On a night the Washington Commanders' offense rattled off a whopping 81 plays, keeping the Philadelphia defense on the field for 40:24 of a 60-minute contest, the game plan seemed predictable: Either a handoff or find Terry McLaurin wide open.
Philly couldn't stop it.
The Commanders ripped off 152 rushing yards on 49 carries, averaging 3.1 yards per tote. It was indeed a throwback 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust rushing performance. The big plays came from McLaurin.
Seemingly every time quarterback Taylor Heinicke dropped back to pass, he targeted McLaurin, particularly on third downs and in high-leverage situations. The star wideout generated 128 of the Commanders' 211 passing yards on the night on eight receptions, including a gorgeous 41-yard bomb from Heinicke that set up a field goal.
"Terry was terrific," head coach Ron Rivera said after the game. "Really appreciated the way he did things and wanting the ball. It's like when we said it, when we agreed to the contract this summer, I told you, this was an organizational decision. A young man like that impacts who you are."
McLaurin is one of the best young receivers in the NFL. He can get open with precise route running, has speed to burn, wiggle after the catch and great hands at the catch point. He's the entire package. The Commanders' lack of national success is the only thing holding back McLaurin from being a consensus top-10 WR nationwide.
It wasn't some schlub defense McLaurin burned Monday night. He became the only receiver with 80-plus yards against the Eagles this season and repeatedly beat top corner Darius Slay, making the veteran look slow at times.
"I've said this before, you paid the guy a lot of money in the offseason for a reason because he continues to make big plays," Heinicke said of the wideout. "So when we have one-on-one with Terry we like that. Whenever I see one-on-one with Terry I get excited and I have full confidence in him to win because he continues to do so."
McLaurin's production in recent weeks is a big reason Heinicke should retain the starting role. The wideout has 9.0 targets per game, 6.0 catches for 92.5 yards with Heinicke as the starter in 2022. With Carson Wentz, McLaurin averaged 6.2 targets, 3.7 catches and 61.2 yards.
Beyond the stats, McLaurin has clearly become the leader and heartbeat of the 5-5 Commanders.