What a satisfying and rejuvenating victory game for the Philadelphia Eagles! This victory was one that came from true top-to-bottom team success. All three phases contributed to the win.
Throughout the game, the offense revved like a fine oiled engine and showed to be even more balanced than the last few weeks with an obvious emphasis on passing the ball in addition to a well-established run game.
While the defense was up and down, they played well enough for the Eagles to win and even added a touchdown of their own.
Special teams even joined in on the fun with a massive blocked field goal by K’Von Wallace.
Here are my takeaways from the game.
It’s honestly impossible to discuss the Birds this week without mentioning the uniforms.
After DeVonta Smith was mic’d up and mentioned wanting the Eagles to do a White on Black uniform combination, the Eagles gifted the team the opportunity to don it on his birthday. The birthday boy absolutely did not disappoint in the crisp uniforms but more on that soon. In his post-game presser, Jalen Hurts mentioned he has been lobbying Jeffery Lurie to approve this combo, so thank you Jalen!
The uniform itself has really popped on the field. Next up we need the Kelly Green alternates and black helmets.
Smith and Hurts put on an absolute clinic in the first half with the Slim Reaper looking like The Terminator with a large elbow brace on his left arm. #6 showcased everything that made him a Heisman Trophy winner.
His first catch and touchdown of the day came on a phenomenal grab over his former teammate Patrick Surtain II.
Even though Surtain was in excellent coverage, Hurts gave Smith a chance with a 50/50 ball and Smith leaped over Surtain to make a breathtaking catch, pinning the ball against his body with Surtain’s arm still caught in between.
His next touchdown came on a beautiful slant route against Kyle Fuller in the end zone. Smith was able to take advantage of Fuller’s outside shade coverage, ate up the space he was afforded, and crisply broke off into a slant giving his quarterback a large passing window. Hurts then delivered another pass on the money and 6 more were tacked onto the board just like that.
Smith is the first true star X-receiver the Eagles have had since TO.
While Smith played an incredible game, credit is certainly due to Hurts for what seemed to be his best game as a passer as a pro. Hurts was absolutely surgical in the first half, stepping up into the pocket, extending plays, and delivering accurate passes on time. His growing confidence in himself as a passer was clear throughout the first half.
Even with Denver head coach and defensive mastermind, Vic Fangio sending heavy blitzes early and often, Hurts was able to keep his composure and buy time in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield to stay a passer despite the pressure.
Hurts was also able to get it done on his feet, rushing for 55 yards. Of those rushing yards, 31 came on one run, the longest of his career, where despite seeing open receivers in man coverage he tucked the ball and ran with it as he knew he had an open field and the ability to pick up more yardage than a receiver would have…an incredible heads-up play that truly represents the intelligent football Hurts has been playing as of recent.
At the end of the first half, Hurts was 15-20, had 228 total yards, 2 touchdowns, and a QBR of 134.6. While the second half was not as stellar statistically for him, (He ended the game 16-23, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, a 103.2 QBR, and 231 total yards). Jalen Hurts absolutely did enough to help lead the team to victory.
The backfield duo of Boston Scott and Jordan Howard was crucial in Sunday’s victory. Both running backs were able to get downhill behind massive holes created by the offensive line. In total the backfield quartet of Hurts, Scott, Howard, and Gainwell rushed for 222 yards on the day. 81 and 83 of those came from Scott and Howard respectively.
It is clear that their downhill running style is an ideal fit for this offense. How the ratio of touches will look upon Miles Sanders’ return remains to be seen, but the success stemming from the rushing attack in past weeks has been inspiring to say the least.
The offense was absolutely humming in the first half. It truly seems as if the coaching staff and team had found the run/pass ratio that fit this team and its identity. The growth this offense has shown as a whole over the past few weeks is so no flash in a pan. This offense has found its rhythm and will only improve as they continue to grow together.
The defense has battled throughout the year and this game was an absolute microcosm of the season. Throughout the game, we saw Gannon go from calling the game aggressively to going back into his metaphorical 2 high coverage shell and reverting to calling vanilla zone-coverage plays. Seeing Gannon be aggressive in his play-calling more consistently is what the Eagles, and their fans, should be looking for and hoping for.
Clearly, the defense does not have the personnel for Gannon to feel comfortable utilizing his entire playbook, but even a change as small as playing more press-man was making a huge difference for the defense.
Once they fell back into their regular zone, Teddy Bridgewater was very obviously able to find more success. However, when Gannon began to switch things up again the Eagles were able to stymie any comeback effort from the Broncos.
Considering the resources that have been poured into this secondary, I would have liked to see more of the press-man we saw early on, especially as it is something star Cornerback Darius Slay has mentioned his affinity for.
Also, with mentioning the secondary, the play of nickel corner Avonte Maddox absolutely has to be mentioned. Maddox has been flying all over the field and playing physical football at an incredibly high level. The benefits of moving back into the slot for him cannot be overstated, he has the ability to use his elite speed and quickness and is not at as much of a disadvantage with his size as he was on the outside. That being said, despite being diminutive in size, Maddox plays like a player twice his size.
Elsewhere on the defensive side of the ball, the linebackers have been much improved in recent weeks following the benching and eventual release of Eric Wilson. The trio of Davion Taylor, TJ Edwards, and Alex Singleton have played hard, fast, and downhill. Their growth has been exponential as they continue to gain these valuable reps. While there is obviously still room for growth in their shedding of blocks, completing tackles to the ground, and in their dropping back into coverage, their performance has been encouraging to say the least.
Mention has to be made of a phenomenal play made by Davion Taylor and Darius Slay. Taylor made an unreal strip on Melvin Gordon on 4th and 1 at Philadelphia’s 23-yard line with seconds remaining in the third quarter. Slay was able to pick the ball up and scamper 77 yards for a touchdown, putting the Eagles up 27-13.
It must have been a surreal feeling for Davion Taylor, who is having a homecoming of sorts, as he went to school just 35 minutes up US-36 at the University of Colorado Boulder and once played a game at Empower Field and dreamed of doing so once again as part of an NFL roster.
The defensive line which has long been the strongest unit for the defense showed a little more life than last week. They were able to get more pressure on Bridgewater on passing downs, however, the Broncos were able to run the ball with some success with the Broncos backfield duo averaging 7.9 (Williams) and 4.9 (Gordon) yards a carry.
With the resources that have been allocated to the defensive line, the Eagles ideally would have better performances from them, especially against the three backups the Broncos were starting on their offensive line. While an argument can be made that they are not getting as much pass rush because quarterbacks, especially this week, are getting the ball out faster, that does not explain their lack of juice in the run game. That being said, as the game continued, it was encouraging to see the Eagles continuing to get pressure on Bridgewater late.
All in all, this was an incredibly encouraging game from the Eagles. To see the entire team play well enough to win as a unit is the sign of progress Eagles fans should be searching for this season.
If this team continues to play strong team-orientated football at this high of a level, a Wildcard Weekend matchup is absolutely in the picture for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cover Image Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski