Commanders defeat Eagles on Nov. 14, ending another team’s undefeated streak for the second time in three years
Are the Commanders the NFL’s Modern Giant Killer?
The Commanders were coming off of a 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at home, and going into a showdown with a then-undefeated divisional opponent, the expectations were not high. However, at the half, the Commanders led the Eagles by a score of 20-14, Washington’s two touchdowns coming from rushes off the hands of running backs Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson, as well as two field goals from kicker Joey Slye.
One of this season’s top stories was the rise of these Eagles, undefeated going into this game with a few strong victories under their belt. They were led by a strong rushing attack from quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Miles Sanders, and a passing offense led by offseason trade acquisition wide receiver AJ Brown and 2021 first-round pick wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
As of their Week 11 game with the Indianapolis Colts, the Eagles averaged 27.3 points per game. Their defense is stout as well, holding opponents to an average of 18.6 points per game (stats found here). The team made a trade with the Chicago Bears before the trade deadline for star defensive end Robert Quinn, who has made a tangible impact in the three games he has played.
The Commanders kept their foot on the gas pedal in the second half, only scoring another six points before the final minutes of the game due to a valiant performance from the Eagles’ defense. Washington led by five with time for one play left in the game, Philadelphia holding the ball. After a small hook and lateral play, Smith fumbled, and the ball was picked up by defensive end Casey Toohill, who returned the ball to the Eagles end zone for a touchdown, and Washington won by a score of 32-21.
There are no undefeated teams remaining in the league at this point, with the Eagles holding the NFL’s best record at 10-1.
This is the second time in three years the Commanders (or Washington Football Team) have ended the final remaining undefeated team in the NFL. In 2020, they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were out to an 11-0 start, by a score of 23-17 at Heinz Field. This win for the team was powered by a failure on the Steelers’ end to get the run game going against a stingy Washington front seven.
Both of these streak-ending wins have come under the coaching of Ron Rivera. The playbook he has put into place with this Washington team is one countering the play of both of the undefeated teams they’ve been able to prevail against. This playbook consists of running the ball often and effectively, which does not leave much time for these high-flying, quickly-paced offenses to get off the ground.
Rivera’s defensive philosophy over the past years has been to bend, but not break. The Commanders allow for a good amount of yardage per game, but never an extreme amount of points. This type of defense also holds back these types of offenses; they allow the big splash plays and yardage, but are able to come up with stops and big turnovers in key moments.