PHILADELPHIA – Just call the Washington Football Team division champs.
Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and Washington beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 Sunday night to capture the lowly NFC East.
“This one’s special just because of how hard it was," said Washington coach Ron Rivera, who overcame a form of skin cancer during the season. "How tough everything was, how it’s been on the guys, the organization. There’s a great group of young men in there and we’re trying to do things the right way. It’s really a cool thing to come out and get the division.”
The Washington franchise, which changed its nickname in July after years of protests about it, became the first team in the Super Bowl era to reach the playoffs following a 2-7 start. Washington earned the NFC’s No. 4 seed and will host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) in a wild-card game next Saturday night. A loss would’ve given the New York Giants (6-10) the division title.
It didn't hurt the visitors that Eagles coach Doug Pederson switched to third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld early in the fourth quarter, which didn't go over well with Giants players posting their reaction on Twitter. Sudfeld hadn’t thrown a pass since 2018 and was picked on his second attempt. He also lost a fumble.
Hurts' passer rating of 25.4 was the lowest by an Eagles starting quarterback since Nick Foles posted a 9.3 rating in the final regular-season game in 2017. Foles ended that season as the Super Bowl MVP.
“Yes, I was coaching to win," Pederson said. "Yes, that was my decision solely. Nate has been here four years and I felt he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.”
Led by Smith and Rivera, Washington (7-9) is the third team to win a division title with a losing record during a full 16-game season. Seattle (2010) and Carolina (2014) previously did it and each won a playoff game.