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If anyone told you at the beginning of the season that the Washington Football Team would win the NFC East title, it would be met with startled looks and laughs. As a matter of fact, that was still the sentiment leading up to Washington’s showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the odds stacked against them, there is one guy who never had a doubt and that is Washington Football coach Ron Rivera. When he made the decision to bench Dwayne Haskins after week four, Rivera noted that the division was wide open.
Despite Washington’s 2-7 start to the season, he still believed they had a chance to beat the odds and he was correct.
Washington successfully defeated the Eagles 20-13 to clinch its 16th overall NFC East division title and first playoff berth since 2015. This will also be Rivera’s fifth postseason appearance.
During the game, Washington did something they haven’t accomplished all season, they struck first on their opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown on a pass from Alex Smith to Terry McLaurin. This gave them a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts eventually found his groove scoring on two separate touchdown runs of six yards in the second quarter to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead. Washington caught a break right before halftime with a 13-yard touchdown reception by tight end Logan Thomas that gave them a 17-14 lead.
The third and fourth quarter were fairly quiet until Montez Sweat forced Eagles backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who replaced Hurts, to fumble the snap. The ‘Predator’ Chase Young scooped up the ball, ran it to the Eagles 25 yard-line to set up a Dustin Hopkins field goal.
Ultimately, Washington held on to play another week.
“Our defense has come out in the second half and shut teams down,” Rivera said. “That third quarter, they were pretty stifling.”
The Eagles had nothing to play for tonight but played hard and made the game competitive.
“I’m glad it was a grind right to the end,” Rivera stated. “If you take a group of players lightly, they’re going to come back and bite you. You’ve got to give Philadelphia credit for playing the way they did and making it a fight.”
This game was also capped off by several other notable milestones:
- With his 5-yard touchdown reception, wide receiver Terry McLaurin passes 2,000 receiving yards in his career. He joins Gary Clark as the only two to do so through their first two seasons in Washington franchise history.
- Safety Kamren Curl is the first rookie for Washington to record interceptions in back-to-back weeks for the first time since Carlos Rogers in Weeks 11-12 of 2005.
- Defensive end Chase Young now has seven games registering at least one full sack, the most in a rookie season in franchise history.
- Running back Antonio Gibson has surpassed 1,000 scrimmage yards on the season. He is one of seven rookies in franchise history to hit the mark, and the first to do so since Alfred Morris in 2012.
The Washington Football Team will have a test ahead of them next week when they take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the meantime, they have plenty to celebrate.
This young team overcame offseason drama, a name change, four quarterbacks and coach Rivera fighting cancer. Rivera also made a string of tough decisions by releasing Derrius Guice and Dwayne Haskins. While it may seem far-fetched to some, Washington earned the division title and their spot in the playoffs.
Now it’s up to them to determine how far they will go.