It's been a while since the Eagles won a football game, and anybody who is still denying that Jalen Hurts is giving the Eagles some juice that's been missing, I don't know what to tell you.
The kid has something.
Hurts won his first career start, the Eagles ran for 246 yards — their most in six years — and the Eagles ended their four-game losing streak and the Saints' nine-game winning streak with a 24-21 win at the Linc.
Here are our 10 instant observations off the Eagles' first win since Nov. 1.
1. There was a lot to like about Hurts’ performance Sunday. He threw the ball accurately, he saw the entire field, he made quick decisions, he made plays with his legs, he spread the ball around, he looked vertically. But what I liked the most was his demeanor. This was a 22-year-old making his first NFL start and doing it against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense but he had such a calm confidence about him from start to finish. He commanded the huddle and never looked overmatched, never panicked.
We’ve seen Carson Wentz fighting himself a lot this year. You could see him pressing, rushing things, even when he didn’t need to. He just never really looked comfortable. But there’s an effortlessness to Hurts’ game that is really admirable. He's fun to watch.
2. What does this performance mean for Wentz? It’s too early to say, but the plot definitely thickens. This was an auspicious debut for the 22-year-old rookie. He wasn’t perfect, but there were enough positives to really open your eyes. That juice we saw at the end of the Green Bay game we saw pretty much all the way through.
I still believe Wentz will be here next year, but if Hurts keeps playing like this, and Hurts and Wentz are both here next year — which I fully expect — training camp next summer is going to be very interesting. If Hurts continues playing well, he's going to deserve a fair shot at the starting job in 2021.
3. Amazing how much better the offensive line looks when the quarterback gets rid of the ball faster. The Eagles were on pace to allow the 13th-most sacks in NFL history and had allowed three or more in 10 straight games — the seventh-longest streak in NFL history — and all of a sudden they allowed none. That’s no coincidence.
It definitely helped that Jason Peters wasn’t in there, but a decisive quarterback is always an offensive line’s best friend. Hurts dropped back, surveyed the field and either threw it or took off running. He didn't stand around and wait.
4. This is why you keep feeding Miles Sanders and hopefully Doug Pederson finally gets it. Sanders was 7 for 14 before he exploded 82 yards for a touchdown, the fourth-longest run in Eagles history. The last month, Pederson has simply abandoned Sanders if he has a couple one- or two-yard runs. If you’re a home-run hitter, you’re going to strike out a few times, but if you get enough at-bats, you’re going to hit one out of the ballpark.
Sanders was brilliant Sunday — 14 for 115 with two TDs and four catches for 21 more yards — but he was only brilliant because he finally had the chance to be brilliant. And I still think 14 carries — and six in the second half — isn't enough. He has to keep getting the rock.
5. This was a truly gallant performance by the defense. Already missing three D-backs, it lost Rodney McLeod, Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Malik Jackson, then lost Derek Barnett (he returned) and still got a huge 4th-and-2 stop on its own 42-yard line when Josh Sweat sacked Taysom Hill in the fourth quarter. Hurts and the offense responded with the clinching touchdown drive.
That’s complementary football, and that’s a beautiful thing that we just haven’t seen much of this year. The Saints got a late TD after a turnover that made the score a little too close, but all in all — considering what they were working with — great stuff by the defense.
6. This was the finest performance of the year by the defensive line. It really got after it start to finish against the fifth-highest-scoring offense in the league. This is the highest-paid D-line in the NFL, and it sure earned its paychecks Sunday.
Javon Hargrave had two sacks, three hurries and two tackles for loss, Sweat had two sacks, two hurries and one tackle for loss and Fletcher Cox added a sack, one tackle for loss and a hurry.. And the Eagles held the Saints’ running backs to a harmless 63 yards on 15 carries.
Sweat’s got a career-high 6.0 sacks now, just one short of Brandon Graham for the team lead. And Hargrave has three in his last two games. On paper, this is one of the NFL’s best defensive lines. Sunday, it lived up to its reputation.
7. Two weeks in a row now we’ve seen explosiveness from Jalen Reagor, the rookie first-round pick. He had the punt return TD and a 34-yard catch last week and a 39-yard catch and run Sunday. His overall numbers aren’t great, but when you can see that sort of playmaking in spots you figure once he really gets comfortable and develops chemistry with Hurts, the plays are going to be there. Think he’s going to be pretty good.
8. Pederson did a nice job calling a game tailored to Hurts’ strengths, but 15 carries (before three kneel downs) is too many carries. Too many hits. And when you have Sanders and Boston Scott — and Jordan Howard, for that matter — I don’t want Hurts running keepers when it’s time to run out the clock. That fumble could have been costly, and he never should have been in that position. That’s what running backs are for.
9. Pretty good game for the Eagles’ linebackers. Duke Riley ran around and made some big plays — and picked up the Eagles’ first interception in six games — and Alex Singleton continues to be a force against the run and a sure tackler. I still think they need a big-time elite linebacker in the mix, but Riley and Singleton did a nice job Sunday.
10. The Eagles are really in a bind with Jake Elliott, whose 22-yard miss just before halftime was the shortest miss by an Eagles kicker in 27 years (since Neshaminy High graduate Matt Bahr missed a 21-yarder vs. the Bills). Elliott is now 13 for 18 this year, and that’s 72.2 percent, which is the worst by an Eagles kicker since Norm Johnson made 72.0 percent of his kicks in 1999.
That five-year, $19 million contract includes $5.4 million in dead money if they cut him this offseason (compared to a $3.3 million cap hit if they keep him). I’m not sure they can afford to get rid of him. Then again, I’m not sure they can afford not to.
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