Once again, they had let a two-touchdown lead disappear. The franchise quarterback had just thrown a pick-6, his second damaging turnover of the game. The crowd at the Linc was getting skittish.
It seemed like it was all falling apart.
But this is the Nick Sirianni Eagles and they don’t fall apart.
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Jalen Hurts got it together like he always does and put together late 75- and 83-yard TD drives, and the Eagles rolled past the Dolphins 31-17 at the Linc and on national TV Sunday night in a battle of high-flying 5-1 teams.
That record-setting Dolphins offense? They scored 10 points.
Big win. Huge win. Character win.
The Eagles are now 6-1 and still share the best record in the NFL.
Here’s tonight’s 10 Observations:
1. First, he called it on 4th-and-1 with 10 minutes left on the Eagles’ own 26-yard-line. Then he did it again on 4th-and-1 from the 37 with 8:10 left. Whatever the analytics say, it takes some serious guts to go for it on 4th down that deep inside your own territory, and you’ve got to give Nick Sirianni some serious credit for having so much trust in his offense to call those plays. We all know the combination of Jalen Hurts and this offensive line is virtually unstoppable on those keepers, but your own 26? Your own 37? If you fail, you’re giving one of the highest-powered offenses statistically in NFL history a short field. But Sirianni didn’t hesitate. Other than the 2001 wild-card game in Chicago when they took an intentional safety with seven seconds left, the first one was the deepest the Eagles have gone for it on 4th down with a lead as far back as Stathead’s play finder goes, which is 1994. And on the second one, it seemed like nobody on the offense even looked at the sideline. They just lined up and rammed it down the Dolphins’ throats. Brilliant offense takes a lot of different forms. Big plays, electrifying touchdowns, long runs. But the two biggest plays of all Sunday night with the whole world watching went a total of about 150 inches. And because of that, the Eagles are 6-1 and coming off one of their most impressive regular-season wins under Sirianni.
2. We talked about it during the week and I’m going to talk about it now, but one of Jalen Hurts’ best qualities – maybe his best – is his ability to shrug off adversity – turnovers, bad plays, losses – and figure things out. That pick-6 late in the third quarter was a terrible play, but what happens next? Hurts puts it behind him and drives the Eagles 75 yards in eight plays for a TD. Hurts had a 12-yard scramble for a first down and was 5-for-6 for 60 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown pass to A.J. Brown. Are the turnovers a concern? Sure. He’s already got 10 this year in seven games after committing just seven all last year. But every quarterback – every player, in any sport – is going to face adversity and Hurts’ ability to bounce back from it makes him dangerous no matter how bad things get, no matter ugly the game seems to be going, no matter how he’s playing. Hurts has now won five of six starts the week after a loss, and he hasn’t lost back-to-back games in more than two years. Hurts overcame a couple bad turnovers Sunday and made so many big plays down the stretch, finishing 23-for-31 (74 percent) for 279 yards with two passing TDs, one rushing TD and a 109.5 passer rating. It hasn’t always been pretty this year, but one thing we know is that Hurts will never stop battling, no matter what just happened.
3. Everybody said the best receiver in the NFL was going to be playing at the Linc Sunday night, and he was, and it wasn’t Tyreek Hill. OK, Hill is still having a better statistical season than A.J. Brown, and he’s a tremendous player, but what Brown is doing even the brilliant Hill has never done. Brown’s last five games: 131 yards, 175 yards, 127 yards, 131 yards, 137 yards. Are you kidding me? There were years the Eagles didn’t have one guy with 125 yards the entire season. Brown Sunday tied an NFL record with his fifth straight game with at least 125 yards, and he did it on national TV against one of the NFL’s best teams and he did when the Eagles needed it the most. Forget wide receivers. There are very few Eagles who have performed at this level this many weeks in a row. Quick in 1983. Reggie in 1987. Shady in 2013. Yes, Carson in 2017. The Eagles’ patchwork secondary did a really nice job on Hill, limiting him to 11 catches but for only 88 yards. After halftime, he was just 3-for-23. The Dolphins’ secondary? No chance against A.J. He’s just on another level right now. A level we’ve only seen a few times in Eagles history.
4. The Eagles’ defense has really been battling this year despite being undermanned every week, and it’s a credit to Sean Desai and his staff that they’ve kept the Eagles in every game despite relying on so many rookies, undrafted players, practice squad call-ups and street pickups. The one thing they haven’t done is create turnovers. Tough way to win. When Darius Slay picked off Tua Tagovailoa early in the fourth quarter Sunday night, the Eagles had gone 161 consecutive plays over parts of five games since their last takeaway – Jalen Carter’s forced fumble on Rachaad White in the third quarter of the Tampa game. That’s what made Slay’s INT so huge. As well as the defense has been playing, you don’t beat a high-flying record-setting offense like the Dolphins if you don’t take the ball away. Slay was covering Jaylen Waddle when he broke off his man and scooted in front of Raheem Mostert at the Eagles’ 1-yard-line and picked up his 28th career interception. His INT and 16-yard return got the Eagles started on a 78-yard TD drive that gave them a 14-point lead. Ballgame. This defense has been very good without takeaways. With them, they’re going to be outstanding.
5. The Dolphins came in averaging 37 points and 499 yards per game, among the highest marks in NFL history through six games. How did it go for them? They scored 17 but only 10 against the Eagles’ defense, and that includes an 11-yard field goal drive. They netted 244 total yards – less than half their season average. They managed just 12 first downs. They were 4-for-11 on third down. They had just 45 rushing yards. They allowed three sacks – as many as they had allowed in their three previous games combined. Eli Ricks. Josiah Scott. Sydney Brown. Zach Cunningham. Terrell Edmunds. Nolan Smith. This was a Sean Desai masterpiece.
6. Once again, D.K. McDonald and all the secondary coaches deserve so much credit for keeping this secondary playing at a high level – an incredibly high level Sunday night - despite injury after injury. It’s really remarkable that they just shut down a passing offense that’s been on historic pace, and they did it with one guy they just signed off the Steelers’ practice squad, one undrafted rookie free agent playing in his second career game, a safety who had played 16 career snaps before Sunday night and another safety who lost a starting job in training camp. James Bradberry and Darius Slay did their thing, and they were exceptional, Terrell Edmunds played as well as we’ve seen him play, and guys like Eli Ricks, Josiah Scott and Sydney Brown didn’t back down from the moment. The play Ricks made on Tyreek Hill on the Dolphins critical 4th down late in the fourth quarter was magnificent. That’s an undrafted rookie who had played 26 career defensive snaps before Sunday covering a receiver on pace for over 2,300 yards this year. This was without Reed Blankenship, without Bradley Robey, without Justin Evans, without Avonte Maddox. Incredible performance by the d-backs and the guy who got them prepared for this.
7. This was a game where the Eagles really, really, really needed their defensive line to come up huge, and they sure did. And like we’ve seen so often, it was late in the game that they really took over. Build a two-possession lead, get a team in known pass, then just tee off. The Dolphins don’t give up sacks. They were No. 2 in the NFL through six weeks in sacks allowed, but the Eagles recorded four, including two on back-to-back snaps in the fourth quarter. Josh Sweat had two more sacks and now has 5 ½ in seven games and has just been playing at an incredible level. He also had two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. Flat-out beast. Nolan Smith picked up the first of his career and Fletcher Cox and Jordan Davis – defensive tackles of the past and future – combined on a big one in the fourth quarter. But it wasn’t just the sacks. As the game went on, the Eagles just pressured more and more, forcing Tagovailoa into some erratic rushed throws. The Dolphins’ offense didn’t score a point in the second half, and a big reason for that was pressure. Oh, and they also held the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL to 45 yards and 3.8 per carry. Monster game by the defense, monster game by the front. This is why the Eagles were built this way.
8. Great to see another big game by Dallas Goedert, who was targeted five times and caught five passes for 77 yards, including catches of 19, 22 and 22 yards in the first half, when things hadn’t started clicking yet for the offense. After 13 catches for 88 yards the first four games, he’s now got 18 catches for 236 yards the last three games. That’s the Dallas Goedert we’ve come to expect and that’s the Dallas Goedert I’m sure we’ll see these next 10 games as well. He’s just too good to be an afterthought.
9. Jordan Davis continues to play at a very high level, and I don’t think he was bad last year, especially before he got hurt, but he certainly wasn’t the player he is now. These things can take time, and Davis is a very serious-minded kid who knew he had to work even harder, get even fitter, study even longer. It’s all come together for the 23-year-old 1st-round pick. The way Davis has been able to use his power to break down the pocket and get to the quarterback is the biggest surprise. We knew he could stuff the run. But his half sack Sunday gives him 2 ½ in seven games – he didn’t have any last year – and between him and Jalen Carter they now have 6.0 sacks. They’re already only the ninth team in the sack era (since 1982) with two interior linemen 23 or younger with at least 2 ½ sacks. And there’s 10 games left. We talk so much about how great Carter is, but the Carter-Davis duo is going to do damage around here for a long, long time.
10. You have to love how this team is built to get stronger and stronger as the game goes on. They just wear teams down with their physical play, their dominating lines, their ability to extend drives by converting 3rd and 4th downs and their monster time-of-possession numbers. It’s a heck of a blueprint. They held the ball for 36:43 Sunday night, and if you’re facing an offense averaging 500 yards and 37 points per game, your priority is going to be keeping them off the field. We’ve seen that blueprint all year. They held the ball 39:28 in the Vikings win, 38:55 in Tampa, 37:55 against the Rams and now 36:43. That’s four games at 36 ½ minutes or more. The franchise record for an entire season is five in 1991. The NFL record is seven by Washington in 1989 and the 2019 Ravens. The Eagles are averaging 34 ½ minutes of ball control per game, which means their offense is on the field nine minutes more on average per game than the opposing offense. That means the defense is rested by the fourth quarter and they can just tee off. It’s an almost unbeatable formula.