The victory sealed the postseason bid for 7-9 Washington, which will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) in the wildcard round of the playoffs on Saturday night (8:15 p.m., ET, NBC). New York had outlasted the Cowboys (6-10) 23-19 in a Sunday afternoon game at MetLife Stadium, enough to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive in the case Washington lost.
When Eagles coach Doug Peterson pulled quarterback Galen Hurts in the fourth quarter and sent in backup Nate Surfed with Philadelphia trailing by 3 (Carson Went was a healthy scratch), Giants players didn’t hesitate to question Peterson’s motives. “I think the Eagles just hate us more than Washington, ” Giants receiver Golden Tate tweeted during the fourth quarter.
Peterson said in his postgame press conference the decision to play Surfed was his, and he was not trying to throw the game. “Yes, I was coaching to win,” Peterson said “Nate has been here for four years and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.
Surfed finished with a 14.6 rating after completing 5 of 12 pass attempts for 32 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in addition to a lost fumble. The Cowboys will pick at 10 and the Giants 11, perks of a division whose 23 combined wins were worst in the NFL.
But questions loom for Philadelphia, including at quarterback, where Went’s four-year, $128 million extension runs through 2024. Hurts, the Eagles’ 2020 second-round draft selection, replaced Went on Dec. 6 vs., the Packers and never relinquished the job.
Smith’s issues don’t overshadow the remarkable comeback his season, and a postseason advancement, represent. Even Smith, in a postgame interview with “Sunday Night Football sideline reporter Michele Tacoma, was incredulous.
And now they get a trip to FedExField to take on the winner of the NFC East next weekend in the opening round of the playoffs. So, Tom Brady is coming to town, and the FT will be featured in prime time in a Saturday night matchup set to kick off at 8:15 p.m.
“It speaks way more to the team, the character we have,” said QB Alex Smith, who along with coach Ron Rivera is central to that story. “Everything that was stacked against, going through the off season, new coaching staff, all the changes, all the COVID-19 stuff, and for us to get off to a slow start like we did and find a way to battle back and then finish it off like this, it says a lot about the character we have in the locker room.
Tennessee is ahead of Indianapolis in the AFC South based on division record (5-1 to the Colts' 4-2). Baltimore is ahead of Cleveland in the AFC North based on head-to-head sweep (2-0).
No remaining NFC clinch scenarios for this week. New Orleans is ahead of Seattle based on conference record (10-2 to the Seahawks' 9-3).
Chicago is ahead of Arizona based on common games record (3-2 to the Cardinals' 1-3). San Francisco is ahead of the N.Y. Giants based on head to head (1-0).
The N.Y. Giants are ahead of Dallas in the NFC East based on division record (4-2 to the Cowboys' 2-4). Carolina is ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).
During the regular season, the seeds reflect how the playoffs would stand if the season ended up to that point. The NFL playoffs are not based on a pure bracket system.
1 seed is assured of playing the lowest-seeded Wild Card survivor. There are no restrictions on intra-division games and the higher seed of any matchup will have home-field advantage.
Watch Now: AFC Championship Preview (4:24) On Saturday, Washington hosts Tampa Bay, and its players and coaches will see if they can extend good fortunes further despite being early 7-point home underdogs.
Sunday night, in a performance befitting of the NFC East’s 2020 season, Washington did not at all win pretty against the host Eagles. And quarterback Alex Smith, who recorded two first-half touchdowns, threw third- and fourth-quarter interceptions, putting additional pressure on a defense that has carried the team all season.
But even more perplexing was Philadelphia coach Doug Peterson’s decision to seemingly wave the white flag at the start of the fourth quarter and bench promising rookie quarterback Galen Hurts in favor of third-stringer Nate Surfed despite trailing by only three points. So, it was fitting Washington couldn’t run away with the victory despite facing an eagle squad that entered the game 4-10-1.
As was the case throughout their turnaround, the team on Sunday leaned heavily on the three key figures: Rivera, Smith and rookie pass-rusher Chase Young, who have served as the catalysts for change and beacons of hope amidst the longest of odds and bleakest of circumstances. -- The COVID-19-induced challenges of a new coaching staff trying to install its system without off season practices or even face-to-face meetings with players until late July.
Throughout this season of calamity, Rivera and Smith served as testimonies of inspiration for a young locker room; Rivera with his bout with cancer, and Smith with his comeback from the gruesome 2018 injury that threatened his football career, his leg and his life and required 17 surgeries to correct. Rivera regularly used the acronym APE to get his message across, reminding his players that attitude, preparation and effort were the only things in their control individually and collectively.
He repeatedly pointed to his 2014 Panthers team that rebounded from a 3-7-1 start to win the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record and reach the playoffs. In Smith, Washington had a quarterback strong on ball security and an ability to position teammates for success.
Young, the second overall pick out of Ohio State, showed signs in the season opener (also against Philly) of the impact he could have as a one-man wrecking crew and as someone who could command double-teams and free up teammates to make plays. Young hit a rough patch midway through the season while dealing with a hip injury, but after regaining his health, he roared to life.
Despite the second-half struggles, Washington continued to reflect the resolve of its coach rather than fold as the franchise’s fans have witnessed in previous years. Smith wasn’t spectacular, but he again paced an offense that made just enough key plays to get the job done while benefiting from the backing of a strong defense anchored by Young and his two tackles, sack and a fumble recovery.
So, despite the ugly patches of the game, and Peterson’s perplexing decision, Washington’s players worried not about style points but pushed through and prevailed. “Everything that was stacked against, going through the off season, new coaching staff, all the changes, all the COVID-19 stuff, and for us to get off to a slow start like we did and find a way to battle back and then finish it off like this, it says a lot about the character we have in the locker room.
Coming off the field, Young jubilantly yelled that he and his teammates are ready for Tom Brady, whom they’ll host with his Bus on Saturday. But after the locker room celebration, a more subdued and reflective Young went back onto the field to take in the lingering atmosphere while FaceTiming his mother.
In the post-Week-15 NFC East playoff scenarios per Deniz Seaman, the Eagles needed the Giants to lose one of their final two-games (Bad, DAL), and on Sunday, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens made things interesting heading to the afternoon slate of games. If Washington loses and the Eagles defeat the Cowboys, then the Football Teams’ Week 17 matchup in Philadelphia will be for the division title.
If Washington loses to Carolina and the Cowboys defeat the Eagles, then the Footballer could still win the division at Philadelphia in Week 17.