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Washington beats the Eagles 20-14, captures NFC East title

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and Washington beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 Sunday night to capture the lowly NFC East.
Credit: AP
Washington Football Team's Logan Thomas (82) catches a touchdown against Philadelphia Eagles' T.J. Edwards (57) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

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.

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.

Led by Smith and first-year coach Ron Rivera, who overcame a form of skin cancer during the season, 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.

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.

Smith threw a 13-yard TD pass to Logan Thomas in the second quarter to give Washington a 17-14 lead it never relinquished after Jalen Hurts scored on a pair of 6-yard TD runs for Philadelphia (4-11-1).

The 36-year-old Smith began the season as the No. 3 quarterback, a remarkable comeback following 17 surgeries on his leg and a life-threatening infection put his career in jeopardy. He led Washington’s turnaround, going 4-1 before missing the previous two games with a calf strain.

Smith tossed a 5-yard pass to Terry McLaurin to give Washington a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. After Kamren Curl intercepted Hurts’ pass, Dustin Hopkins kicked a 42-yard field goal to make it 10-0.

Smith finished 22 of 32 for 162 yards and two picks with the two TDs.

Down 17-14, the Eagles had an excellent opportunity at Washington’s 15 after Marcus Epps picked Smith’s pass that bounced out of J.D. McKissic’s hands. The Eagles had a first down from the 5 but gained only 1 yard. Coach Doug Pederson passed up a short field goal and Hurts threw incomplete on fourth down from the 4.

Hurts finished 7 of 20 for 72 yards, one interception, 34 yards rushing and two scores on the ground.

Third-stringer Nate Sudfeld replaced him in the fourth quarter and threw a pick on his second pass. After T.J. Edwards intercepted Smith, Sudfeld gave it back with a fumble recovered by Chase Young. That led to Hopkins’ 42-yarder and a 20-14 lead for Washington.

Washington opened the season with a 27-17 victory over the Eagles. Dwayne Haskins started that game for Washington and Carson Wentz for Philadelphia. Haskins was released last week. Wentz was benched last month and was inactive for this one.