CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Good things happen when you keep playing hard, and as awful as the Eagles looked in the first half in all phases they did keep playing hard, and they were able to end their three-game losing streak and grind out a win Sunday.
After falling behind 13-3, the Eagles outscored the Panthers 18-5 the rest of the game and get themselves an ugly but desperately needed 21-18 win at Bank of America Stadium.
Here's our 10 Instant Observations from the Eagles' first win since the opener in Atlanta:
1. One thing we’re learning about Jalen Hurts is that no matter how bad things get, this kid keeps his head up, stays positive and keeps fighting. We sure saw that on Sunday. He was awful in the first half, although there’s no question his coach didn’t give him much of a chance with his horrible play calling. But he was bad, the offense couldn’t get anything going and things looked pretty hopeless. The Eagles’ first 11 drives resulted in six punts, two turnovers, a safety and two field goals. Hurts took some pretty vicious shots, too. The kid kept fighting and kept battling and was able to shake off all the adversity that came before and make some big plays down the stretch. There’s going to be adversity every week in the NFL. If your quarterback has the ability to work through it, that’s huge.
2. When the Panthers scored 10 points in the first quarter, you couldn’t help think, “Here we go again.” But the Eagles’ defense settled down and played lights out the rest of the way, allowing just two field goals the rest of the game. This was a performance the defense really needed and one Jonathan Gannon really needed. The Eagles allowed only 267 total yards, got three takeaways, finally made plays on third down and gave the offense a chance to get its act together. That’s the complementary that’s been so elusive since opening day.
3. This was by far the best game this year for the defensive line, and for once it wasn’t just Javon Hargrave – although he did pick up his sixth sack. The Eagles got terrific pressure from everybody throughout and made life difficult much of the game for Sam Darnold. This is how the d-line is supposed to play. This is supposed to be the heart of the team, and Sunday they were. Fletcher Cox finally showed up. Josh Sweat got a sack. Even Ryan Kerrigan had a tackle for loss. Chuba Hubbard ran for 100 yards, and that shouldn’t happen, but overall a very encouraging bounce-back performance from a defense that was embarrassed the last two weeks.
4. Awesome to see Darius Slay finally pay off on his huge contract with a two-interception game. Slay became the first Eagle in five years with two INTs in a game (Jordan Hicks vs. Mark Sanchez and the Cowboys on the last day of the 2016 season) and the first Eagles cornerback with two INTs in a game in nine years (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Brandon Weeden and the Browns on opening day 201). This defense just hasn’t made plays. Not just this year but for a few years. Slay’s interceptions were huge, and even though they only set up three points, they really gave the whole team a lift and helped swing momentum to the Eagles. Slay hasn’t been playing bad at all. He’s been solid. But he needs to make impact plays, and on Sunday he finally did.
5. Even though the Eagles came back and won, I can’t let Sirianni off the hook for ignoring the running game much of the afternoon. Why did it take so long for the Eagles’ offense to start rolling? Because Sirianni’s play calling was so out of whack it really gave Hurts and the offense no chance to succeed. The first half, the Eagles ran 29 plays and four were called runs. Seriously Nick? What are you thinking? He finally started dialing up some runs late in the game because he had no choice. The first three quarters, the backs were 6-for-19, and in the fourth quarter they were 7-for-42. And you see what happened. This is a Panthers team that ranked 23rd in the NFL in run defense coming in. Sirianni got away with ignoring the running game Sunday, but he can’t keep doing this. It’s insanity.
6. But I will say this: Sunday’s comeback shows that Sirianni does still have these guys buying in. This has not been a good football team for the last few weeks, but you don’t come back from 10 points down on the road against a 3-1 team if the coach’s message isn’t getting through. That’s a really good sign. I still don’t think Sirianni has been a very good coach most of this year, but the most important thing for any coach is getting his guys to play hard for 60 minutes, and the Eagles certainly did that Sunday.
7. I liked how DeVonta Smith bounced back after a fumble in the third quarter and made some big plays as the Eagles roared back to win the game. Smith followed his 122-yard game against the Chiefs with 7-for-77, and he’s looking every week more and more like the star receiver the Eagles have been searching for. I’m not so sure about Jalen Reagor. I don’t see a lot of progress from last year. But it’s hard not to be excited about Smith.
8. Exceptional day for special teams. Arryn Siposs had another big day helping the Eagles play field position, Jake Elliott made a 58-yard field goal – third-longest in Eagles history – and the biggest play of the game was T.J. Edwards’ blocked punt with four minutes left in the game.
9. Quez Watkins is such a weapon, and you can’t help seeing a little bit of DeSean Jackson when you watch him race down the sideline and track a deep ball. His 53-yarder was enormous, really opening things up for the offense for the first time and setting up the Eagles’ first touchdown. Sirianni needs to find more ways to get him the ball, not just on go routes but on intermediate routes. A 6th-round pick, and he’s already one of the NFL’s most explosive deep threats, but I believe he can be more than that.
10. The Eagles’ linebackers have been so bad this year that you really sit up and take notice when one of them plays well, and second-year pro Davion Taylor got his most playing time this year and was pretty solid in the second half. Taylor really needs to play more.
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