Taylor Heinicke, Commanders beat undefeated Eagles in Philadelphia.

Comment on this storyPhiladelphia — Taylor Heinicke said she wasn’t paying attention. He said he didn’t think Monday night would potentially be his last start if Carson Wentz returns from a broken finger to the active roster ready to go. And to win a game against the NFL’s last undefeated team, he had to help his commander transition from third base and keep momentum and consistency. All of this is something Washington usually fails to achieve. At the time, his remarks probably felt like standard football speeches. — Say the right thing, no matter how obvious, and hope and pray that the results are near. In retrospect, the quarterback’s hopes and his play were astute, and Monday’s game would have pretty much guaranteed him a chance to remain Washington’s starter, regardless of Wentz’s health. Heinicke’s Commanders did something no other team has done this season: They upset the Philadelphia Eagles (32-21) in their home. Commanders should stay with him at QB. Calling it “probably the biggest win of my career,” Heinicke went 17-of-29 for 211 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for a 66.9 passer rating. Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts went 17-for-26 for 175 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for a 94.2 rating. For the first time this season, the Commanders’ offense has been consistent and methodical as they posted four scoring drives in the first half. 13, 12 and 16 play. Washington (5-5) scored 13 points in the second quarter to hold the Eagles scoreless. Philadelphia (8-1) entered the game scoring nearly 60 percent in the second quarter and is yet to be shut out. “We’ve found that one of the best ways to slow Jalen Hurts is to get him off the field,” said head coach Ron Rivera. However, their first half dominance didn’t stop there. Washington outgained Philadelphia by 101 from 235 yards and converted 75 percent (9 of 12) of its third downs and finished with 51 plays to the Eagles’ 19. Washington’s 17:38 time-of-possession advantage in the first half was the largest in franchise history, capped off with a 58-yard field goal (the longest of Joey Slye’s career) that built a 20-14 lead and booed Eagles fans. For the game, Washington played 81 games. 330 yards, including 152 yards on the ground, and converted 57% of third downs (12 of 21). It was everything and more than anyone expected. “In situations like this, I always thought there were people in the locker room who could do the job, and I started seeing them come together. Rivera choked in the locker room afterwards. Two weeks ago, Rivera’s mother, Delores, passed away after battling lung cancer. Amidst all the organization’s off-the-field drama, Rivera stressed the importance of focusing on his team, telling his players to take care of things that don’t matter during the week. After the match, he held back tears, telling the players that her mother would have been proud of them. “It means a lot because the players have been able to focus on what’s important,” he said. “…the hard work is starting to pay off.” All that mattered minutes before Slye kicked a 32-yard field goal to extend Washington’s lead to 23–14. Washington, with Heinike at the helm, typically plays on the edge of throwing once in disaster or glory. It was a huge loss against Minnesota last week when his deep pass was blocked, ending the Commanders’ three-game winning streak. His furious play this week was what made the difference. In the second quarter, center Tyler Larsen felt a slap in the head from Heinicke, but the quarterback retreated and recovered and threw it out of bounds. Then in the fourth, on Washington’s final drive, Heinicke came off the pressure and knelt on third down, drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Eagles’ Brandon Graham as Graham sprinted on him. .“On the last play we called Terry oblique. [McLaurin], and if he’s open, give him and if he’s not, it was one of taking the sack,” Heinicke said. “Unless he’s wide open, I’m not going to throw it. When I got down on my knees and saw them coming to me I wished they would come to me and certainly they did. It was a mistake on their part, but hey, we’ll live with it.” The Eagles’ mistakes also revealed Heinicke’s growth. “A lot of it,” said Rivera. “One of the things he learns is to take what is given.” They promised to run early, stuck with it (Brian Robinson Jr. finished with a touchdown on 86 yards and 26 carries) and started playing chunks in their passing game. They moved the ball and ate up time, converted crucial third-downs and mostly kept their own way, but the first two minutes of the game suggested the start of another first half disaster. Armani Rogers was marked as holding on to the opening kickoff, losing 33 yards on a long return from Antonio Gibson. Washington then went on a three-game losing streak. After Washington got the ball back on a wild punters penalty, Heinicke was sacked. Philadelphia recovered the ball and it took just three plays to find the end zone on Hurts’ 1-yard run. On 2nd and 11, Jahan Dotson caught from 14 yards. Gibson capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. This offense was completely different from what Washington had shown weeks before. Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste was called for pass interference on Hurts’ deep pass, and the call looked questionable, nonetheless leading to another Eagles score. 7. Washington was then flagged for a delay of play on 4th and 1, causing offensive coordinator Scott Turner to put his hand in the booth and the offense to settle for a 44-yard Slye field goal, but after an interception by safety Darrick Forrest and halftime. Washington scored twice more before the end. Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown run and Slye’s 58-yard field goal gave the Commanders a 20–14 lead going into halftime. It was the first time in over two years that Washington had scored at least 20 points in the first half. The Eagles seemed to rebound after Javon Hargrave’s sack of Heinicke in the third quarter from Philadelphia’s 14-yard line. The takedown forced Washington to settle for a 32-yard field goal that extended the lead to nine. Philadelphia took a long drive using 11 plays as Hurts threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to make it 23–21. It was third and third from Philadelphia’s 43 when Heinicke fired a missile at McLaurin from the left sideline. It hung in the air long enough for CJ Gardner-Johnson to climb safely and catch it. Heinicke has said in the past that if he had a 50-50 chance with McLaurin, he planned to give the star receiver that shot and it didn’t turn out well, but his decision to do so here seemed wise. If the throw had sailed a little farther, the commander would have been a few steps away from the goal line. Instead it was turnover that ultimately had little impact. “He’s been great since he’s been here, honestly,” said McLaurin. “… He really plays every play as if it were his last. He plays fearlessly.” On the next possession, defensive tackle John Ridgeway fumbled a short pass to Goedert that linebacker Jamin Davis recovered and returned for a touchdown. The score was overturned at review, but the win stood and created another opportunity for Washington to extend their lead. Slye, who had the game of his life, pounded in a 55-yard field goal with 7:33 left to give Washington a 26–21 lead, but no Commanders game, especially with Heinicke at quarterback, would be complete without late play. What you need to know from NFL Week 10: The Bills-Vikings epic stole the show. Hurts kicked off a 50-yard pass to Quez Watkins. ball when St-Juste hit him. “We got into this game knowing nobody believed us,” Forrest said. “…we are ready to fight.” With his team in position to seal the win in the last minute, Dotson was flagged for offensive pass interference, negating Curtis Samuel’s 21-yard catch on third down. However, after a punt, defensive end Montez Sweat stopped another Philadelphia drive from third base. Heinicke stuck with the plan. When Philadelphia finally got the ball back, Casey Toohill recovered the false desperation for a touchdown on the last play of the game, allowing Washington to say “We felt that if we could control the line of scrimmage and get the ball running, we could slow it down and that’s It’s something we could have done.” that. “I mean, the dude is a dynamic quarterback and he’s done a tremendous job and Jalen isn’t a bad guy either.”
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