The Eagles beat the Broncos! Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
4-6 doesn’t look amazing but it does look a whole lot better than 3-7. The Birds have won two of their last three games. They also now own the league’s 12th best point differential.
WILD CARD FEVER
The Eagles are very much alive in the NFC playoff picture.
The top five teams are likely locked in to the top five spots in some order. After that, there are two wild card spots up for grabs. The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are currently in place as the sixth and seventh seeds, respectively.
The Eagles have a big opportunity to beat the Saints in Philly this week to strengthen their postseason push. The Eagles also have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Panthers ... and the Atlanta Falcons.
Further helping the Eagles’ case is that they don’t get on a plane for the rest of this season and they have a very favorable schedule: vs. NOR, at NYG, at NYJ, vs. WFT, vs. NYG, at WFT, vs. DAL.
The path is there.
Without question, Hurts played his best half of NFL football on Sunday. He completed 15 of his first 20 attempts (75%) for 176 yards (8.8 average), 2 TD, 0 INT, and a 134.6 passer rating. Hurts’ passing numbers would’ve been even better had Quez Watkins not dropped a perfectly placed pass in the end zone. He also ran for 52 yards, including a 31-yard gain where he quickly recognized man coverage and took off running after realizing no one was accounting for him.
At the risk of sounding cliche, Hurts played smart, winning football. He threw with accuracy and anticipation. It was great to see him give DeVonta Smith a chance to make a play in the end zone on the rookie’s first TD catch. He avoided bailing the pocket too early. He kept his eyes down the field and moved well in the pocket to find a crossing Dallas Goedert for a big conversion on 3rd-and-12. He was poised and in total control out there.
Hurts did cool off in the second half. He almost got picked by Patrick Surtain II along the right sideline. He was then easily intercepted by Justin Simmons after pressure affected his throw and he floated a ball into double coverage.
That turnover happened with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Hurts did not throw again in the entire game. He didn’t have to with Philly’s defense stepping up and the running game salting away the win.
The second half makes it hard to say this was a flawless, A+ performance. But, make no mistake, it was an encouraging outing for Hurts. He’s yet to erase all doubt that he’s the franchise quarterback moving forward but this performance was a step in the right direction. Now it’s time for him to keep stacking good games.
The Eagles are undefeated when they wear white tops with black pants.
I thought it was solid look! Not necessarily an every away game thing but something to break out on occasion. BGN’s Shamus Clancy, meanwhile, is making the case for more frequent use.
As it turns out, it was Hurts who convinced Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to make the change. And it sounds like another new look might be on the way ...
Jalen Hurts says he takes full credit for the Eagles wearing black pants with the white tops. Said he convinced “Mr. Lurie” to change it up.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 15, 2021
“Felt like it was time to put the black pants on.”
“We’ll see what’s next.”
Hmmmm. What could it be? All-green, like DeVonta Smith wants? Green tops, black pants? Kelly green hasn’t been green-lit (see what I did there?) yet, so it’s not that, unfortunately.
QUESTION: Who is the NFL’s highest-graded wide receiver by Pro Football Focus over the past two weeks, just ahead of Justin Jefferson at No. 2?
ANSWER: DeVonta MF Smith.
The Slim Reaper followed a strong day against the Los Angeles Chargers with four receptions for 66 yards and two touchdowns in Denver. Smith’s contested touchdown catch over Patrick Surtain II, his former teammate and a very promising young cornerback, was simply sensational. That’s a catch that fans are used to seeing happen AGAINST the Eagles, not FOR them. Kinda nice to know the Eagles have a wideout who’s capable of Mossing defensive backs.
Smith is really heating up. It can’t be said enough: the Eagles need to target him even more than they currently are. He’s too good to not be getting at least 10 targets per game. Of course, the Eagles aren’t passing a ton these days, but I don’t care. Force feed DeVonta.
The Eagles are the No. 1 offense in the NFL over the last three weeks in terms of EPA per drive, as noted by Sheil Kapadia. Hard not to give the head coach credit for this turnaround. Sirianni’s commitment to running the ball has clearly been fruitful. This game also spoke to Sirianni’s ability to put Hurts in position to succeed as a passer.
Beyond scheming, one of the most important aspects of being a head coach is leading a team through adversity. In that regard, the Eagles are 2-1 since dropping to 2-5 after a real bad loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Things could’ve snowballed from there in a real ugly way. But they didn’t.
Not unlike Hurts, Sirianni still has much to prove. But he’s similarly trending in the right direction.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Sirianni said the Eagles’ offensive line was going to get a game ball for their performance in Denver. Hurts was only sacked once (it was a strip-sack) and hit twice. PFF had the following to say:
The Eagles’ offensive line played one of its best games of the season in pass protection, combining to allow just four pressures while earning an 86.0 team pass-blocking grade on first review.
For context, the Los Angeles Rams have the highest-graded offensive line in the NFL this year with an 80.3 mark. So, 86.0 is top notch stuff.
In addition to their pass protection success, they paved the way for the Eagles to gain 214 yards on 40 carries (5.4 average) on the ground.
The hard-running Howard picked up 83 yards on his 12 carries (nice 6.9 average). That puts him up to 211 yards on 41 carries (5.1 average) over the last three games.
Earlier this year, Howard questioned if his career might be over considering he wasn’t getting any interest from teams until the Eagles reached out. Turns out that it’s very much not over for JoHo. He’s a fun player to watch in that he seems to so often gain positive yardage. He helps to keep the offense out of third-and-long situations.
Scott has also been very effective. His 11 carries went for 81 yards (7.4 average) and his two catches went for 24 yards. Scott, like Howard, is at 5.1 yards per carry this season. Their no-nonsense running style is really working for this offensive attack.
On a separate but related note, the success of Howard and Scott speaks to not needing to invest major resources into the running back position. Howard is playing on the veteran minimum. Scott is playing on the ERFA minimum tender.
Remember The Kirk Cousins Litmus Test? The premise was that if you lose to Cousins, you’re not a good football team. Since he mostly tends to beat the bad ones but not the good ones.
Well, now we have The Jonathan Gannon Litmus Test. If you’re a truly good quarterback, you’re going to complete over 80% of your passes and have your way with Philly’s defense. Otherwise, you’re just not very good. Sorry that you had to find out this way, Teddy Bridgewater.
To Gannon’s credit, it’s not like his defense simply sat back in Cover 2 like it did all too often earlier this season. It seems like we saw more press coverage than we were used to seeing.
Gannon still must eventually find answers to slowing down the better quarterbacks. Shutting down the bad ones is good but the Eagles’ ceiling is going to be capped if they simply don’t stand a chance against the top guys.
Unforunately for the sake of evaluation but fortunately for the sake of winning, the Eagles won’t really be tested by any top quarterbacks the rest of the season. The remaining signal callers on their schedule:
Daniel Jones (twice)
Mike White or Zach Wilson
Taylor Heinicke (twice)
*It’s quite possible the Eagles see Cooper Rush instead if the Cowboys rest their starters in Week 18.
Those dudes fit in with the group of lesser quarterbacks the Eagles have faced this year. Here’s how they’ve fared against those two types.
LESSER QUARTERBACKS: 12 opponent points per game
Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo, Sam Darnold, Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
BETTER QUARTERBACKS: 34.2 opponent points per game
Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Justin Herbert
Speaking candidly after the game, the Eagles’ second-year linebacker admitted he didn’t even initially know he forced the fumble that ended up being a such swing in this game. The inexperienced Taylor is still a work in progress but he continues to flash potential.
I don’t think the Eagles envisioned Slay being a fumble recovery touchdown specialist upon acquiring him. I don’t think that’s how “Big Play Slay” originated. Especially considering he only scored one defensive touchdown in his first 124 games. But now he somehow has two tuddies in his last three games!
And his return against the Broncos couldn’t have been much more impactful. It looked like Denver had converted a 4th-and-1 to give the Broncos a new set of downs at Philly’s 22-yard line. The opposition had a chance to capitalize on Hurts’ interception and make it a one-score game, shifting momentum back in their favor.
Slay’s return changed the complexion of the game. The Eagles went up 27 to 13 instead of the score likely becoming 20 to 17 or 20 to 13. Hurts’ interception suddenly mattered a lot less and Philly was able to focus on running the ball.
Wallace slipped through the Broncos’ field goal protection and blocked a kick that would’ve made it a 20 to 13 game early in the third quarter. Easily Wallace’s biggest moment as an Eagle. The 2020 fourth-round pick hasn’t been able to get on the field on defense lately, losing out on playing time to Marcus Epps. Good to see him showing value in another way.
Considering I’m nearing 1,900 words at this point and still have many more to type, I’m just going to embed this tweet here:
At the risk of jinxing him, Jake Elliott is quietly on track for a career year after struggling in 2020.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 15, 2021
His current FG% (87.5%) is above his single season career high (84.6%).
Hasn’t yet missed an extra point.#Eagles
Elliott hit a 53-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 10-point lead at halftime.
Thanks for helping the Eagles beat the Broncos, Teddy.
Nothing you can really say but it’s piss poor effort. If you’re worried about getting hurt then you shouldn’t be out there https://t.co/YkeJRp3MaB— Brandon Stokley (@bstokley14) November 15, 2021
Also, thanks for (inadvertently) helping the Eagles win Super Bowl LII.
EAGLES DRAFT POSITIONING
All three of the Eagles’ first-round picks dropped in Week 10. You’ll obviously live with that when it comes to Philly’s own selection. And counting on the Jaguars to beat the Colts wasn’t an easy ask. But the Ravens losing to the Dolphins ... really? C’mon, Baltimore.
Carson Wentz is on track to hit the 75% snap threshold for the Eagles to get Indy’s 2022 first-round pick in Week 13.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 15, 2021
Just three more games to go:https://t.co/ti530VR8xY
They lost to the Eagles.
Did this team beat the Broncos?
Checkmate. Eagles > Cowboys.
The Eagles earned their win but they were also assisted by some real cowardice from Fangio. The Broncos’ head coach kicked a field goal from 4th-and-goal at the 3-yard line and another from 4th-and-goal at the 4-yard line. The latter was blocked, which was clearly an act of punishment from The Football Gods.
Then again, Fangio grew up as an Eagle fan (Dunmore, PA native). Maybe he didn’t mind losing. (He did.)
Dallas Goedert took a late hit to the head from Justin Simmons and got knocked out of the game with a concussion because of it. No flag. Why? There could have been a flag thrown on a play where Hurts was pretty much out of bounds before being shoved out. Borderline call but quarterbacks usually get the benefit of the doubt there. Then the refs actually threw a flag for a late hit on Kenneth Gainwell but ... picked it up. Weird stuff from this crew.
I like Quez but, man, that drop was brutal. He doesn’t usually struggle with catching the ball so it’s not like this should be a longstanding problem. Have to include him in the losers section when he leaves four points on the board. The Eagles could’ve gone into the half with a 24 to 10 lead instead of being up to 20 to 10.
Watkins is averaging just 33.5 yards per game in his last eight appearances, by the way.
Let’s start off with a positive: Reagor actually made a nice leaping grab along the sideline for 12 yards!
Unfortunately for him, that was the only positive. Reagor lost eight yards on a jet sweep early in the game. His last three offensive touches have gone for -2 yards, which is ... not good.
Reagor has nine receptions for just 64 yards in his last seven games. He’s been lapped by DeVonta Smith in career receiving yards (603 to 567) despite Reagor playing in 11 more games.
Reagor is failing to stand out on punt returns as well. His 4.8 average is dead last among 20 qualified returners.
If the Eagles had viable alternatives at receiver and returner, he would/should be replaced.
To Barnett’s credit, he had a sack to force a punt. But he also had two dumb penalties, including a roughing the passer to wipe out a third down stop.
One can debate the merit of the call but Barnett can’t put himself in a position where the ref is not going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Also, there was this:
While he was getting up, Barnett gave Teddy an extra push into the turf after he was already on the ground. Think that's what they got him for. https://t.co/7X1M4gKVVl— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) November 14, 2021
The Eagles can’t bring Barnett back after this season.
I DON’T KNOW
On one hand, the Eagles’ newfound commitment to the running game has the potential to be really good for Sanders. He was logging 4.8 yards per carry before getting hurt so he should be able to put up some big numbers upon returning potentially soon as this week. Right?
Well, maybe. Sanders is unquestionably the Eagles’ biggest big play threat in the backfield. But are the Eagles better served by the aforementioned no-nonsense running styles of Howard and Scott? Sanders’ tendency to dance around could lead to the Eagles getting off script.
This isn’t to suggest the Eagles should phase Sanders out of the offense. But they also shouldn’t be treating Howard and Scott like chopped liver when he returns. And are they really just going to leave Gainwell on the shelf entirely?
It’s going to be real interesting to see how the Eagles spit their running back touches when Sanders is back. Hard to know exactly what it’s going to look like.