PHILADELPHIA − As it turns out, a rookie who played barely one-third of the defensive snaps is the most indispensable player on the Eagles.
Or so it seems.
That’s how much the Eagles need Jordan Davis. The mammoth 6-foot-6, 336-pound defensive tackle missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Davis is on injured reserve, which means he has to miss at least two more games.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even Joe Montana, to figure out how to beat the Eagles without Davis.
And Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke is no Montana. Yet the Commanders sent the Eagles to a 32-21 loss Monday night, ending the Eagles’ undefeated season after 8 straight wins to start the season.
There wasn’t much to it. The Commanders ran the ball right at the Eagles, over and over again. They held the ball for 40 minutes, 24 seconds. It hardly mattered that the Commanders averaged just 3.1 yards per carry when they ran the ball 49 times for 152 yards.
It wasn’t anything Heinicke did. He was 17 of 29 passing for 211 yards and an interception. But he didn’t have to do much.
“What they did was a good job of not making him a true quarterback, as in making him not have to make a lot of decisions,” Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said. “That’s a good job by them. They came in with a good game plan. They executed well.”
That was evident on third downs especially The Commanders converted 12 of their first 16 chances, mainly because most of those were 3rd-and-short situations.
“You know how hard it is to play defense at 3rd-and-1, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-3?” Slay said.
But really, the blueprint was set the week before, when Davis missed his first game. The Eagles struggled to beat the Houston Texans 29-17. The Texans are 1-17-1. Yet they ran the ball for 168 yards, with rookie Dameon Pierce getting 139 of those yards.
Next up for the Eagles: Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, who led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,811 yards. He had 147 yards on Sunday in the Colts’ 25-20 win over the Raiders in the first game under new head coach Jeff Saturday.
Saturday might not have ever coached a game before at the college or pro level, but it doesn’t take Vince Lombardi to figure out that Taylor will get the ball until the Eagles show they can stop him.
The following week, the Eagles will face Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones, who has 738 yards rushing, seventh in the NFL. And if the Eagles can figure out a way to stop Jones, they’ll have to deal with a pretty good quarterback named Aaron Rodgers.
Davis is eligible to return the following week, against the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 4. But it’s way too early to know if that will be the case. If not, the Eagles will face Titans running back Derrick Henry, who’s second in the NFL with 923 yards rushing.
If Davis is still out beyond that, there’s the Giants’ Saquon Barkley on Dec. 11. He’s the NFL’s leading rusher with 931 yards. After that, it’s the Chicago Bears on Dec. 18 with quarterback Justin Fields, who’s leading all NFL quarterbacks with 749 yards rushing.
So yeah, the Eagles know what’s coming.
“That’s going to happen for sure until we stop it,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “I’m ready. I’m ready. Come on. Bring it on. That’s just kind of the attitude you have to have. You ain’t going to be perfect in every game, but I know that’s one thing that’s an attitude.
“We have to keep building that attitude, and not worry about what we can’t control, and fix what we can control and be ready for the next one.”
The Eagles will have no choice but to fix it. If they can’t, there will be other losses.
After all, it’s hard for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ high-powered offense to score when they can’t get on the field.
Hurts played well enough, completing 17 of 26 passes for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns. He just didn’t play often enough.
At the midway point of the third quarter, the Commanders had the ball for 32 minutes, 12 seconds, the Eagles for just 7:35.
Still, the Eagles only trailed by nine points despite the huge disparity. But that left the offense with little room for error.
And of course, the offense made several errors, especially in the fourth quarter.
Dallas Goedert fumbled with the Eagles trailing by 2 points early in the quarter, giving Washington the ball at the Eagles’ 34 yard line. The Eagles survived that by allowing a field goal.
Then Quez Watkins got behind Commanders cornerback Benjamin St. Juste and made a nice diving catch 50 yards down the field at the Washington 23 yard line. Watkins was untouched as he dove, so he got up and tried running for extra yards. But St. Juste knocked the ball loose and Darrick Forrest recovered.
The Eagles still had a chance after that, getting the ball back with 3:26 to go down by 5 points. But the Eagles went 3-and-out and punted the ball back after Hurts was sacked on third down.
Even after that, the Eagles were about to get a final chance with 1:38 left, as Heinicke, facing a 3rd-and-long, went to his knees just as Haason Reddick was about to sack him. That would have set up a fourth down, and thus a punt.
But Graham hit Heinicke while he was down. He was flagged for unnecessary roughness, giving Washington a first down at midfield.
Sure, it might have been a bad call. But as Eagles coach Nick Sirianni put it: “You create your own luck and we played like crap … Those scenarios that happen when you play like that get magnified, whether it was the right call or wrong call.
“So we made our own luck today, and it was bad.”
And it might not change until Davis gets back.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.