The Eagles' recent run of pure domination came to a screeching halt Sunday in brisk Chicago, fighting and grinding their way to a clunky victory against the Bears.
Jalen Hurts seemed off, the coaching staff was a little off, and Jake Elliott knocked a football off the uprights.
It was a win but it was an ugly afternoon, which is fertile soil for a crop of bold opinions and hot takes. So let's overreact to Sunday's sloppy win:
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1. What in the world was with that play calling?
I really hated what Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen schemed up on Sunday afternoon.
To start, they didn't care for running the ball against a team that entered the day as one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, even when Jalen Hurts looked uncharacteristically off at numerous intervals. One designed Hurts run aside to start the game, it was one scramble and five pass attempts in the first quarter.
Miles Sanders didn't get a rush attempt in the first 23 minutes of the game. One week after going over 1,000 yards on the season, he inexplicably finished the game with just eight rush attempts in the first 54-plus minutes.
What is going on?
This isn't the first time Siranni & Steichen failed to call a running back rush in the 1st quarter, and that previous time in Arizona they also had a hard time pulling away.
I know that passing the ball is statistically more efficient, I know that Hurts has progressed as a passer, and I know that the Eagles have two WR1-level wideouts. But the beauty of being able to run the ball is manifold: you hold on to the ball and kill clock, you tire out opposing defenses, and you rest your own defense. The consistent pounding an opposing defense takes when they're getting run over by a great rushing team like the Eagles is debilitating, physically and mentally. You can't just write those impacts off by yelling "Air Raid!" and launching the rock.
Give me more balance, please.
And then, when you're going to throw the ball, please make more sense. The wind was so strong Sunday that Bears kicker Cairo Santos waived off a 49-yard field goal attempt, but Sirianni and Steichen kept dialing up deep shots that felt like prayers more than bombs - even though firsthand accounts from Chicago reported that Hurts' passes were falling short in pregame warm-ups.
Combine those weird decisions with the insistence on running lifeless screens to running backs, and I felt like I was losing my mind all game long.
This duo has been tremendous for most of the season in orchestrating an offense that perfectly suits its strengths, but that certainly wasn't the case against the Bears.
2. Jalen Hurts' interceptions don't really matter at all
Jalen Hurts' early interceptions probably spooked some Eagles fans, and frankly I don't blame that being your initial reaction. Hurts has been so accurate, so turnover-averse, and so accurate this season that the sight of those INTs genuinely threw me for a loop. It looked... off? Wrong? Definitely weird.
The truth is, interceptions happen. Hurts has just managed to avoid them for the bulk of this season by being one of the better throwers in the NFL.
Odds are good you'll see folks ding Hurts, both as a quarterback and as an MVP candidate, after the two picks. But here's a reminder of what happens around the league when you're watching the Eagles:
- Mahomes: Two multi-INT games, 11 INTs | At least one INT in 8 games
- Burrow: Two multi-INT games, 9 INTs | At least one INT in 5 games
- Hurts: One multi-INT game, 5 INTs | At least one INT in 4 games
That's just football. When you throw the ball 400+ times in a season, you're going to throw interceptions. Hurts' first pick seemed to just fall a little short of A.J. Brown. His second pick seemed to be a miscommunication between the QB and the wide receiver.
Again: it happens.
I like that Hurts never seems to get down on himself when he makes mistakes. During The Great Carson Wentz Unraveling in 2020, one mistake seemed to snowball into a dozen. Hurts has made some mistakes this year, but he almost always returns to form and isn't afraid to take more shots.
This throw to DeVonta Smith in the second quarter was a perfect example:
As was this throw to A.J. Brown:
Until Hurts starts handing out interceptions like Jameis Winston for a few games in a row, there's absolutely no need to panic.
3. Is the Eagles' DL more valuable than the Eagles' OL?
This might seem blasphemous, and I understand if you don't agree, but I am officially so enamored with this defensive line and the pass rush that I'm ready to at least consider the idea.
Everyone knows the Eagles' offensive line is the crème de la crème, but I think it's high time the Birds' D-line started getting similar national recognition. They entered Sunday's game leading the league in sacks (49) and rattle off six more, absolutely pummeling Justin Fields into submission.
It was a masterful performance from Haason Reddick & Co., who have been relentless all year long. Reddick should be higher in Pro Bowl voting and should also garner All-Pro looks; he's a game-changer, and Howie Roseman nailed that free agent signing.
The beauty of this Eagles defense is that, after cries of "more blitzes!" from the fanbase, the stacked front is starting to get home regularly with just four rushers. The deep, deep rotation Roseman assembled is unforgiving. The ability to roll out some combination of Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis, Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph, and Milton Williams at will is completely absurd.
That regular pressure allows the elite defensive backs to do their jobs instead of having to run around chasing receivers for extended periods of time, which you simply can't underrate.
I'm sure folks will point to the offensive line's value in both the run game and the passing game, which is a fair argument. But the fact that it's even up for debate is remarkable.
Either way, Roseman's desire to build his team through the trenches on both sides of the ball has been a focal point for years now and it's paying dividends in a big way this season.