1. The offensive line actually got worse. And then it got better
This OL has been hanging by a thread all season, and then Andrew Gardner got injured. Surprisingly, he turned out to be a key part of this year’s line, and it got worse in his absence. Then Jason Peters reinjured his quad and left the game midway through the first half. In the second, Lane Johnson hurt his left knee on a PAT try, and was pounding the turf in pain but came back in at the next opportunity.
Jimmy Kempski has been warning everyone who would listen that the Eagles have a dangerously thin bench on the offensive line. I’ll admit, I was annoyed by his relentlessness on the issue but I take it all back. He was absolutely right and the Eagles are paying the price.
And yet, in the second half, the line had a miracle recovery, even with Peters and Gardner out. Somehow, despite three sacks and approximately eleventy billion QB hits in the first half, the remnant line found a way to give Bradford plenty of time to develop long plays.
2. Sam Bradford went deep
Fans have been yelling at the Eagles to have Sam go deep all year. It has been tough with teams running coverages to take away the bomb and a shaky OL (which to be fair gave Bradford plenty of clean pockets in the first three games). So in the second half today, with the line ripped apart by injuries and the offense in tatters, Sam Bradford started throwing long.
The surprise is, it worked! First Agholor’s one-handed grab for 45 yards. Then a miss to Matthews (still exciting) and the 62-yard TD bomb to Riley Cooper of all people (just to add a little humiliation for the Skins DBs. The bombs kept dropping, hit or miss; Matthews for 31 yards, incomplete to Ertz, 10 yard touchdown to Celek (the other forgotten receiver), a 39-yarder to Miles Austin for another TD!
FedEx Field turned into the Land of Forgotten Receivers for Philly today.
3. Washington kept running up the middle
I get it, they’ve had a very successful run attack this year with two strong RBs, but the Eagles have had the league’s best run defense, too. Washington ripped off a big draw play early on 3rd and 19 for 42 yards, but after that the Eagles stuffed them up the middle again and again. Aside from that one play, the Skins got just 85 yards on 31 runs.
Not only did the Skins get shut down several drives on third and short, they lost a fumble when Brandon Graham stripped the ball out during a tackle. The Eagles wouldn’t have stayed in this game or been able to limit three red zone drives to field goals if Washington’s 29-year-old OC Sean McVay had been more creative.
4. Caleb Sturgis is terrible
Nobody expected a kicker available three games into the season to replace Cody Parkey in the Pro Bowl this year, but Sturgis was worse than even the lowest expectations. He missed a 33 yard field goal — the same distance as extra points under the new rules — and then confirmed that by missing the first extra point.
He did get touchbacks on his first three kickoffs, which was great, but even that faded as Washington returned his fourth.
The bottom line: he missed two kicks that should have been four easy points, and the Eagles lost by three.
5. Horrible injuries didn’t slow down the defensive line
Philly entered this game with only 5 healthy defensive linemen, since Cedric Thornton and Taylor Hart were inactive due to injuries. Then it got bad. Brandon Bair — Thornton’s replacement — was lost for the game in the first quarter. Then, early in the fourth, Fletcher Cox went to the locker room with an injury, which is basically the worst case scenario imaginable. It turned out to be leg cramps and he was able to return but even then they had only one substitute left, Vinny Curry (who normally only comes in on passing downs).
ILB Mychal Kendricks and CB Byron Maxwell left in the first quarter, too. Jordan Hicks played well in Kendricks’ stead, catching the fumble that Brandon Graham pulled out in mid-air. Eric Rowe was a bit shakier coming in for Maxwell, getting penalized for a late hit that extended a Washington drive and on a questionable pass interference call in the end zone.
The D played very tough under very difficult circumstances. They looked very tired by the end of the game, but they should have been. Forget time of possession — Chip is not wrong about that statistic being flawed at best. Look at the stat Chip prefers: number of plays. That small group of reasonably healthy linemen had to defend 79 plays, while the Eagles only managed 52.
6. Kirk Cousins led a winning touchdown drive
The Eagles managed an impressive second half comeback, with Bradford leading the team to a 20-16 lead with barely over six minutes left. Kirk Cousins had only led one game-winning 4th quarter drive in his career before. Welp, now he has two.
There were a couple of positive developments, notably the long passing game (269 yards total passing with an average reception of 17.9 yards) and the continued lack of turnovers. But this was an ugly loss with several injuries that will extend the misery into the future.