After last week’s abomination against the Cowboys, things surely cannot get worse.
Well, the calendar has officially flipped to 2022, so hopefully Washington reflected on last week’s embarrassment and made some New Year’s resolutions. The sky is a tad gloomy leading up to Sunday’s matchup with the Eagles, as Antonio Gibson, Ereck Flowers and Tress Way all tested positive this week. While Washington gets a few guys back from COVID this week, it was clear how much the team was missing their players in the last matchup with Philly, when the WFT had 21 players on the COVID-19 reserve list. Fast forward two weeks, and Washington is still dealing with COVID issues. Although they have their quarterback back, it is still going to take a gutsy performance for Washington to beat the Eagles, who have won three straight games and are in the driver’s seat for an NFC playoff berth.
Here are three keys to get revenge on the Eagles and get back in the win column on Sunday afternoon:
Stop the run
Two weeks ago, the Eagles were averaging a league-leading 160 rushing yards per game. In the two games since, Philadelphia has upped that astonishing average to 163 yards per game. In the first meeting, Washington was unable to stop the Eagles in any facet, but they were especially dominated in the run game. Philly ran for 238 yards and two touchdowns, completely denouncing any hope of a late comeback opportunity Washington had. This time around, Washington cannot give up option-offense numbers. Miles Sanders is out for the remainder of the year with a broken hand, so that is one less talented rusher to worry about. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne are going to have to make up their differences and step up big time. If the Eagles put up another exceptional rushing performance, it is going to be very challenging for Washington to win.
Contain Jalen Hurts
We already talked about how talented the Eagles running backs were, but we didn’t mention their most dynamic playmaker in the ground game: Jalen Hurts. A huge part of the Eagles’ potent rushing attack involves Hurts’ scrambling abilities. He constantly turns broken plays that seem like guaranteed sacks into positive yardage. This allows the Eagles to stay ahead of the chains and creates a lot of third and short situations. As a result, any time Hurts is able to escape the pocket, the Eagles are usually able to pick up positive yardage in one way or another. The best way to slow down the Eagles offense is to keep Hurts in the pocket. This won’t allow him to scramble or throw on the run; it will force him to be a pocket passer, which he isn’t nearly as good as he is running the ball. If Washington’s d-line is able to contain Hurts and keep him inside the tackles, they have a great chance at minimizing Philly’s offensive production.
Win the turnover battle
During Washington’s winning streak, the offense was doing a great job at holding onto the ball, and the defense was creating lots of turnovers. In the three games since, the offense has given the ball away six times, while the defense only has two takeaways. In order to beat the Eagles, Washington must win the turnover battle. This starts with Taylor Heinicke making smart decisions when throwing the football. In the blowout to the Cowboys, Heinicke made several poor throws that resulted in interceptions or near turnovers. On the first offensive play of the game, Terry McLaurin was open downfield, but Heinicke overthrew him, and interception maestro Trevon Diggs easily picked it off. There were several other instances where Heinicke had an open receiver but missed high or behind, resulting in an incomplete pass and stalling drives. Ball security has also been an issue all year long for Washington. They are tied for the fourth most lost fumbles in all of football. Antonio Gibson has accounted for the majority of them, although he will miss Sunday’s contest after testing positive for COVID-19. If Washington wants a shot to get revenge on the Eagles, they need to secure the ball on offense and force takeaways on defense.
The odds for Washington to make the playoffs are slim to none; however, in the words of the great Shia LaBeouf, “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE”. Especially in a goofy NFL season like this one, nothing truly seems impossible. Washington is playing a big-time rival, and there is no way Washington wants to get swept by Philly. With COVID and injuries affecting the team the way they have been, it’ll be tough, but Washington has what it takes to split the season series with the dreaded Eagles.