The Washington Commanders dropped their fifth game in six weeks with a 38-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Here are five takeaways from the matchup, presented by Maryland Lottery.
1. The offense played much better...
The Commanders' offense looked like a completely different unit against the Eagles compared to what they put on the field against the Giants.
Unlike last week, when it seemed like the Commanders couldn't do anything to pick up a first down, the offense made it a priority to get the ball out of Sam Howell's hands at a quicker rate. That led to playmakers breaking loose into open space, like the 11-yard pickup by Brian Robinson Jr. on a screen pass that helped ignite a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
That also played a pivotal role in protecting Sam Howell, who set career highs in passing attempts (52), yards (397) and touchdowns (4). Howell looked comfortable in the pocket, and there were several moments where he had multiple options that were wide open, like on Jahan Dotson's 21-yard touchdown that made the score 14-3.
Washington's first half against the Eagles was perhaps the best the offense has looked all season. They had 270 yards of offense, were 3-of-5 on third down and averaged 8.2 yards per play. Howell was 24-of-26 for 226 yards and hadn't been sacked at that point. While it wasn't a winning effort, stretches like that are encouraging signs for an offense that is still in a developmental phase.
Check out the top photos from the Washington Commanders' Week 8 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
2. ...but the mistakes were brutal.
If the offense does deserve credit for bouncing back from an ugly day at MetLife Stadium, it also needs to be pointed out that the mistakes they made ended up costing them chances at getting an upset.
Those errors started in the second quarter, when the Commanders faced a fourth-and-1 at the Eagles' 35-yard line. They decided to be aggressive and keep the offense on the field, but Howell's pass to Terry McLaurin was incomplete, leading to an Eagles touchdown seven plays later.
But Washington's most damning mistakes came in the fourth quarter, when there was not much time left to recover from them. Two plays after the Eagles tied the score at 24, Howell's pass to McLaurin was intercepted by Reed Blankenship, and an unnecessary roughness call put the Eagles at the Commanders' 7-yard line. Once again, the Eagles capitalized on the mistake and took their first lead of the day.
Washington had two opportunities to tie the score, and both ended in disappointment. McLaurin had two uncharacteristic drops on a third and fourth down -- he was wide open on both, although Howell's passes were low -- which led to the Eagles getting the ball back with 4:18 left to play.
The Commanders got the ball back with another chance to tie the score, but Howell was sacked on fourth down after a catch by Dotson was ruled incomplete. The Eagles scored three plays later, essentially ending any hopes Washington had of a comeback.
3. The defense created more opportunities...
The Eagles have a dynamic offense, so it's hard to completely shut them down. And yet, the Commanders did give them problems at times and came up with critical plays.
While the Commanders only forced the Eagles to punt twice, they managed to keep Philadelphia out of the end zone with two fumble recoveries inside the 5-yard line. The first came from the combined effort of Kamren Curl, who popped the ball loose from Kenneth Gainwell's grasp, and Phidiarian Mathis, who secured the turnover in his first game back from Injured Reserve.
The next came at the start of the third quarter, when the Eagles had moved to the Commanders' 1-yard line after a pass interference call on Benjamin St-Juste. The Eagles tried their "tush push" play, but Jalen Hurts fumbled the snap with Kendall Fuller making the recovery.
And when the Commanders needed a stop in the fourth quarter, the unit forced a three-and-out to give the offense another chance to tie the score.
4. ...but it couldn't get the Eagles off the field at critical moments.
For all the good the defense did at times, there were some stretches that showed the unit is still in flux.
The majority of the concerns stem from Washington being unable to get Hurts and the Eagles off the field. Allowing an offense to convert 62% of its third downs is never a positive, but the way Washington gave up plays in longer down-and-distances often led to the Eagles putting up points. The Eagles faced third downs of five yards or longer six times and converted five of them.
The Eagles also converted both of their fourth-down tries with explosive plays downfield. The first -- the pass interference call on St-Juste that put the Eagles at the 1-yard line -- was wiped away by the fumble recovery, but the second allowed the Eagles to score three plays after a 17-yard pickup by DeVonta Smith.
And then there's the 38-yard touchdown by Smith that was the result of a miscommunication that allowed the wideout to get behind the secondary and jog into the end zone. That tied the score at 24 less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and at that point in the game, it felt like a momentum shifter.
5. Still searching for answers.
There are two different versions of the Commanders this season: one that can compete with some of the best teams in the league and one that plays down to its competition.
The Commanders are trying to exorcise themselves of the latter, but their demons continue to pop up at times. The Eagles game is the most recent example of that. Howell said after the game that they should have won, and there is some evidence to support that. However, as long as Washington continues to fail at putting together a complete game, their struggles at finishing will persist.
The Commanders have nine games to get it right, the next of which is a road matchup against a struggling New England Patriots team. Theoretically, if Washington plays similar to how it performed in Week 8, they have a good shot at getting one game closer to .500.
It's up to the Commanders to figure out how to even out their up-and-down streak.