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Roob's Observations: Eagles survive OT, remain undefeated after beating Commanders

Roob's Observations: Eagles survive OT, remain undefeated after beating Commanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles made enough mistakes to lose this game 100 different ways. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but they bounced back from every one and found their way to 4-0 with a 34-31 overtime win over the Commanders at the Linc.

Yikes.

Here’s our Instant Observations off the Eagles’ 24th win in their last 29 games.

1. There’s a lot to be concerned with, but that can wait. I’ve got to start with what’s most impressive about this victory. It had been a quarter of a century since an NFL team that lost the Super Bowl one year opened the next season 4-0. That was the 1998 Green Bay Packers. It just doesn’t happen. It’s really hard for teams coming off the crushing disappointment of a Super Bowl loss to regroup and crank it up again starting from scratch. Nick Sirianni – and the Eagles’ veteran leaders - Fletch, B.G., Lane and Kelce – deserve so much credit for getting this team to get over that disappointment in Glendale - a game they believe they could have won and should have won – and focus on the here and now. That’s really, really hard to do. But it’s the only chance any team has of overcoming something like a Super Bowl loss. It’s so rare for a team to lose the Super Bowl and bounce back like this, and this 4-0 start speaks volumes about Sirianni’s ability to get his message across to his team and keep them motivated and determined and upbeat and positive. This team wins. That’s all they do. It’s incredible.

2. Jalen Hurts’ TD pass to Brown with 1:37 left was a thing of beauty, but why on Earth are you even calling that play? It made no sense. It was 2nd-and-4 on Washington’s 28-yard-line. Game tied 24-24. Get the four yards, fresh set of downs, run the clock down, Jake Elliott doesn’t miss. Ballgame. Eagles win. Why would you even think about giving a confident, productive Sam Howell another chance? It makes no sense. Then – after a taunting penalty on A.J. Brown — Washington takes the short field and drives 64 yards down the field and ties the game as time runs out. Sirianni has done an amazing job, but that call made zero sense. And if it was Brian Johnson’s decision, then it’s his fault but Sirianni’s fault for letting him call it. It was an inexcusable call. And it nearly cost the Eagles a game.

3. The Commanders did some good things Sunday, but the Eagles made so many stupid mistakes in this game that they really have themselves to blame for nearly blowing this game. Besides the play-calling debacles, Zach Cunningham’s holding penalty on a 3rd-and-6 to extend Washington’s first drive and turn what would have been a 4th-and-5 into a fresh set of downs on a TD drive. Terrell Edmunds dropping an interception in his hands in the end zone on Washington’s second drive (right after committing a personal foul). Landon Dickerson wiping out a 4th-and-1 conversion in the second quarter because he lined up with his right hand off-sides by a foot. A DPI on James Bradberry down near the end zone on a 3rd-and-8. Edmunds’ second personal foul of the game, this one on Howell late out of bounds. A.J. Brown’s taunting penalty after the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. You can live with getting beat physically. You don’t like it, but it happens. But the mental mistakes are the real killers.

3. Hurts played a lot better Monday night in Tampa than the first couple weeks of the season, but on Sunday against Washington we really saw the Jalen Hurts of 2022 make his 2023 debut. He was really good. For the first time this year he didn’t commit any turnovers, but he also made terrific decisions in the pocket, drove the ball down the field, converted some big third downs and for the first time this year consistently showed why he was the MVP runner-up last year, why he led this team to the Super Bowl last year. Hurts’ final numbers – 25-for-37 for 319 yards and two spectacular TD catches from A.J. Brown. In the second half he was 13-for-21 for 203 yards and two TDs. This is a decent team when Hurts doesn’t play great, but they’re almost impossible to beat when he's elite.

4. These are the games that really tell us a lot about a team. They allowed back-to-back 75-yard TD drives to open the game. They found themselves down by 10 in the second quarter. They were outgained 192-86 at one point. They allowed a TD to force overtime after they seemed to have the game won. But through it all they just kept fighting and battling and grinding and it didn’t come easy, but they found a way to get out of the Linc with another win. It was way too close, but this team is finding ways to win when they’re not at their best, and so far this year they haven’t been at their best once. But they haven’t lost, either. At some point, they’re going to put together a 60-minute game where they play lights out on both sides of the ball from start to finish. They’re going to have to against some of the teams they’re going to face. But to keep stacking wins when they’re not at their best is huge.

5. Watching Nicholas Morrow play, it’s crazy to think that a few weeks ago the Eagles released him. But he didn’t have a great training camp, and it wasn’t a shock when they cut ties with him. But he accepted a spot on the practice squad – which can’t be easy for a proud six-year veteran – and when Nakobe Dean got hurt, Morrow found himself in the starting lineup, and he’s been outstanding the last few weeks. On Sunday, he played out of his mind. He became the Eagles’ first off-ball linebacker with a three-sack game since Garry Cobb in 1986 in Atlanta and the first with three sacks, three tackles for loss and three quarterback hits as far back as QB hit stats go (2006). Dean has to sit out one more game and maybe the Eagles try a Dean/Morrow combination and take Zach Cunningham out of the lineup, but Cunningham has played well also. We’ll see what they do, but you can’t take Morrow off the field right now. On Sunday, he was their best defensive player.

6. You’ve got to love Hurts’ 59-yard TD to Brown – his longest catch from Hurts - but one under-rated aspect of that play was Olamide Zaccheaus’s blocking down the field. OZ is so fast he was able to get in front of the play and pave the way for Brown to thread his way through the last couple Washington defenders inside the 10. That’s such a great hustle play and it doesn’t show up in the box score, but he played a big part of that touchdown and that win. Nice work down the field on the same TD by DeVonta Smith. You love seeing these guys do the dirty work for each other.

7. I’ve seen enough of Terrell Edmunds. Not like the Eagles have a ton of options right now, but when Sydney Brown comes back from his hamstring injury they have to play Brown along with Reed Blankenship. Edmunds committed two personal fouls and dropped an interception in the end zone Sunday, and maybe you could live with some of those mistakes if he was out there making big plays, but he’s not. Edmunds has no sense of discipline and if he doesn’t know after 6 ½ NFL seasons you can’t hit the quarterback late out of bounds, he’ll never know. I’ve had enough.

8. Jake Elliott is the most clutch kicker I’ve ever seen. Maybe the most clutch player I’ve ever seen. He’s incredible. That wasn’t a chip shot in overtime. That was a 54-yard game-winning field goal and Elliott is now 10-for-16 in his career from 54 yards and out and 7-for-8 on his last eight attempts. And when there’s a big kick to make, I don’t think there’s even a thought in anybody’s mind that he might miss it. Which is crazy considering some of the kickers we’ve had around here. Elliott first showed how clutch he is as a rookie with that 61-yard and then his two huge kicks in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. And he’s been incredible ever since. Elliott was 4-for-4 Sunday and he’s 13-for-14 this year with the one miss coming from 55 yards. He’s unbelievable.

9. Can we talk about how insanely good A.J. Brown is? Brown is playing at a Tommy McDonald 1961 level, a Mike Quick 1983 level, a T.O. 2004 level. Nine catches for 131 yards last week, nine catches for 175 yards Sunday. He’s so tough, so physical, so aggressive. When he gets rolling like this, he’s just unstoppable. The third Eagle in the last 50 years with 300 yards in a two-game span (DeSean Jackson in 2009, Jeremy Maclin in 2014). He plays wide receiver like a linebacker, just overpowering cornerbacks who are trying to cover him. And once the ball is in his hands, he combines that tremendous speed with terrific instincts and vision. The crazy thing is that we could be saying all these same things next week about DeVonta Smith.

10. I still need to see more from the Eagles’ defensive line. The Eagles had five sacks but other than the three from Morrow, there were just two from the defensive line – one from Josh Sweat when Howell tripped on left tackle Charles Leon’s foot and another from Haason Reddick. I give Sam Howell a ton of credit – this is a kid making his fifth NFL start who’d been sacked 19 times in his first three games – 5th-most in NFL history – and he stood tall in the pocket and had a career game, completing 71 percent of his passes, throwing for 290 yards, rallying the Commanders back to tie the game in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. So through four games, the edge rushers have just 3 ½ sacks – 2 ½ by Sweat and the one by Reddick. The interior linemen have 3 ½ so that’s a total of six in four games from the d-line. I expected the Eagles’ front take advantage of a mediocre Washington offensive line and really dominate this game. Yeah, they got some pressures and some hurries, but this is supposed to be the best defensive line in football and they just haven’t shown it yet.