The Eagles’ loss to Commanders shows who their most indispensable player is

The Eagles’ loss to Commanders shows who their most indispensable player is


PHILADELPHIA — As it turns out, a rookie who’s barely played a third of defensive snaps is the Eagles’ most indispensable player.

Or so it seems.

That’s how much the Eagles need Jordan Davis. The huge 6-foot-6, 336-pound defensive tackle missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Davis is on injured reserve, which means he has to miss at least two more games.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or even Joe Montana to figure out how to beat the Eagles without Davis.

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And Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke is no Montana. Still, the Commanders sent the Eagles to a 32-21 loss on Monday night, ending the Eagles’ unbeaten season after 8 straight wins to start the season.

There wasn’t much to it. The Commanders kept running the ball straight at the Eagles over and over again. They held the ball for 40 minutes and 24 seconds. It didn’t matter that the Commanders averaged just 3.1 yards per carry as they rushed the ball 49 times for 152 yards.

It wasn’t something Heinicke did. He was 17 of 29 passing for 211 yards and one interception. But he didn’t have to do much.

“What they did was a good job of not making him a real quarterback, but getting him to not have to make a lot of decisions,” said Eagles cornerback Darius Slay. “It’s a good job from them. They came with a good game plan. They executed well.”

That was evident on the 3rd downs, with the Commanders in particular converting 12 of their first 16 chances, largely because most of those were 3rd and short situations.

“You know how hard it is to play defense with 3approx-and-1, 3approx-and-2, 3approx-and-3?” said Slay.

But really, the blueprint was laid the week before when Davis missed his first game. The Eagles struggled to beat the Houston Texans 29-17. The Texans are 1-17-1. Still, they rushed the ball for 168 yards, with rookie Dameon Pierce for 139 of those yards.

Next for the Eagles: Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, who led the NFL with 1,811 yards last season. He had 147 yards in Sunday’s 25-20 win over the Raiders in the first game under new head coach Jeff Saturday.

Saturday may never have coached a game at the collegiate or pro level before, but Vince Lombardi doesn’t need to figure out Taylor will get the ball until the Eagles show they can stop it.

The following week, the Eagles meet Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones, who is seventh in the NFL with 738 rushing yards. And if the Eagles find a way to stop Jones, they’ll have to deal with a pretty good quarterback named Aaron Rodgers.

Davis is eligible to return the following week against the Tennessee Titans on December 4th. But it’s far too early to know if that will be the case. If not, the Eagles will face Titans running back Derrick Henry, who is second in the NFL with 923 rushing yards.

If Davis is still out after that, there’s Saquon Barkley of the Giants on December 11th. He is the NFL’s leading rusher with 931 yards. After that, it’s the Chicago Bears on December 18 with quarterback Justin Fields leading all NFL quarterbacks with 749 rushing yards.

So yeah, the Eagles know what’s coming.

“It’s definitely going to happen until we stop it,” said Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham. “I’m ready. I’m ready. Come on. Keep it going. That’s just one kind of attitude you have to have. You’re not going to be perfect in every game, but I know that’s one thing, one attitude is .

“We have to keep building that mindset and not worrying about what we can’t control and fixing what we can control and be prepared for what’s next.”

The Eagles will have no choice but to fix it. If they can’t, there will be other casualties.

After all, it’s difficult for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ strong offense to score if they can’t get on the field.

Hurts played well enough, completing 17 of 26 passes for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns. He just didn’t play often enough.

Midway through the third quarter, the Commanders had 32 minutes and 12 seconds on the ball to the Eagles just 7:35.

Still, despite the big difference, the Eagles were only nine points behind. But that left the offense little room for error.

And of course the offense made some mistakes, especially in the fourth quarter.

Dallas Goedert fumbled early in the quarter with the Eagles, who were 2 points behind, and handed the ball to Washington at the Eagles’ 34 yard line. The Eagles survived by conceding a field goal.

Then Quez Watkins came up behind Commanders cornerback Benjamin St. Juste and made a nice dive catch 50 yards downfield at the Washington 23-yard line. Watkins was unaffected as he dived, so he got up and tried to run extra yards. But St Juste hit the ball loose and Darrick Forrest recovered.

The Eagles had another chance after that and recovered the ball at 3:26 to lose by 5 points. But the Eagles went 3-and-out and jabbed back the ball after Hurts was sacked in third.

Even after that, the Eagles had one last chance with 1:38 left when Heinicke, facing a 3rd and long, went to his knees just as Haason Reddick was about to sack him. That would have resulted in a fourth down and thus a punt.

But Graham hit Heinicke while he was down. He was flagged for unnecessary rudeness and gave Washington a first down in midfield.

Sure, it could have been a bad call. But as Eagles coach Nick Sirianni put it, “You create your own happiness and we played like crap… Those scenarios that happen when you play like that are magnified as to whether it was the right call or the wrong call.”

“So today we made our own luck and it was bad.”

And it might not change until Davis comes back.

Contact Martin Frank at Follow @Mfranknofl on Twitter.

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