They arrived early and in droves. They wore black and green jerseys and T-shirts that read: “No one likes us. We don’t care.” They flew flags — “You’re in Eagles country!” — and sported beards dyed bright green. They put blowup dolls with the faces of the opposing quarterbacks in inappropriate positions and played the song “Apache” by the Sugarhill Gang, joking that they, unlike the Washington Commanders, could not be forced to give up everything Native American. They played cornhole and drank beer and grilled with friends and bad-mouthed former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Many Eagles fans said they still appreciate things about Wentz — his faith, his family values and the instrumental role he played in the run-up to the Super Bowl win in February 2018 — but almost all said they couldn’t wait to heckle him.
“I’m here to boo Carson Wentz’s ass,” said Rita Decimo, a 64-year-old retiree wearing a miniature Eagles top hat and Eagles stickers under her eyes. “He wanted to get out of [Philadelphia]. He was complaining about being an Eagle. Get the frig off then.”
“I’m sober, by the way,” she added, pointing to her can of Liquid Death sparkling water.
In the past two decades, as Washington’s fan base has decayed, opposing fans regularly have filled the empty seats at FedEx Field — and maybe none more so than Eagles fans. The drive 100 miles south on Interstate 95 has led to regular stadium takeovers, and in pockets of the stands, some Commanders season ticket holders have had to relocate to avoid travelers. On Sunday, the Eagles had a significant advantage among the crowd of 64,426, and it was impossible to escape them or their buzz about Wentz.
Ultimately, though, the jeering was modest. FedEx Field operations sidestepped obvious land mines — they introduced the defense, not the offense, on the loudspeakers, for instance — and as Wentz struggled mightily in the 24-8 loss, his performance rendered mocking mostly unnecessary. Arguably, the loudest boos Wentz heard were about 90 minutes before the game, when he ran onto the field for warmups.
“I’ve obviously been on that side of the ball. I know the Eagles’ fans travel well, and they showed up and had a lot to cheer for today,” said Wentz, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 211 yards and took nine sacks. “We didn’t play our best ball, and I didn’t play my best ball.”
In the parking lot, Eagles tailgaters outnumbered Commanders fans. Even team-sponsored functions, such as the HBCU tailgate, were inlets of burgundy and gold among a sea of green. Philadelphia had such a strong presence in part because larger fan experience companies — such as Philly Sports Trips, Phans of Philly and the Green Legion — had bussed in a few thousand fans. Several said they had paid about $350 for a round-trip bus ticket, lower-bowl seats, an open bar, food and custom T-shirts.
The game attracted smaller groups too — such as 717 Rec, a cornhole league from Lancaster, Pa. Tim Hollenbeck, the organizer, said the group has done a few other trips but has found it difficult to find 50 tickets together at most stadiums.
“It’s impossible to get a crew of 56 people that can get a ticket to the game in Philadelphia,” he said. “You physically can’t do it. For us, it’s a lot easier to get tickets down here.”
A few steps away, Ray Flournoy, a Washington season ticket holder since the 1980s, sat in front of his RV, staring out at the crowd. He didn’t think he had ever seen this many opposing fans at the stadium for a game. A truck drove by with a large video screen on the back, proclaiming FedEx Field as occupied territory — “Lincoln Financial Field South.”
“Unfortunately, we’re getting used to it,” Flournoy said glumly.
On the first series of the game, Wentz ran onto the field to what sounded like some haunting calls of “Carrrr-son!” But after the Commanders punted and Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts ran onto the field, there were louder calls of, “E-A-G-L-E-S: EAGLES!” Some fans brought caution tape, joking that they would protect Hurts from the railing that collapsed near him last season.
A look at the newer, stronger railing that was put in place at FedEx Field after the old one collapsed in January and nearly hit Jalen Hurts. pic.twitter.com/1t9SliZ2QR
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) September 25, 2022
After the game, Coach Ron Rivera and several Commanders, including left tackle Charles Leno Jr., would say they didn’t think Eagles fans affected Wentz. But during another dreadful first half, as the quarterback scrambled to extend plays, sometimes taking sacks and once fumbling — his worst traits from Philadelphia manifested for the first time in Washington — it was hard not to wonder why the mostly disciplined, methodical quarterback from the first two weeks had disappeared.
By halftime, Washington trailed 24-0, and at least one Commanders fan had gone to the birds: He looked at the players running off the field and raised both middle fingers.
Even if the crowd didn’t bother Wentz specifically, it clearly disrupted the offense. A few times, wideout Terry McLaurin said, the noise forced the Commanders to change the snap count.
“We’re paid to play football, and [we] try to control what’s going on on the field,” McLaurin added. “We don’t necessarily have control over [what’s going on in the stands]. But you definitely could see a lot of green out there.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, heavy clouds darkened the stadium and rain began to fall. After the offense failed to convert on fourth and 22, many Commanders fans filed to the exits as those in green and black jerseys taunted them.
“Bye-bye!” they yelled, breaking into a chant of the team’s record: “1-2! 1-2!”