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'Beginning to pay off': Commanders know what upset win over Eagles could mean

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PHILADELPHIA — Chase Young stood in only his underwear while holding a blaring speaker in one hand and a phone in the other. The Washington Commanders defensive end didn't even play in Monday's stunning 32-21 upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but the celebration was on in the visiting locker room. And you better believe that Young, recovering from a torn ACL, wasn't going to miss out on the fun.

Meek Mill's "Dreams and Nightmares" blasted out of the speaker as Young and a number of other teammates rapped along. Safety Jeremy Reaves and cornerback Danny Johnson led the song's second verse while standing on their stools. Others joined in from the ground, pounding on the lockers around them.

"Hold up, wait a minute, y'all thought I was finished?'" they rapped. The lights had been turned off and only the bright screens from the phones around them lit the room.

To celebrate their biggest win of the season -- to celebrate perhaps their biggest win of the Ron Rivera era -- the Commanders sang the underdog anthem that defined the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl win in 2018.

And now here they were in the underbelly of Lincoln Financial Stadium playing that same song after spoiling the Eagles' undefeated season. "When you work hard, you persevere," Reaves said, "you finally get that triumph in a situation like this."

Take a look back at the best photos from the Washington Commanders' Week 10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders

The Commanders know what a win like this can do for their season. Sure, Monday's victory got them back to just .500 at 5-5, but a statement like this can also be a launching pad to something more. Two years ago, in Rivera's first season with the franchise, a 4-7 Washington team went into Pittsburgh and upset an undefeated 11-0 Steelers team — also coincidentally on a Monday. That victory was part of a winning streak that helped capitulate Washington into the playoffs.

Beating the Eagles this season might even be more impressive.

That 2020 season, like this one, had its challenges. A pandemic. A name change. A cancer battle for their head coach. But three years into Rivera's tenure, the Commanders have arguably faced more turmoil than ever before.

They dominated time of possession with a steady run game and stellar efficiency on third down (12 of 21) as Washington held the ball for slightly more than 20 minutes of game time -- 40:24 to 19:36 -- than the Eagles. Washington's defense held quarterback Jalen Hurts and Philadelphia (8-1) to a season-low 264 yards. And the unit forced four turnovers with three fumbles and an interception against an Eagles team that led the league in turnover margin entering the evening.

"It means a lot just because the guys were able to stay focused on what's important," Rivera said. "What they did on the football field was important. It resonates with those guys and you hear them in the locker room right now. The hard work is beginning to pay off.

"Things have turned a corner that's starting to pay off."

Rivera was still emotional as he conducted his post-game press conference. Moments earlier in the locker room, he cried in front of his players while telling him his mother, Delores, would be proud of them. She had died two weeks earlier and last week, Rivera had gone to California for the funeral.

As he has guided Washington this season, Rivera has said that he has used lessons instilled by his mother. Growing up in a military family, Rivera watched his mother become their family's "coach" while his father served in Vietnam. "She had to maintain and that's what I've tried to do," he said earlier this month.

Washington's players have praised Rivera for helping them keep the focus on football. Reaves, who drew on support from Rivera when the safety's mother died a year ago, said the coach "is one of one." Safety Darrick Forrest, responsible for an interception and a fumble recovery in Monday's win, added the coach "never complains" and the team feeds off that energy.

"He's our backbone," Forrest said.

Rivera's teams tend to historically start slow before heating up in the middle of the season — and this year has taken that to the extreme given the circumstances. After starting 1-4, Washington is now 4-1 since then.

Three of those victories have come with backup Taylor Heinicke under center filling in for Carson Wentz, the former Eagles starter who has missed the last month with a fractured finger. Against the Eagles, Heinicke's 211 yards and one interception weren't spectacular, but he helped lead the offense in key moments. His connection with star wideout Terry McLaurin (eight catches, 128 yards) came up huge. And the signal-caller oversaw lengthy drives in the first half that gave the Commanders a 20-14 lead heading into halftime.

Heinicke's improvisation -- maybe his biggest strength over Wentz -- again proved clutch, none more so than when the quarterback took a knee on third down late in the contest. Slightly after Heinicke gave himself up on the play, he was blasted by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham — who drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

The flag gave Washington a new set of downs and the Commanders were able to bleed the clock down before they punted with just 11 seconds left while ahead 26-21.

On Philadelphia's final drive, Washington defensive end Casey Toohill, a former Eagle, added a late touchdown as he scooped up an errant Eagles lateral to run it into the end zone as time expired.

"I would say it's probably the biggest win of my career," Heinicke said.

Heinicke's success will likely force Rivera to have to make a decision soon at quarterback. Wentz will be eligible to be activated off injured reserve in time for next weekend's game against the Houston Texans, though it's unclear if he's healthy enough yet to play. Rivera sidestepped a question about who will be the team's starter, saying he'd talk to reporters about that Tuesday afternoon.

Instead, Rivera kept his focus on the bigger picture. He made sure to stress that the Commanders "have not arrived" yet with a win over the Eagles. Rivera warned about the dangers of taking the Texans, who have the league's worst record at 1-7-1, too lightly.

But as Rivera talked, sometimes it was hard to hear. The noise spilled over from the nearby locker room — with the music loud enough to distinguish the song being played. The players were blasting Bankroll Fresh's "Take Over Your Trap," an anthem of sorts for teams who make statement wins on the road.

The Commanders played the same song after beating Pittsburgh two years ago.

When Rivera's presser ended, the coach made his way back into the team's locker room. As the playlist had switched to Meek Mill, Rivera walked through the dark to shake the hands of individual players. "Nice game, young man," he told Robinson, who had 86 of Washington's 152 rushing yards.

Players danced around them in joy.

"Everybody's just trying to keep it going," Johnson said.

Check out more Commanders coverage at the Washington Times.

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