Eagles, Jalen Hurts bulldoze COVID-depleted WFT, keep pace in wild-card race

·3 min read

The Washington Football Team made the most of a wild early break en route to a 10-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. 

But as the game wore on, a roster beset by COVID-19 couldn't keep pace as the Eagles secured a 27-17 win to improve to 7-7 and gain a leg up on their NFC East rivals in the conference wild-card race. After digging the early double-digit deficit, the Eagles controlled the ball and the scoreboard en route to 20 unanswered points. Washington answered with a late touchdown, but the Eagles countered with a 19-yard scoring strike from Jalen Hurts to Greg Ward Jr. to salt the game away.

COVID wreaked havoc on WFT

The game was delayed from Sunday due to an outbreak that forced 26 Washington players to the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list in the last two weeks. By kickoff, 13 remained on the list, including Washington's top two quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen. 

A career backup named Garrett Gilbert, who was signed off the New England Patriots practice squad on Friday, got the start under center. He performed admirably and mostly mistake-free under the extenuating circumstances. But Washington's offense was anemic next to an Eagles unit that tallied 238 yards on the ground and outgained their opponents 519 yards to 237.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, center, celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Jalen Hurts looked just fine after a one-game layoff with an ankle injury. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Hurts looks strong after one-game layoff

It was a triumphant return for Hurts, who watched the Eagles' Week 13 game from the sideline with an ankle injury as Gardner Minshew led a 33-18 win over the New York Jets. He showed few signs of rust on Tuesday while completing 20-of-26 pass attempts for 296 yards with a touchdown and an interception that most certainly wasn't his fault. He added 38 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. 

Running back Miles Sanders tallied a career-high 131 yards on 18 carries as Washington found few answers for the overpowering Eagles at the line of scrimmage. Tight end Dallas Goedert starred in the passing attack with 135 yards on seven catches, making up for his early mistake that set Washington up for its first touchdown. He dropped a first-quarter pass from Hurts that bounced off his heel and landed in Washington safety Landon Collins' hands for a bizarre interception.

Washington scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession and picked up a field goal after forcing a Hurts fumble the next time Philadelphia had the ball. But from there, Washington met stiff resistance as it tried to move the ball with leading rusher Antonio Gibson tallying just 26 yards on 15 carries. Gilbert completed 20-of-31 pass attempts for 194 yards without a touchdown or a turnover in his second NFL start. 

The loss drops Washington to 6-8 and a long shot to compete in a crowded wild-card race that now has the 7-7 Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints vying for the NFC's final playoff berth. Washington is left to regroup, hope for some good breaks and — most importantly — get healthy.

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