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Washington runs out of steam; loses to Eagles 20-16

With their 4th straight loss, Washington's playoff hopes are fading fast.
Credit: AP
Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) is chased and sacked by Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Genard Avery (58) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

LANDOVER HILLS, Md. — Jalen Hurts scrambled out of trouble to avoid a handful of sacks and ran the ball when needed with Miles Sanders out.

He even needed to make an evasive maneuver after Philadelphia’s game at Washington was over.

Hurts ran six times for 45 yards and narrowly escaped a railing collapse walking to the tunnel after the Eagles held on to win 20-16 Sunday and put themselves on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. Fans waiting for Hurts fell onto the field after a railing in the corner of FedEx Field gave way.

While there was at least one on-field injury, the second-year quarterback came away unscathed to await other results around the league that could wrap up an NFC wild-card spot for Philadelphia, which has won seven of nine games since starting 2-5.

“Jalen was awesome today,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “We all know he’s dealing with an ankle injury and fighting through it. He’s tough. This guy is so tough.”

Hurts was 17 of 26 passing for 214 yards in leading the Eagles to a fourth consecutive victory. Sirianni said Hurts told him to call whatever plays he wanted and he would make it work, and the QB remained calm throughout a tense game.

The poise under pressure continued after the game when the railing collapsed. Hurts helped some fans to their feet and expressed relief that most of those involved appeared to be OK. Mark Tennally, a photo runner for The Associated Press who was standing under the railing, was injured and attended to by medical personnel.

“It’s crazy,” Hurts said. “It’s crazy stuff right there. That was a real dangerous situation.”

Philadelphia (9-7) started slowly yet again, and its league-leading rushing attack was held to a season-low 3.4 yards per carry with Sanders out because of a broken left hand. Twelve days after racking up 238 yards on the ground against Washington (6-10), the Eagles had 119 yards rushing.

But the defense finally got to Taylor Heinicke, and the Eagles wore down a banged-up opponent, erasing a 16-7 deficit. Jake Elliott connected on field goals of 42 and 41 yards in the fourth quarter, and Rodney McLeod picked off Heinicke in the end zone with 24 seconds remaining to seal it.

“I wanted to just make sure I closed this game out the right way,” McLeod said. “It felt good to be able to finish a game, make a big catch.”

Philadelphia will make the postseason for the first time since 2019 if Minnesota loses at Green Bay and either New Orleans loses to Carolina or San Francisco beats Houston.

“If we get invited to the dance, it’s time to dance,” right tackle Lane Johnson said.

Rookie Jaret Patterson rushed for his second career TD for Washington, which was missing top running back Antonio Gibson, left guard Ereck Flowers and punter Tress Way because of COVID-19 protocols. Heinicke flashed some of his trademark elusiveness, evading pressure during a big fourth quarter, but threw an interception for the fifth consecutive game after leading Washington to the Philadelphia 20-yard line.

“That safety made a hell of a catch,” said Heinicke, who was 27 of 36 for 247 yards. “I think if (intended target John Bates) doesn’t trip, that’s a touchdown. It’s unfortunate.”

Ravaged by injuries and virus-related absences, Washington’s faint playoff hopes came to an end with a home loss that felt more like Lincoln Financial Field because of all the Eagles fans in attendance. It’s the team’s fourth consecutive loss after winning the previous four games.

“Hopefully we’re developing character,” coach Ron Rivera said. “The important thing is how we finish. We have one more game to go. We go from there.”

Sirianni went for it on fourth and goal twice, leading to two touchdowns from Boston Scott, who got the bulk of the carries in Sanders’ absence. The Eagles celebrated another victory, but Hurts was not ready to reflect on the team’s journey.

“The job isn’t done for us,” he said. “It’s not done. We’re not done yet.”