Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

Pop the champagne, 1972 Dolphins. Your status as the only undefeated team in NFL history will last at least another year. The Commanders went to Philadelphia last night and topped the previously unbeaten Eagles, 32-21, in controversial and stunning fashion.

  • The Commanders rushed 49 times for 152 yards, with both Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson scoring touchdowns. It was Washington’s most rushing attempts in a game since 2002.
  • The Washington defense was terrific, holding the Eagles to a season-low 264 yards and forcing four turnovers.
  • Washington held the ball for a ridiculous 40:24. The Commanders ran 81 plays; the Eagles ran 47.
  • Washington also went 12 of 21 on 3rd downs and converted its only 4th down.
  • As 11-point underdogs, the Commanders pulled off their biggest upset since 1995.

There was plenty of controversy to go around, too. The Commanders’ third turnover forced — a fumble by Dallas Goedert recovered by Jamin Davis — showed a clear facemask by Davis just before the ball came loose. Then, late in the game, Taylor Heinicke took a knee to run down the clock, but Brandon Graham crashed into him, drawing a personal foul penalty that essentially sealed the game. There was also a questionable-at-best offensive pass interference called on the Commanders. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best refereeing ever.

But give Washington a ton of credit. They had a game plan to control the game on the ground. When they had to go to the air, Terry McLaurin came up big with eight catches for 128 yards. Joey Slye nailed four field goals, including two from 55-plus. The defense limited Hurts’ rushing with a disciplined effort by the defensive line. Basically, exactly what our Tom Fornelli wrote would happen in Monday afternoon’s newsletter.

Washington has sneakily won four of five after starting 1-4. It’s rarely pretty, but it was absolutely effective — and shocking — on Monday night. Taylor Heinicke has things trending in the right direction, yes, but the entire team has stepped up around him as well, and it brought head coach Ron Riveran — who just lost his mother — to tears after the game. The Commanders earned an A+ in our weekly grades.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…


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THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Whenever a very good team — and, yes, the Eagles are a very, very good team — loses a game, it’s important to distinguish what’s cause for concern and what’s a minor bump in the road. So let’s do it with Philadelphia.

The most obvious bump in the road is the turnovers. The Eagles had three all season entering Monday. They had four on Monday alone.

  • The first turnover was on a deep throw from Jalen Hurts to A.J. Brown that bounced around and somehow ended in Darrick Forrest‘s hands. No big deal. It’s a shot worth taking to your star wide receiver.
  • The second was the aforementioned Goedert fumble where a call was clearly missed.
  • The third was the ultimate “Yes, yes, yes, no!” play: Hurts found Quez Watkins on a deep pass. Watkins fell to the turf, got up to run and had the ball punched out by Benjamin St. Juste. Forrest recovered.
  • The fourth was on a lateral as the clock expired.

That won’t happen again. But there are some things that are more worrying.

  • The Eagles have allowed 320 rushing yards in their past two games combined and at least 130 in each of their last four games. Jordan Davis (ankle) missing time hasn’t helped, but the run defense is an issue, even when he returns.
  • The big plays have fallen off. The Eagles have nine plays of 25-plus yards over the last five games. They had 12 in their first four.

Combine the bumps in the road and the concerning trends and you get an unexpected loss. It’s one game. The Eagles will be just fine. Still, this is a loss they’ll wish they could have back: The game was there for the taking.

Not so honorable mentions

Virginia football shooting: Three players killed, two students injured


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Late Sunday night, University of Virginia student and former football player Christopher Jones Jr. fatally shot three current Virginia players and injured two more students, including at least one player. On Monday, UVA president Jim Ryan announced the three killed were Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler.

  • Davis, a wide receiver, had 36 catches for 886 yards — good for 24.6 yards per reception — and seven touchdowns in his career. Standing 6’7,” Davis was a true physical specimen who could win 50-50 balls and turn any play into a big one.
  • Perry, a linebacker/defensive end, finished his career with nine tackles and had a memorable 84-yard pick-six in 2020.
  • Chandler, a wide receiver and kick returner, transferred to Virginia from Wisconsin over the offseason.

The shooting occurred on the university’s campus on a bus that had just returned from a field trip in Washington, D.C. A shelter in place was in effect overnight and well into Monday morning, and classes were canceled. They are also canceled today. Jones, who last appeared on the Cavaliers’ roster in 2018, has been taken into custody.

This tragedy was on my mind all day Monday. I grew up near Charlottesville and have spent many fall afternoons at Scott Stadium. These young men were so much more than the statistics they accumulated. They were brothers, sons, classmates, teammates, friends — human beings whose lives were taken far too early. It’s unspeakably sad and still hard for me to wrap my head around. Each outpouring of grief — whether over social media or through a statement — was harder to read than the last. I’m hoping for healing and strength for the team, the community and all those affected.

Virginia men’s basketball canceled its home game Monday against Northern Iowa. The football team is scheduled to host Coastal Carolina on Saturday and finish its season Nov. 26 at Virginia Tech.

Julio Rodríguez, Michael Harris II win Rookie of the Year awards ⚾


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Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez and Braves outfielder Michael Harris II won AL and NL Rookie of the Year awards, respectively, punctuating outstanding debut seasons.

Harris’ all-around impact made him a deserving winner over his teammate, writes MLB expert Matt Snyder.

  • Snyder: “Even in just over 2/3 of a full season, Harris had 27 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs and 20 steals in 22 chances. He posted 5.2 WAR on Baseball-Reference and 4.8 on Fangraphs. If you extrapolated his WAR out to a full season of work, he’d be at roughly 7.4. For those less familiar, a general guideline on WAR is that 2-plus is a regular starter, 5-plus is All-Star level and 8-plus is MVP level.”

Champions Classic preview: Kentucky-Michigan State, Duke-Kansas should be awesome 🏀


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College basketball has already gotten underway, but the unofficial (delayed) start to the season — or at least the one that will give us a great look at where some top teams stand — is tonight at the Champions Classic. No. 4 Kentucky takes on Michigan State in the opener, and then No. 7 Duke faces No. 6 Kansas in the nightcap.

This event has introduced us to stars like Zion Williamson, and there are plenty of juicy storylines in this year’s edition, such as how Jon Scheyer fares in his first big test as Duke’s head coach. Here’s college basketball expert Kyle Boone:

  • Boone: “No one from our team picked Duke in our Final Four preseason picks — Dariq Whitehead is recovering from a preseason injury, Dereck Lively was dealing with a calf injury — so there is some reason to maybe take a wait-and-see approach with this team. … With Kansas on deck almost right out of the gate this season, it should serve as a great litmus test for where the Blue Devils stand, and where they can go.”

On the other side, keep an eye on Spartans big man Mady Sissoko, who’s coming off a 14-point, nine-rebound performance in a narrow loss to Gonzaga, and be sure to check out the previews of both games here and here.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺

🏀 No. 4 Kentucky vs. Michigan State, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏈 Bowling Green at Toledo, 7 p.m. on ESPNU
🏈 Ohio at Ball State, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Grizzlies at Pelicans, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 7 Duke vs. No. 6 Kansas, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Nets at Kings, 10 p.m. on TNT

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