It all came down to a toe, or rather, an arm.
The Washington Commanders faced third-and-5 at their own 30-yard line in overtime against the Philadelphia Eagles. Sam Howell, recognizing that the Eagles were in man coverage, aired out a pass to Terry McLaurin near the left sideline. A catch would have put the Commanders in Eagles territory.
McLaurin managed to get one foot down easily enough. On the second step, he landed on Reed Blankenship's arm, resulting in what was called an incompletion on the field.
The refs huddled to review the play. Ultimately, they deemed there were not enough to overturn the call. Washington punted the ball away, and 10 plays later the Eagles kicked a 54-yard field goal to claim the 34-31 victory.
Head coach Ron Rivera shared his disappointment after the game.
"That's a hell of a football team we played out there," Rivera said. "But I think we have a hell of a football team in this locker room."
The Washington Commanders have begun warming up at Lincoln Financial Field for their Week 4 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Washington's performance during its first division matchup of the year was a stark contrast to what it put on the field in Week 3.
Against the Buffalo Bills, Washington could barely put together a series of plays, let alone get itself in scoring position. The story was much different against the Eagles; the Commanders hung with one of the most efficient offenses in the league, scoring 30-plus points for the second time in three weeks.
Much of that is a credit to the bounce back Howell had after what was undoubtedly the worst performance of his career so far. Unlike against the Bills, Howell was efficient with the ball, completing 71% of his passes for 290 yards and a touchdown. The offense moved down the field with ease at times, particularly on the opening drive. Washington put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock, and capped things off with a one-yard score by Curtis Samuel.
Also unlike Week 3, the bounces literally seemed to be going Washington's way. After the Eagles responded with a score from D'Andre Swift, who finished with 56 yards on four carries, Washington moved down to the Eagles' 1-yard line with help from an unnecessary roughness penalty on Terrell Edmunds. Brian Robinson Jr. fumbled the ball into the end zone, and McLaurin was there to fall on it and give Washington a 14-7 lead.
After the two teams exchanged field goals to close out the second quarter, it was 17-10 at halftime with Washington in good position to pull out an upset.
The offense stalled in the third quarter, though, and it was the minor details that ended up costing them. An example, on third-and-4, Jahan Dotson had an uncharacteristic drop as the ball slipped through his hands. It forced the Commanders to punt the ball back to the Eagles, who had already cut into the Commanders' lead with a 47-yard field goal to open the second half.
Philadelphia scored 10 points on their next two drives, which saw heavy doses of AJ Brown, who finished the day with nine catches for 175 yards and two scores. It was a tough lesson for rookie Emmanuel Forbes Jr., who was lined up on Brown for most of the game. Forbes had his moments, but they were far too infrequent as Brown managed to get behind him.
"The young man had a rough day," Rivera said of Forbes. "Hopefully, he learns. He's a young guy. Experience is a tough teacher. But that's the kind of stuff he needs."
Washington managed to tie the score with a 15-yard run by Robinson, only for the Eagles to respond with a 28-yard touchdown from Brown with 1:43 left on the clock. Washington had to work fast with only one timeout on the clock, and with some help from back-to-back receptions by McLaurin, the offense moved to the Eagles' 10-yard line with one second left. Howell fired a pass to Dotson, who made the catch in the end zone to tie the score at the end of regulation.
But after the three-and-out by Washington, and the less-than-ideal 29-yard punt from Tress Way, all the Eagles needed to do was bleed the clock and move into field goal range. A nine-yard pass from Jalen Hurts to DeVonta Smith was enough to put the Eagles at the Commanders' 36-yard line, setting up the 54-yard game-winning kick from Jake Elliott.
Washington falls to 2-2, and it has a quick turnaround before facing the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football at home.