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Washington holds on, defeats Philly, 20-14, earns playoff berth

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A Logan Thomas TD catch just before halftime put Washington up, and the Football Team held on, by the skin under its fingernails, to defeat Philadelphia, 20-14, clinching an improbable playoff berth.

The team without a nickname – Football Team is not a nickname; it’s lorem ipsum – wins the NFC East with a 7-9 record, and gets as its reward a home playoff game, next Saturday night, hosting Tampa Bay.

The win bookended the 2020-2021 season for Washington, which had opened way back in September with what was then a surprise 27-17 win over the Eagles.

The team would then lose seven of its next eight games on its way to a 2-7 start before first-year coach Ron Rivera went to veteran Alex Smith as his starting QB.

The insertion of Smith into the starting lineup triggered a four-game winning streak, including a 23-17 upset of then-undefeated Pittsburgh, that propelled the Football Team – it’s odd calling them that – atop the NFC East standings.

Smith then had to miss games against Seattle and Carolina – both eventual losses – with a calf injury, and even though he was cleared to play Sunday night, he was obviously limited physically.

That said, Smith did lead Washington on a scoring drive on its first possession – the first points scored by WFT on an opening drive all season, and a 42-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal following an interception of Jalen Hurts made it 10-0 at the end of one.

The Eagles (4-11-1) rallied, getting touchdowns on its next two possessions – both culminating on 6-yard TD runs by Hurts – to go up 14-10 late in the second.

Smith led Washington on a nice two-minute drive – a 9-play, 55-yard march that ended with a 13-yard TD pass from Smith to Thomas, the former Virginia Tech QB who came into his own this year at tight end in D.C. – to go up 17-14 at the break.

The second half was painful for so many – Washington fans, who had to endure two Smith INTs, the decision by Philly coach Doug Pederson to go for it on fourth-and-goal instead of kicking a likely game-tying field goal.

What else … there was the inability of the offense to move the ball after Chase Young recovered a Nate Sudfeld fumble, leading to another Hopkins field goal, the only points scored by either team in the second half.

About Sudfeld: Pederson went to him in place of Hurts not because Hurts was hurt, but because.

Maybe he wanted to see how Sudfeld, a former Washington third-stringer, would look heading into an offseason where Philadelphia already has issues at who will be QB1 between the until recently franchise guy, Carson Wentz, and Hurts, who started the final four games this season, but was only 7-of-20 for 72 yards in this one, after throwing for 300+ each of the past two weeks.

The Sudfeld experiment, with the game on the line, didn’t work out – there was the fumble, and an INT, ahead of a punt and a fire-drill final possession that ran out of time at the Philly 32.

Football Team fans aren’t going to complain about any of that.

Washington is in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, and just the fifth time since 1992.

That’s a long time ago, for those who were wondering.

Hail to the Football Team. They made The Tournament.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press