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The Washington Commanders are 1-1 heading into their first divisional matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Eagles are coming off an impressive win on Monday Night Football over the Minnesota Vikings that has them rolling into FedEx Field at 2-0.
While the Eagles are looking like a well-oiled machine, the Commanders suffered a bad 36-27 loss to the Detroit Lions.
The final score doesn’t reflect how much the Commanders struggled in the first half going into halftime down 22-0 before mustering up some offense in the second half. Most concerning was the defensive performance which allowed Detroit to put up 425 total yards of offense and 191 rushing yards.
Now the Commanders are looking to bounce back on their home turf but don’t expect the Eagles to make it easy for them. The added fact that it is a divisional game that can have future implications creates another layer of urgency.
“Because it’s a divisional game, the thing we all have to understand is if you wanna win in your division, you gotta control your division,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “If you finish with a winning record in your division, there’s a good chance you’ve got to win it. So, they’re [division games] very important.”
“Then you’re playing at home,” Rivera continued. “You wanna defend at home more. So anything else, you want to defend your turf. That’s what makes these games so important. So much so that there is a little extra emphasis. It just happens that way naturally.”
When the Eagles took on the Vikings, running back Miles Sanders led them in rushing with 17 attempts for 80 yds (4.7 yards per attempt). DeVonta Smith averaged 11.4 yards per catch with a total of 80 yards on seven receptions. Jalen Hurts finished 26-31 with 333 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception, including two rushing touchdowns .
With that being said, the Eagles offense will definitely present challenges for Washington’s defense who is still trying to prove they can meet elite status. Hurts has shown tremendous growth since last season and is suddenly one of the Eagles biggest threats.
“The first challenge he [Jalen Hurts] presents is that every time he has the ball in his hands, it’s a run-pass option,” Rivera explained. “And so that’s the thing you’ve gotta be able to do with him. It’s all about discipline. That’s one of the big emphases to say this week. Just discipline, discipline in your assignment, discipline in how we want you to do your assignment. And we’ll continue to focus on discipline against this football team. And this football player.”
“I know our defense will be up for the task of stopping him [Hurts] in that explosive offense that they have there,” Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz said. “But yeah, I don’t put a lot of stock into that. It’s a new team. A lot of new faces over there, so yeah, it’ll be a fun one either way though.”
Besides Hurts, there is the addition of A.J. Brown who was constantly used as a deep threat during his time with the Tennessee Titans. With Brown and Smith lined up together, the Commanders defensive backs will have to ensure that communication issues don’t impact this week’s performance.
“It’s the same offense. I mean, they do what they do. They do it very well. The only difference is, as you said, they add A.J. Brown and he’s a very good football player. He really is. There’s a huge discrepancy in targets,” Rivera noted. “I believe he’s been targeted 21 times while the closest next receiver is 11. He is a bell cow out there. He’s averaging 10 and a half targets a game. So, somebody that we most certainly are, are aware of.”
While the Commanders have a lot to prepare for, the Eagles also understand how important this matchup is and that Carson Wentz poses a threat as well.
“I think he’s doing a nice job over there, like what I’ve seen – I’ve seen, obviously, he’s thrown for a bunch of yards and we know that he can get hot, and be really on, and we know he’s powerful with the ball in his hands and he can make a play at any time,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “So, we’re going through our process to get ready for him and we know he can make a lot of plays.”
Like most division games, this should be an entertaining matchup. But in the end, Washington needs a “commanding” win after giving one away in Detroit.