January 31, 2023

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Taylor Hynek, Leaders Shock Unbeaten Eagles

Suspension

Philadelphia – Taylor Hynek said he didn’t pay attention. He said he didn’t think much that Monday night would be his last start, if Carson Wentz returned to the active roster from his broken finger ready to go.

And he said last week that his fears were victorious. And to win a game against the last undefeated team in the NFL, he had to help his captains shift in third, maintain leadership and consistency—all things Washington usually failed to achieve.

At the time, his comments may have sounded like they were talking about normal football – say the right thing, no matter how obvious it is, and hope and pray the result will come somewhere. In hindsight, the quarterback’s hopes – and his playing – were smart, and Monday’s game may have secured him a chance to stay at Washington’s start, regardless of Wentz’s health.

With a heavy reliance on running game and effective third-place play, the Heinicke captains did what no other team had done this season: they upset the Philadelphia Eagles, 32-21 – On their homeland, no less.

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Described as “probably the biggest win of my career,” Heinicke finished 17 for 29 for 211 yards, no touchdown and interception for a 66.9 pass rating. Galen Hurts of Philadelphia went 17-for-26 for 175 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for a rating of 94.2.

For the first time this season, the leaders’ attack seemed consistent and systematic as it netted four goals in the first half, three of which spanned 13, 12 and 16 plays. Washington (5-5) scored 13 points in the second quarter while keeping the Eagles scoreless, an achievement in itself; Philadelphia (8-1) entered the game after scoring nearly 60 percent of his points in the second quarter and has yet to be disqualified.

“We’ve found that one of the best ways to slow down Jalen Hurts’ performance is to take him off the field,” said captains coach Ron Rivera.

But its dominance in the first half did not stop there. Washington topped Philadelphia 235 yards for 101, converted 75 percent of her third touchdown (9 of 12) and made 51 plays for the Eagles 19. The biggest in franchise history, she capped a 58-yard field goal (the longest in Joey Sly’s career) who took a 20-14 lead and elicited a round of boos from Eagles fans.

For the game, Washington managed 81 plays for 330 yards, including 152 on the floor, and converted 57 percent of her third touchdown (12-for-21). It was everything no one expected and more.

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Rivera, who suffocated in the locker room afterwards, said.

Two weeks ago, his mother, Delores, passed away after a battle with lung cancer. Amidst all the drama off the field, Rivera assured his team that The importance of maintaining focus.

During the week, he asked his players to let him deal with unimportant things. After the match, he fought back tears while telling the players that his mother “would have been proud.”

“It means a lot because the players have been able to stay focused on what’s important,” he said. “… the hard work is starting to pay off.”

After a crucial first half, the leaders opened the second by forcing them to score three goals and then embark on another long journey, a game that spanned 14 games and over eight minutes before Sly scored a 32-yard field goal to expand Washington’s yard. Leads to 23-14.

The leaders have not only united their playing for the past two seasons or more under Rivera – they have shown the control and attention to detail that eluded them in the most critical situations. With Henick at the helm, Washington plays on the edge, usually one throw away from disaster or glory.

Last week against Minnesota, his deep pass was intercepted above the middle, costing the leaders dearly Where their triple victory streak ended. This week, it was his plays that made the difference.

In the second quarter, center Tyler Larsen sent a surprise over Heinicke’s header, but the quarterback buckled, bounced back and dumped him out of bounds – past the scrimmage streak – to cost Washington only a drop rather than a good chunk of the yardage or worse.

Then in the fourth round, during Washington’s last drive, Hynek rushed off the pressure and took his knee in third, firing an unnecessary harsh penalty kick on Brandon Graham of the Eagles as Graham stormed him.

“That last play, we named it Italic for Terry [McLaurin]And it was one of those things. If it’s open, give it to him, and if not, take a sack,” said Heineck. “I’m not going to throw it away unless it’s wide open. When I took that knee and saw them approaching me, I was hoping they’d come towards me, and they sure did. It was a mistake on their part but, hey, we’ll live with it.”

The Eagles’ bug also revealed Hennek’s growth.

“Too much,” Rivera said. “One of the things he learns, is to take what has been given.”

Throughout Monday’s game, the leaders were mostly healthy, and when they made a mistake, they struggled to make up for it. They committed to the run early and stuck with it (Brian Robinson Jr finished for 86 yards and landed on 26 stands), opening up the playing pieces in the passing game. They moved the ball and ate the clock, shifted the critical three points and, for the most part, stayed out of their way.

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But the first two minutes of the match signaled the start of another disaster in the first half. Armani Rogers was flagged for continuing into the opener, resulting in a 33-yard loss in a long comeback by Antonio Gibson. Then Washington went three times. After a tricky penalty kick Washington put the ball back, Heineke was removed from his clothing. Philadelphia got the ball back and needed just three plays to find the end zone in Hurts’ one-yard run.

The leaders responded with their first long run, using 10 running plays confined around two big passes—a 26-yard reception by McLaurin in the third and second and a 14-yard catch by Jahan Dotson in the second and 11. Gibson capped the lead with a one-yard touchdown run.

This crime was very different from the one shown by Washington in the previous weeks.

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Some errors will follow. Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste was called to interfere with a deep pass by Hurts, and although the call looked questionable, it did lead to another Eagles result, this time a six-yard pass for tight end Dallas Guedert to lift Philadelphia 14-7.

Washington was then reported to have postponed the game in fourth and first, prompting offensive coordinator Scott Turner to raise his hands in the stall and intercept Sly’s field goal from 44 yards.

But after being intercepted by safety Darek Forrest and two more goals for Washington before the break — a one-yard touchdown run by Robinson and this 58-yard field goal by Sly — the leaders were leading 20-14 in the first half. It was the first time in more than two years that Washington scored at least 20 points in the first half.

The Eagles seemed to bounce back after Javon Hargrave was knocked out in the third quarter by Hennik at Philadelphia’s 14-yard line. The takedown forced Washington to settle for a 32-yard field target that increased its lead to nine. Philadelphia responded with a long run, using 11 plays as Hurts threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to make it 23-21.

The change wasn’t in Washington’s plans, but under the circumstances, it wasn’t a huge mistake. It was third and third at Philadelphia 43 when Heinicke fired a missile up the left sideline toward McLaurin that stuck in the air just long enough for CJ Gardner-Johnson’s safety to climb up and grab it.

Heinicke has said in the past that if he has a 50-50 chance with McLaurin, he plans to give the receiving star that shot, and his decision to do so here seems wise, even though the result was poor. If the throw had been a little further away, the leaders would have been steps away from the goal line. Instead, it was picked up, a turnover that ultimately had little to do with it.

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“He’s been amazing since he got here — honestly,” McLaurin said. “…He really plays as if every play is the last. He plays fearlessly, man.”

In the subsequent possession, defensive intervention forced John Ridgway to swerve into a short pass to Goedert which linebacker Jamin Davis recovered and returned for relegation. The score was canceled upon review – but the turnover remained and created another opportunity for Washington to extend its lead. Sly, who had been playing in his life, scored a 55-yard field goal with 7:33 remaining to give Washington a 26-21 advantage.

But no leaders match, especially with Heinicke at the quarterback, could have ended without theatrical performances late in the game. This time it came with permission from the defense.

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Hurts fired a 50-yard pass to Quez Watkins, who stumbled in the grass, then bounced back and then lost control of the ball when St-Juste hit him. Forrest regained the stumble to finish what would have been a winning campaign.

“We definitely got into this game knowing no one believed in us,” Forrest said. “…we came ready to fight.”

With his team poised for a final-minute win, Dotson was reported to interfere with an attacking pass, leading to a 21-yard clearance by Curtis Samuel in third. But after the penalty kick, defensive end Montez Sweet frustrated another Philadelphia campaign with a third-place sack.

Then Hynek stuck to the plan: turn the third down, and keep driving.

In the third and seventh positions with McLaurin tightly covered, Heineke defended before taking his knee and firing the penalty at Graham, earning the leaders a new set of slips and a chance to stop the clock.

When Philadelphia finally got the ball back, Casey Tuhill regained a wrong side desperation to land in the game’s final, allowing Washington to secure the win and Hynek to the tunnel in celebration.

“We felt if we could control the streak of scrimmage and run the ball, we could slow things down, and that’s what we were able to do,” Rivera said before tending to the ball. “I mean, the guy is a dynamic midfielder and he’s done a good job – and Galen isn’t a bad guy either.”