the Eagles trailing 17-14 in the fourth quarter. “Nate has obviously been here for four years, and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.”
Sudfeld leading a comeback to keep his former team out of the playoffs would’ve been rich, but it was not to be. On his third snap, he was intercepted by former Eagles safety Jeremy Reaves. On his next series, he fumbled a snap that was recovered by Young. He looked like someone who hadn’t thrown a pass in a game since 2018.
“What was your reaction when Philadelphia put Sundberg in?” NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya asked Smith after the game, before correcting her mispronunciation of Sudfeld’s name.
“I didn’t know if something had happened,” Smith said. “I didn’t know if [Hurts] tweaked something. I didn’t know if was because the rain kind of picked up at that point. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.”
Nope. It was simply a coaching decision, which led to all sorts of criticism of Pederson for sabotaging his team’s chances of winning the game.
Hail: Prime time in Philly
Washington’s struggles in prime time are well documented, but playing under the lights in the City of Brotherly Love has been an exception in recent years. For the second time in five seasons, Washington clinched an NFC East title with a prime-time win at Lincoln Financial Field. In 2015, Kirk Cousins led Washington to a 38-24 win the day after Christmas in Week 16. This year, it happened in the final game of the regular season. It’s just a shame there weren’t any Eagles fans in the stands to witness it.
Fail: Salty Giants players
Giants players and fans were none too pleased with Pederson’s personnel moves, as they needed a Philadelphia upset to claim the division title after knocking off the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the day. Considering the Giants would have become the first six-win team to qualify for the playoffs in a full season, it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for their plight.
McLaurin returned from a high-ankle sprain that sidelined him last week and had a game-high seven catches for 40 yards, including Washington’s first touchdown. McLaurin said he felt a little sore and banged up as the game wore on, but his feelings didn’t appear to be hurt too bad late in the first half when tight end Logan Thomas left him hanging after his own leaping touchdown grab. While Thomas focused on spiking the ball, McLaurin borrowed a page from Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov’s playbook and celebrated with himself.
Fail: Preseason predictions
Sure, Washington sneaked into the playoffs by virtue of playing in a historically bad division, but even had the season ended with loss, this team outperformed expectations in Rivera’s first year.