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Commanders handed Eagles their first loss by beating them at their very own recreation

PHILADELPHIA — Ron Rivera all the time acts because the pillar of power for the Commanders of their world that’s so stuffed with chaos. Within the midst of their endless circus, he is their rock, their stability, the one who all the time finds the suitable phrases to maintain his crew from falling aside.

But there he was on Monday night time, lower than per week after he attended the funeral of his mom, and simply minutes after his crew ended the Philadelphia Eagles’ excellent season and possibly, hopefully, kickstarted a particular season of their very own, unable to search out something to say in any respect. His lip began quivering. Then the tears began flowing.

“My mother would’ve been proud,” he mentioned, simply earlier than he walked away.

There was a variety of satisfaction from everybody within the Washington group over what the Commanders (5-5) did on Monday night time, beating the Eagles 32-21 at Lincoln Monetary Discipline in a efficiency that was equal elements dominant, resilient and gritty. They beat the Eagles (8-1) at their very own recreation, pounding them on the bottom to the tune of 152 yards, then forcing turnovers and capitalizing on fourth-quarter errors.

It was their largest win of the season. It was most likely the largest win of Rivera’s two and a half years in Washington. And for quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who absolutely saved his job for not less than one other week, “It was probably the biggest win of my career.”

Sure, it was that huge.

“You can see how much that means to him,” receiver Terry McLaurin informed his teammates after Rivera walked away. “It means a lot to everybody in this locker room. We set the damn tone. We took it to them. We don’t got to take s*** from nobody.”

“It means a lot, just because the guys were able to stay focused on what’s important,” Rivera mentioned after he was lastly in a position to come to the interview room. “It resonates with these guys. The hard work starts to pay off. Things have started to turn the corner and pay off.”

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Which may be true, as a result of despite the fact that the Commanders are nonetheless within the basement of the NFC East, they’ve now gained 4 of their final 5 video games — they usually’re nonetheless stinging from the sport they gave away to the Minnesota Vikings final weekend. They imagine they’re a crew on the rise, and they’re taking part in with confidence.

Rivera desires them to feed off that. That is why his pre-game message to his crew was “Don’t be surprised. Don’t be surprised after the game.”

Oh, they weren’t. However they positive had been blissful. The post-game locker room was a celebration, with loud music taking part in and gamers standing on stools, dancing and rapping lengthy after the sport was over. Nevertheless it was a celebration they completely noticed coming. Once they went to work final week, they studied what the Houston Texans practically did to the Eagles final Thursday night time, after they ran for 168 yards in a closer-than-expected 29-17 loss. The Texans had been in a position to keep in it till the fourth quarter, however that they had no passing assault to again up their floor recreation. And let’s face it: They are not crew.

The Commanders may floor and pound away on the Eagles as a result of they’re higher than Houston. And so they had a weapon within the passing recreation — their particular connection between quarterback Taylor Heinicke (17 of 29, 211 yards) and Terry McLaurin. Within the first half, after they had been racking up 100 speeding yards already and constructing a 20-14 lead, McLaurin helped open issues up with six catches for 76 yards, on his approach to eight for 128. 

And whereas the Eagles did not miss practically as many tackles towards Washington as they did towards the Texans — and actually, so many different groups this season — give Rivera some credit score. He ignored his “Riverboat” instincts and caught with what was engaged on the bottom, giving the Eagles a heavy dose of rookie operating again Brian Robinson (26-86-1) and veteran Antonio Gibson (14-44-1).

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“The one thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to stick with it,” Rivera mentioned. “You’ve got to pound it.”

And it labored. Simply have a look at this dominance: After fumbling away their first drive — actually, when a strip sack by Eagles defensive finish Josh Sweat pressured a turnover and set Philly up for an Eagles landing — the Commanders’ subsequent 5 drives had been punishing. 4 of them averaged 14 performs, 70 yards and seven ½ minutes. The opposite one was an eight-play, 30-yard discipline objective drive that solely lasted 1:06 as a result of that is all that was left within the half.

Washington dominated the time of possession, 40:24 to 19:36. Within the first half, they held the ball for 17:38 greater than the Eagles did — the most important first-half margin in that class within the historical past of their franchise.

“The guys did the things the coaches put together,” Rivera mentioned. “The fellows caught to the plan. The coaches caught to the plan.

“We discovered top-of-the-line methods to gradual Jalen Hurts down — preserve him off the sphere.”

They sure did that. Hurts’ MVP candidacy took a huge hit as he completed just 17 of 26 passes for 175 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his limited time with the ball. He did run for a touchdown, but only had six carries for 28 yards.

And Hurts didn’t really get to do much until late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, which the Commanders began with a 23-14 lead. And that’s where the Eagles, facing adversity for the first time all season, fell apart. After an Eagles touchdown and an interception by Philly safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson seemingly set up a heartbreaking finish for Washington, fortune turned their way in dramatic fashion.

First, the Commanders forced a fumble from Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert, setting up a 55-yard field goal by Joey Slye. Then, after a 51-yard pass from Jalen Hurts to Quez Watkins, cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste forced another fumble. Then the Washington defense went to work again, forcing a three-and-out by the fourth-ranked offense in the NFL.

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And on the next Commanders possession, when Heinicke slid to take a sack on third down, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham hit him while he was on his knees for a roughing the passer penalty that just about ended the game. They added one more touchdown, when the Eagles flubbed their last-ditch effort for a miracle and defensive end Casey Toohill picked up a loose ball that Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith had flung back towards his own end zone.

But that was just the signal for the party to start. And now the Commanders are hopeful that they can keep it going.

“Proper now we’re taking part in very well,” Heinicke said. “To get a win like this, it is an enormous confidence-boost for our crew.” 

“It is a crew that is been resilient all 12 months,” McLaurin added. “We have had our ups and downs, however we by no means wavered. We by no means stop on one another.”

That’s what Rivera has been trying to get them to do, through all of their issues and injuries and the constant investigations into the Commanders owner. He’s implored them to block out the noise, to shake off their 1-4 start, to believe that they’re a better team than they’ve been for most of the year.

And on Monday night time, in spectacular trend, they completely did.

“You are feeling such as you’re proper,” Rivera said. “In a scenario like this, we have the sort of guys in that locker room that may do issues. And we’re beginning to see it come collectively.”

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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