The Commanders’ third-down offense was magnificent against the Eagles

Commanders' third-down offense was magnificent vs. the Eagles originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

PHILADELPHIA — It’s entirely possible that the Commanders will have succeeded on another third down by the time you’re done reading this sentence. 

Washington’s offense was 27th in the NFL in terms of third-down effectiveness entering Monday night’s matchup with an undefeated Philadelphia squad, as the unit moved the chains in just 34.2% of such situations. 

Astonishingly — like, Was that real life or was it some bizarre dream we all experienced simultaneously?-level astonishingly — offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s crew operated at a 60% rate in a 32-21 upset of the Eagles. In the first half alone, the bunch went 9-of-12 for a ridiculous 75% clip before cooling off in the third and fourth quarters.

Overall, there truly aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe how awesome Turner’s plan and the group’s execution was at Lincoln Financial Field.

Thanks to their devoted commitment to running the ball, the Commanders were able to put themselves in numerous third-and-shorts. While Brian Robinson Jr. (26 carries for 86 yards) and Antonio Gibson (14 carries for 44 yards) failed to produce impressive yards-per-carry averages, they did an excellent job of making sure they almost always generated some yardage, which ensured that the line to gain was rarely far away. 

Take Washington’s first touchdown march, for instance. Robinson plunged forward on a third-and-1, Gibson got four yards on a third-and-4 and Taylor Heinicke hit Terry McLaurin for 26 yards on a third-and-2. A Gibson one-yard dive eventually provided the visitors with their first points of the evening and squared the score at 7-7. 

The trend continued on the next touchdown possession, where Robinson churned up two yards on third-and-1, Heinicke connected with Curtis Samuel on a somewhat-lengthy third-and-6 and Heinicke hooked up with McLaurin on a third-and-5. A gutsy fourth-and-1 call was needed to keep the drive alive, and soon after, Robinson broke the plane to secure a 17-14 advantage.

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Of course, not every clutch pickup was of the extra-small variety. Heinicke and McLaurin — you should be sensing a theme at this juncture, as the quarterback relied on his top target incessantly when he dropped back to throw — paired up for 14 yards on a third-and-8 on a second-quarter effort that ended in field goal.

That said, the grand majority of the conversions were every NFL coach’s favorite word: manageable.

The elite efficiency on the sport’s most vital down allowed Washington to pile up an absurd two-to-one edge in time of possession. Together, those two ingredients are the ideal recipe for emerging victorious in a contest that seemed awfully demanding in the buildup to it.

With the riveting win, the Commanders are back to .500 at 5-5 and, though a similar third-down performance won’t likely occur again in the near (or far?) future, the reliance on Robinson and Gibson (as well as the mixing in of Samuel as a rusher) can undoubtedly be replicated again. All of the sudden, it’s fun to imagine what this club is capable of again.

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