PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles had their undefeated streak snapped in a wild “Monday Night Football” game against the Commanders, in which a critical missed call by the referees helped Washington to a 32-21 win.
On a third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles trailing by two, Jalen Hurts completed a pass to tight end Dallas Goedert for a would-be first down. Linebacker Jamin Davis clearly grabbed and pulled Goedert’s facemask as he attempted to tackle him, and a simultaneous hit by defensive tackle John Ridgeway knocked the ball loose.
Washington recovered, and tacked on a 55-yard Joey Slye field goal to up the lead to six. The Eagles had two more opportunities to answer but their best opportunity was ruined by another turnover, this one on a Quez Watkins fumble following a 51-yard completion. Watkins hit the ground, popped up and took off running, only to fumble the ball and give Washington possession.
After recording only three turnovers in the first eight games, the Eagles had four Monday night. And the costly miscues didn’t end there.
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham was flagged for a late unnecessary roughness call on Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke that extended Washington’s drive and led to the final score.
“I was just trying to touch him down, because it just looked like he was going to get up. You just never know. But that’s on me. I own that one. That’s on me,” Graham said.
NFL referee Alex Kemp told a pool reporter Graham was penalized because Heinicke “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,” Kemp said.
Said Heinicke: “We called for a slant for Terry [McLaurin] and if he was open, get it to him. I was not going to throw it unless he was wide-open. I didn’t want anything crazy to happen. When I took that knee and I saw them still coming at me, I was hoping they’d hit me and sure enough they did so it was a mistake on their end.”
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said calls, missed or otherwise, weren’t what cost his team the game.
“I think whether the calls were bad or good, or whatever it was, when you play the way we did tonight on all three phases … it does seem like everything’s going against you. And we played like crap. We didn’t do a good enough job … We made our own luck today, and it was bad.”
Asked why there was no facemask call on the Goedert fumble, Kemp replied, “We didn’t see a face mask on the field.”
Philadelphia became the first team in franchise history to reach the 8-0 mark with a win over the Houston Texans on Thursday but was unable to extend the streak.
“I know guys got long faces, but me personally — of course I want to win — but now all this 17-0 s— is over with. Now we’re going to wake up — how are you going to respond?” said Eagles receiver A.J. Brown, who had a catch knock off his hands and turn into an interception. “This is a game that we all love to play and sometimes you get hit in the mouth. How do you respond? … I hope we get up and start fighting back and I feel like we will.”
Hurts offered similar sentiments.
“I think in the end it’s about how you respond, regardless of what’s in front of you,” Hurts said. “How do you respond to this scenario, how do you respond to that scenario. How do you respond to the feeling of joy, how do you respond to the feeling of pain?”
In addition to the turnovers, the Eagles also got a subpar effort from their rush defense, particularly early in the game. Operating without rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who is on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain, Philadelphia yielded 100 rush yards on 29 carries in the first half alone, with Washington gobbling up 23:49 in time of possession in the process. Philadelphia’s 6:11 on possession was its shortest since Week 6 of 2001 against the New York Giants and the lowest by any team in the first half of a game in the last five seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Eagles trailed 20-14 after two quarters, marking the first time they trailed at the half all season.
For Washington, it capped another unusual week, one that saw it sued by the attorney general in Washington, D.C., and criticized for a statement it made a night earlier that referenced the shooting of running back Brian Robinson Jr. when trying to counter an announcement by the AG’s office.
“Our guys understand,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said Thursday. “There’s certain elements that we can control. That’s what happens on the football field more so than anything else. So let’s just try to stay focused on that more so than anything else.”
The focus was there Monday night.
Washington controlled the ball for more than 38 minutes because of its rushing attack. Both running backs, Robinson and Antonio Gibson, rushed for touchdowns. And the Commanders also received a big game from McLaurin, who had 128 yards receiving.
The win capped an emotional week for Rivera. His mother died two weeks ago, and he flew to California on Tuesday for her funeral, returning Wednesday night. After Monday’s game, he tried to address his team, but couldn’t get the words out. He held a ball aloft as the players shouted.
Finally, as he pumped the ball, Rivera said, “My mother would have been proud.” He barely got the last word out as he turned and walked away, tears forming in his eyes that were still reddened as he addressed the media.
Washington also was coming off a last-second loss to Minnesota last week. It’s why the locker room was so raucous after the game, with singing and dancing not often witnessed in a Commanders postgame scene.
“It meant a lot because the guys were able to stay focused,” Rivera said. “It resonates with these guys, the hard work is beginning to pay off.”
“Coming into this game we felt we had an opportunity,” Rivera said. “We told the guys don’t worry what’s going on out there, just stay focused on what’s important; I’ll handle all the interesting stuff. They did that. We went into it with the attitude, ‘Don’t be surprised.'”
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.