LANDOVER, Maryland — The Eagles opened their season Sunday with an important victory.
They snapped a five-game losing streak to the Redskins and won at Washington for the first time since 2013 with a 30-17 victory at FedEx Field.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s 20-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 1 minute, 29 seconds remaining ended Washington’s last hope.
Players were so excited they doused coach Doug Pederson with a bucket of Gatorade on the sideline.
A huge contingent of Eagles fans that had made the trek on Interstate 95 for the game gathered near the visitor’s tunnel and serenaded the players with “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!” chants as they trotted off the field.
“The Eagles fans showed up in amazing form,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Hearing that Eagles chant at the end made it a lot of fun. To get the season started off like this feels very good.”
Pederson’s sideline shower may also have been the players’ way of showing support for their embattled coach.
Pederson, who is in his second season with the Eagles, found himself in the middle of a controversy last week. Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, who grew up in Ocean City, suggested on The Ringer website that Pederson “might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL.”
Several players, including tight end Zach Ertz, backup quarterback Nick Foles and safety Malcolm Jenkins came to his defense, as did owner Jeffrey Lurie.
As the game was ending, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and defensive end Steve Means, who was inactive for the game, grabbed the bucket and dumped it on Pederson.
“You know, we wanted to get the monkey off our backs down here against the Redskins,” Pederson said. “All week we’ve been talking about it and talking about it. (The Gatorade bath) was just a little setup on the sideline. I’m appreciative of it.”
They were able to earn the win primarily because of Wentz and the Eagles’ defense.
Wentz was under pressure from Washington’s defense all afternoon but rarely flinched. His lone mistake was a tipped pass that linebacker Ryan Kerrigan intercepted and returned 24 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
But Wentz, 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, relied on his size and instincts to make several key throws that enabled the Eagles to win their sixth season opener in the last seven seasons.
He completed 26 of 39 passes for 307 yards with two TDs and one interception. At least a half-dozen of his completions came after he wriggled away from a defender.
That included his first touchdown pass of the season. It came on the Eagles’ first possession, when Wentz broke away from a pass rusher and hit wide receiver Nelson Agholor for a 58-yard score.
“That’s just what he does, man,” Agholor said. “He came make great plays with his feet. Sometimes it looks like a sack is coming, and he can get out of it and make plays. He’s a special player.”
The Eagles’ defense came through with four turnovers and four sacks against quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Second-year cornerback Jalen Mills got his first career interception in a key moment. The Redskins were deep in Eagles territory and appeared ready to grab a late lead when Mills snared a pass at the goal line.
Washington had one more chance at a comeback, but it ended when defensive end Brandon Graham jarred the ball loose from Cousins. Cox grabbed it without breaking stride and rumbled 20 yards for a TD.
He celebrated by imitating the late Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance in the end zone.
“It was fun out there today,” Cox said. “It’s been a couple years since we’ve beaten them, so this feels good.”