Pete Hailey is not a current or former NFL player, nor is he a current or former NFL coach. He is a reporter. Therefore, this space won't be used to closely analyze schemes or assign blame on coverage breakdowns or anything like that related to the Washington Football Team, because those things are hard to discern without knowing the design of and plan for a given play.
That said, he does cover Washington on a day-to-day basis, meaning he can (hopefully) pass along helpful observations after re-watching each of the franchise's games. So, here's what stood out to him from the Week 15 loss to Philadelphia:
- Terry McLaurin's opinion matters far, far, far, far, far more than mine, but I am right there with the receiver who told reporters after the game that he's "got nothing but respect" for Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert wasn't good enough to win the contest on his own — that was never, ever going to be the case — but he was decent enough to notch a victory if he got enough help from his teammates. That help never came, though. Still, Gilbert made a couple of really nice throws and didn't get flustered nearly as much as one would've expected. For a guy who was with another franchise five days before kickoff, Gilbert's performance was more than adequate.
- Speaking of McLaurin, he's seen just five, three and four targets over his last three appearances. That's a problem. Coordinator Scott Turner has taken a promising step forward throughout the season in his current role but he's gone through spurts where he hasn't gotten McLaurin involved enough. Regardless of the quarterback (even if it's Gilbert) and regardless of what cornerback he's facing (even if it's the reputable Darius Slay), No. 17 must be fed the ball — and he just wasn't on Tuesday, much like he hasn't been of late.
- Football folks adore talking about the importance of the trenches, and at times, it can be tiresome to listen to. That said, Tuesday was all about the trenches, and since the Eagles dominated there, they were able to cruise to their win. Washington's offensive line was taken advantage of at times, but the run defense was the true issue as it was gashed repeatedly. Philly deserves credit for their creative rushing attack — Jalen Hurts and those running backs can do a lot of different things — but breakdowns like this one were much too common for the visitors:
- The Landon Collins resurgence continued in Week 15, as the veteran had that heads-up interception and then the fumble recovery, both of which sparked Washington to a 10-0 advantage early. There was a time not too long ago where Collins' time with the franchise couldn't end soon enough. Now, he's invaluable and hugely impactful.
- While that 10-0 lead was a welcome sight for Ron Rivera's side, it really should've been 14-0. Gilbert's 46-yarder to McLaurin was clutch but it also, with a better toss, would've concluded with McLaurin celebrating in the end zone. After that, Gilbert was inaccurate when trying to hit Ricky Seals-Jones on a rollout and then, on third down, the typically reliable Adam Humphries couldn't secure a potential six-pointer from his quarterback. With how the defense was bullied, those four extra points may not have ultimately mattered, but they no doubt would've been of service:
- Jeremy Reaves was in perfect position in the secondary on a couple of snaps but was unable to finish those sequences with a pass breakup or interception. On one, he was all over Devonta Smith on the sideline, though Smith toe-tapped for a completion anyways. There was also Reaves' really smooth change of direction that allowed him to get right in Dallas Goedert's lap on a Hurts deep shot; unfortunately, Goedert simply outmuscled him in the end. And lastly, he was the one in coverage on the final touchdown of the night, where Hurts connected with Ward on a devastating back-shoulder score. Watching the film will be a painful experience for Reaves because he was so close to being a star of the action.
- Just so you're aware: Through three quarters, the Eagles had essentially doubled Washington's time of possession and tripled their yardage. They employed the formula versus the Burgundy and Gold that the Burgundy and Gold employed on its four-game winning streak.
- John Bates, who keeps delivering at tight end, did an excellent job of getting small to break through the defensive line and be available for Gilbert on that third-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Bates feigned a block then fought through traffic to reach the secondary, where he snagged Gilbert's pass. For an offense that basically always opts to run the ball in those situations, this was a very smart choice:
- Last one: While Jack Del Rio's defense fell short almost all matchup long, it did have a final opportunity to come up big following that Bates chunk play and Jaret Patterson's ensuing touchdown. The group was like a pitcher who just watched his offense put up a productive inning at the plate and badly needed to take the mound, get three quick outs and maintain the momentum. Instead, the defense conceded a grand slam in the form of an eight-play, 80-yard possession that culminated in the Hurts-to-Ward dagger. That caused a one-score affair to once again become a two-score tilt and Washington just never recovered.