First victory WLIDK in a long time! These are always more fun.
In all seriousness: the whole Philadelphia Eagles team. Protection was better on the offensive line and pass rush from the defensive line was dominant. The linebackers and secondary withstood injury to get some key stops, especially early. Miles Sanders caught the football and Alshon Jeffery made a play. Aggressive fourth down decisions worked. Cameron Johnston had a banger of a punt. Everyone just played better...
...and Hurts was the spark.
That’s what he’s been called all week, and it proved an appropriate metaphor. As I wrote about last week when I advocated Hurts winning the starting job, it was clear that Hurts’ ability to escape pressure, scramble, buy time, and break tackles made the jobs of his teammates so much easier. With an offense that stayed ahead of the sticks and ate clock, the defense had to play fewer possessions, got more time to recover on the bench, and defended longer fields. It was complementary football.
Hurts didn’t do anything spectacular as a passer, and was largely kept from running the base passing concepts that comprised the meat and potatoes of the Wentz passing game. Most of his explosive plays came as the result of scrambles against man coverage. It’s going to be tough to keep that going for the next few weeks with the same degree of success, but he showed accuracy when working the middle of the field — and that should encourage the Eagles’ coaching staff to put more on his plate next week.
Jalen Hurts passing and running charts— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) December 14, 2020
Passing: only two throws downfield, between the hashes -- four between the numbers. A lot of work rolling out, both schemed and scramble, with quick screens, stops, and out-breakers
Running: elite as a pocket-breaker. pic.twitter.com/AXjrZsaWkJ
To that point, Pederson deserves credit. Perhaps he didn’t need to treat Hurts with such kid gloves — we’ll see over the next few weeks as he expands the passing game more — but he did, and still got 24 points out of the offense. The rollout game, which had been largely ineffective for the Eagles this year, was far more successful with Hurts’ athleticism adding to the run threat. The offense lived in shotgun play-action and found enough variance to keep the Saints guessing.
The other credit that belongs to Pederson is the team’s spirit. Hurts was the spark, and Pederson certainly should have done this a few weeks ago (he’s in our Losers column as well!), but Pederson’s teams regularly show a ton of fight in December months that make a lot of other teams — good and bad — fade. This team likes to play for him.
And hey — this defense likes to play for Jim Schwartz, too! They had a ton of energy and clearly felt inspired to rip through the Taysom Hill offense and support their rookie quarterback, which is the sort of locker room synergy you love to see. The defensive line, which Schwartz has built to take over every game, took over this one against a great offensive line. Kudos to him.
Speaking of which, how sick would it be if Josh Sweat was for real good for Philadelphia? A fourth-round pick from a general manager with a bad track record, developed by a defensive staff that has pretty much universally failed to develop young players. A second-round grade for most that fell due to injury concerns, Sweat has taken on just as many snaps as Barnett this year, stayed healthy, and been as productive.
But he costs 1/10th of the cap hit next season.
He didn’t do anything good at all. I’m just so proud of him for going out there for this godforsaken team and doing his darndest.
There are a lot of mitigating circumstances around Carson Wentz’s total faceplant this season, but we’ve gone over those issues a lot. Let’s call a spade a spade: the team got better once he was benched. That’s the reality.
Speaking of bad quarterbacks, Taysom Hill regularly missed open receivers against the Eagles, took bad sacks, responded poorly to pressure, and froze up on fairly easy reads. The experiment was fun, and may serve as a cautionary tale for Philadelphia and Jalen Hurts’ offense in the weeks to come. But for now, the evidence is mounting that Hill is not a legitimate option for New Orleans long-term.
Man, the Eagles’ special teams remain putrid. Beyond a sick Cameron Johnston punt that died at the 5, they continued to give exploitable edges. Greg Ward offers nothing as a punt returner and Jake Elliott is taking points off the board with too much regularity these days. The Eagles nearly bungled their way out of a win with onside kick shenanigans. This is a poorly-coached unit — no two ways about it.
For everything that the team did against the Saints, there was a lingering sense of frustration that this jolt in the arm was a few weeks too late. The Eagles were 3-8-1 when the fairly obvious Hurts move was made, and with this win against the Saints, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened against the Giants, the Browns, the Seahawks, and the Packers earlier this month. Not only could you have won another game or two — which matters in this division — you could have more data on Hurts to make decisions this offseason.
This is probably too little, too late. That’s disappointing to see.
Not a target for Travis Fulgham in this game. I dunno where all of the complaints went, though — certainly, there’s no way the offense was passable without Fulgham as the featured weapon?
In all seriousness, while no Eagles WR is playing well, Fulgham has struggled the last few weeks. The phenomenon is officially over.