Coming into the 2020 NFL regular season, Washington introduced a new head coach, brought in new personnel on both sides of the ball, and even established a new team name.
However, the first quarter appeared to display the same old shenanigans that Washington fans had seen before as they welcomed the Philadelphia Eagles home Week 1. Washington looked abysmal offensively, going three-and-out on every possession in the first quarter.
Philadelphia took advantage of that, scoring 17 unanswered points by way of a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Wentz to tight end Zach Ertz, then a 38-yard field goal from the toe of Jake Elliott, and finally from a 34-yard bomb to tight end Dallas Goedert.
Though things seemed to be going the Eagles’ way in the first half, the Washington Football Team defense stood tall and shut out Philadelphia the rest of the way for an impressive 27-17 win over their heated division rival to go 1-0.
Perennial pro bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan made history by passing Dexter Manley for the franchise all-time sack record and the rest of the defense fired on all cylinders, including first-round pick Chase Young (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks) who started over him.
“It just shows you how unselfish Ryan Kerrigan is,” Washington Football Team Head Coach Ron Rivera said. “He understands that we have a couple of young guys that we’ve got to get on the field, but he also knows that he has a tremendous role and an impact role for us.
“Coming off the bench and being fresh and getting two sacks and recovering a fumble and causing a few other plays out there just really speaks to who he is as a young man and what he means to our franchise moving forward.”
That defensive effort set up Washington with its first score when Wentz threw an errant pass into the hands of Fabian Moreau in Philadelphia territory.
Second-year quarterback Dwyane Haskins only accounted for 178 passing yards for the game, but he did lead the ensuing five-play possession hooking up with three receivers, including tight end Logan Thomas who hauled in a wide-open 6-yard touchdown pass.
Heading into halftime at 17-7, Washington carried that momentum into the second half after a passionate halftime speech from Washington’s signal-caller while Rivera received intravenous medication; Rivera was diagnosed with cancer this offseason.
“When playing quarterback, I’ve learned over the years that there are opportunities in a game to fire guys up,” said Haskins. “After that speech (at halftime), I tried to find a way to motivate the guys, and we found a way to come back and get the win.”
Wentz threw his second interception to cornerback Jimmy Moreland on their second possession of the third quarter, placing the ball on the Eagles’ 20-yard line after a 32-yard return.
Haskins dropped a 17-yard dime in the hands of wide receiver Steven Sims to set Washington in prime scoring position after the turnover. Three plays later, running back Peyton Barber crossed the chalk for a one-yard touchdown, 17-14.
Despite former Memphis University standout Antonio Gibson gaining high praise this offseason, he only accounted for 36 yards on nine carries as he split time with Barber and J.D. McKissic.
After a Dustin Hopkins 38-yard boot in the fourth quarter to tie the game up 17-17, Washington smelled blood in the water. Though Washington could only muster 80 yards on the ground as a team, Barber (17 carries, 29 yards) scored his second touchdown of the day with more than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Finally, Hopkins banged in a 40-yard field goal for Washington’s final score of the contest. Wentz turned the ball over one last time on their following possession when defensive tackle Daron Payne forced and recovered the fumble on Philadelphia’s 16-yard line.
Though Philly had one more possession, it was too late, and a game that started looking like an Eagles rout turned into a solid come-from-behind victory for a youthful and ambitious Washington squad.
Next week, Washington will be on the road against the Arizona Cardinals as Philadelphia will lick its wounds and take on the Los Angeles Rams at home.
“We had a lot of guys make plays today, and I’m very excited four our football team,” Rivera said to conclude the first step in the right direction for the new campaign.