PHILADELPHIA (AP) A.J. Brown laughed off his sideline beef with Jalen Hurts.
Just two friends, close as brothers, airing out grievances - well, it was Brown who was aggrieved - over how much the wideout should get the ball.
Winning can often soothe disappointment. That was two games ago, and the Philadelphia Eagles are still undefeated at 3-0 going into an NFC East showdown Sunday against Washington.
Hurts targeted Brown 14 times Monday night in a victory at Tampa Bay. Brown finished with nine catches for 131 yards, while fellow 1,000-yard receiver DeVonta Smith had just four catches.
Coach Nick Sirianni said breakout games were coming for all the receivers and that play-calling is often dictated by the circumstances of the game. Consider, Hurts led the Eagles on a game-ending drive that lasted more than nine minutes against the Buccaneers.
“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to win the football game,” Sirianni said. “Our offensive line is playing great, and I think we’ve had some really good performances in the pass game, as well. It’s just the way the flow of the game goes sometimes that can sway the numbers a little bit.”
Fall sports in Philly is shaping up a bit like last year, when the Eagles won their first eight games and the Phillies played in the World Series. The Eagles are again unbeaten, the Phillies are back in the playoffs, and the Commanders are in town to play spoiler.
Washington’s 32-21 win last season handed Philadelphia its first loss after an 8-0 start. Yes, the Commanders forced four turnovers, but the Eagles' receivers were largely shut down: Brown had just one catch, tight end Dallas Goedert three, and Smith had six but for only 39 yards.
Keeping the receivers out of the end zone could go a long way toward keeping the Commanders competitive.
WHAT NOW, HOWELL
Second-year quarterback Sam Howell threw four interceptions and was sacked nine times in Washington’s 37-3 loss to Buffalo last week. It was the first loss in four NFL starts for the 2022 fifth-round pick out of North Carolina who was named the Commanders’ No. 1 QB before the season began.
“I expect to play much better than I played on Sunday and my teammates, and this organization deserves for me to play better than I played on Sunday, and I just got to do a better job,” Howell said. “I can’t go out there and make the excuse that I’m young because the teams we’re playing, they don’t care. The scoreboard doesn’t care. I got to do my job at a higher level in order for this team to go where we want to go.”
There’s no indication coach Ron Rivera or offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is considering benching Howell for veteran backup Jacoby Brissett.
“There is a resilience to him that his teammates appreciate and just the way he handles himself as he walks around the facility,” Rivera said of Howell. “One moment he’s really serious about it and recognizing and understanding what he has to do, the other moment he can be lighthearted and laugh with the guys. I think he’s exactly where he needs to be right now.”
So long tush push, hello brotherly shove?
The Eagles have turned the tush push into the most unstoppable play in the NFL.
Hurts lines up under center with two or three players behind him. He takes the snap, the offensive line surges forward and Hurts gets a big push from behind.
The result is almost always a touchdown or a first down.
The play works. The nickname, maybe not so much. There's an effort underway to rebrand the play, and Sirianni is on board.
“Brotherly shove. I kind of like that,” Sirianni said. “Who came up with that?”
Jokesters on social media, of course.
Thanks in large part to the push, err, shove, the Eagles are dominating on QB runs (no scrambles) on third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 plays, or attempts from the opponent's 1-yard line.
The last two seasons, Hurts is 36 of 42 (85.7%) while the rest of the NFL is 245 of 320 (76.6%). This season alone, Hurts is 7 of 8 (87.5%) and the rest of the league is 33 of 45 (73.3%).
UPBEAT AFTER DEFEAT
The Commanders weren’t one or two - or maybe even 10 - plays away from beating the Bills. But after a game where not much went right, including their stout defensive line not sacking Josh Allen once, the mood around the team is positive.
“Practice had a lot of energy, a lot of high energy, and that was another good thing that’s important,” Rivera said. “You got to be able to bounce back and get yourself refocused. This is a very good football team we’re playing. It really is. We’re going into a very tough environment as well, so we’ve got to rally around one another and make sure we understand what it takes.”
It doesn’t hurt that the upcoming schedule looks relatively soft for Washington, with games against Chicago and at Atlanta and the New York Giants sandwiched between matchups with Philadelphia.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno in Ashburn, Virginia, contributed to this report.
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