Yes, the officiating was questionable. Both teams have cause to complain, and also, the Philadelphia Eagles caught the shorter end of the stick. That being said, they still had every opportunity to extend their record to 9-0 against a below .500 division rival that they demolished on the road seven weeks ago.
However, a healthier Washington Commanders squad took it to the Eagles on Monday Night Football in Week 10. The Commanders could have crumbled on the road after a sack-fumble in their first offensive possession. The fumble was recovered by Philly deep in Commanders’ territory and the Eagles quickly scored a touchdown.
By the end of the first quarter, the Eagles held a 14-7 lead, but were heavily trailing in time of possession. Some of that can be attributed to where they began their first possession, but on Washington’s second drive, the tone for how the game would be played was set. The Commanders had decided to run the ball down the Eagles’ throats. With Jordan Davis inactive, the player who led the charge was Brian Robinson Jr.
Robinson, Washington’s 2022 third-round pick was placed on injured reserve after getting shot in his right knee in August during an attempted robbery. Most importantly, the bullet did not hit any critical arteries in his leg. Also, it didn’t cause any significant damage to the knee so the rookie running back was able to return to the lineup in early October.
In recent weeks, Robinson has been the focal point of the Commanders’ rushing attack, but it hasn’t resulted in much success. Washington has scored little, has an unimpressive average per rush attempt, and has mostly relied on its defense to get back in the playoff mix following a 1-4 start to the season.
On Monday night, however, it was Robinson who got the Commanders’ offense rolling early. While Taylor Heinicke can produce at quarterback, he is not the type of quarterback who can run a strong offense without a running game. Even though the Commanders have won three of their last four games, it has largely been in spite of their offense.
Robinson carried the football 16 times in the first half and the Commanders’ total was around 30. Their yards per carry average wasn’t great, but it was enough to make the Eagles respect it, and help Heinicke to be successful on many third-down conversions through the air. The Commanders would end the night 12-of-21 on third down in their 32-21 victory.
Heinicke is a talented quarterback. Through three years in Washington, that should be clear. However, he is not the type of quarterback who can fasten the offense to his back and lead them to victory. He needs help, and as much as Curtis Samuel and Terry McLaurin offer at wide receiver, Heinicke is most effective with a respectable rushing attack.
Robinson finished the evening with 26 carries for 86 yards. That’s far from a spectacular evening, but the effect of his attempts reverberated. The Commanders have been one of the worst rushing offenses all season, but because they stuck with it, and had a few successful attempts, it opened up the passing game. Heinicke’s two turnovers could have resulted in an easy Eagles victory, but Washington’s rushing attack kept the opposing offense off of the field for much of the game. The Commanders won the time-of-possession battle by more than 20 minutes.
Without Robinson, that is not possible. He put that Eagles’ defense to work early and often, making the night easier for his team. Coming off a week in which Commanders’ ownership went so low as to use him being the victim of a violent act to try and help their cause so they don’t have to sell the franchise, Robinson deserves to stand alone this week.
Washington put itself in a bad spot on Monday night, but it was the rusher’s steady presence that allowed the Commanders to pull off the biggest upset of the 2022 NFL season. He is not going to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but his Week 10 performance deserves to be lauded.
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