The Eagles beat the Saints! Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
WILD CARD FEVER
Beating New Orleans was a big deal. The Eagles’ playoff odds increased by 17.9% to 43.1% overall, according to Football Outsiders.
Here’s a look at the current NFC playoff picture:
The Eagles are probably looking at either the sixth or seventh seed. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll get there. But it sure does feel likely. The Birds have THE easiest remaining schedule in the NFL with their opponents having a combined .397 winning percentage. For perspective, the next easiest is at .411.
Barring a multitude of devastating injuries/bad luck and their competitors getting red hot (knock on wood), it’s hard to imagine the Eagles not being in the playoffs. Funny to reach such a level of confidence after the team started 2-5.
Have the Eagles found their new franchise quarterback?
It seems too early to say Hurts is definitely deserving of a lucrative long-term contract extension. But that’s not a decision that can be made until after next season at the earliest, anyway.
What we can say is that Hurts is helping his case for the Eagles to at least bring him back as their starter for 2022. He’s playing winning football.
Hurts’ passing numbers were admittedly pedestrian. He completed just 54.1% of his attempts for 147 yards (6.1 per attempt), 0 TD, 0 INT, and a 72.7 passer rating. You wouldn’t think that’s the starting quarterback for a team that just scored 40 points in a win.
But Hurts’ rushing impact can’t be undersold. He nicely contributed three rushing touchdowns — the first quarterback in Eagles history to accomplish as much in a game — and 69 yards on 18 carries. His filthy crossover on a keeper sealed the game:
Hurts’ presence in the backfield also helps the Eagles’ running backs since defenders have to account for the quarterback as a rushing threat. Miles Sanders talked about as much after the game:
“It is a big impact. It is opening the holes up a lot for all of us, especially Jordan [Howard] who played a heck of a game before he got hurt. Having Jalen makes it ten times easier, but you [also] really have to give credit to the [offensive line].”
On the whole, the Eagles ran for a season-high 242 yards against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked rushing defense (72.9 yards allowed per game). They’ve gone for 200+ rushing yards in three of their last four games.
Jalen Hurts continues to show he's a special runner.— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) November 22, 2021
* 9th in NFL with 618 yards. On pace for 955 rushing yards.
* 5th in rushing TDs (8).
Remove kneel-downs, and Hurts is 1st in success rate (60.3%) and 2nd in YPC (6.2).
Getting back to Hurts as a passer, he did a good job of keeping the ball out of harm’s way. He also made some crucial third down throws, including a pair to Dallas Goedert on Philly’s first touchdown drive. He deserves credit for those things.
That being said, there are still questions about Hurts’ ability to carry the offense with his arm. And though that he hasn’t needed to do that recently, it’s probably going to be required at some point down the line. One would think the Eagles aren’t merely going to be able to run the ball effectively all the way to winning the Super Bowl. (Or can they?!) We saw some of that in this game when Jordan Howard went down and the offense stalled for a stretch before ultimately closing the game.
Hurts himself admitted frustration with the Eagles’ offensive miscues in and around the red zone that caused the team to settle for four Jake Elliott field goal attempts. He actually brought it up unprompted when asked about his ankle-breaking crossover:
“I just made a play. I look at it as a situation in a game. We obviously had drives. I’m really frustrated from the drives that we didn’t score in the red zone that we should have. We had a few mental errors, a few things that we could have controlled that didn’t happen. We didn’t execute. It allowed them to come back into the game and we kept giving them good field position and they scored. It shouldn’t have even been that way, but nonetheless I just think there’s so much to learn from this game. There’s a lot of good to take away from the game too.”
This wasn’t an elite performance. Hurts finished Week 11 as Pro Football Focus’s graded 18th out of 29 quarterbacks.
That’s OK. The Eagles won and he helped them secure the victory. He has more opportunities to keep proving himself. He needs to keep stacking positive performances.
The Eagles are 3-1 in their last four games after starting out 2-5. They’re in the playoff hunt. Sirianni deserves credit for turning around this team. Going up against lesser quarterbacks/opponents has undoubtedly helped. But it’s not like the Eagles have merely slipped by those teams as much as they’ve dominated them. Good teams beat up on the bad ones.
JG was looking like JJ out there with all the blitzes the Eagles were running. They sent extra defenders at Trevor Siemian on multiple third downs in this game, which resulted in forcing three-and-outs and turnovers.
Speaking of the latter, the Eagles came away with three takeaways in this one: 1) T.J. Edwards’ interception, 2) Darius Slay’s pick-six, and 3) Fletcher Cox’s forced fumble. Credit the players for making plays; it’s not like they were all schemed up by the defensive coordinator.
This wasn’t an A+ performance by Gannon. The Eagles still allowed 29 points to a backup quarterback, which isn’t ideal. In fairness, seven of those points came on a really good 3rd-and-goal throw from the 18-yard line by Siemian after Miles Sanders fumbled to give the Saints the ball at Philly’s 6-yard line. Another seven came when the Eagles were playing soft and allowed a garbage time touchdown.
The bottom line with Gannon’s defense is that it’s been able to get results against lesser quarterbacks. Against the better ones? Well, that’s a different story. But the Eagles aren’t facing any of those dudes until Week 18 at the earliest.
Edwards was a beast in this game. He led the team in total tackles with 10 (one TFL). He also logged an interception, two passes defensed, and the recovery on Cox’s forced fumble. Edwards was rewarded with a one-year contract extension that will ensure he’s with the team through at least 2022. Edwards is PFF’s sixth-highest graded linebacker since he saw an increase in playing time in Week 8. The Eagles finally have a good starting linebacker?! At the very least, a competent one.
Big Play Slay is living up to his nickname this season. After only scoring one touchdown in his first 125 games, he somehow has three in his last four games. For the second week in a row, his score helped to change the complexion of the game.
With the Eagles up by 13 points, the Saints were at 2nd-and-5 from their own 41-yard line with 0:24 on the clock. New Orleans could’ve had a chance to get a field goal or take a Hail Mary shot. Instead, Slay did a great job of capitalizing on a rushed Siemian throw to make it a 20-point game going into halftime ... with Philly getting the ball to start the third quarter.
Slay’s been very good this season. He’s actually PFF’s No. 1 overall graded corner. Unlike last year (111.9 passer rating when targeted, he’s playing like the elite cornerback the Eagles are paying him to be (80.0 passer rating when targeted).
JoHo ran 10 times for 63 yards, leading all Eagles rushers with a 6.3 average. He’s so hard to stop running behind this offensive line. They consistently give him the space to plow forward for positive yardage and Howard regularly takes advantage.
There was a drive in this game where the Eagles ran Howard five straight times for the following gains: 18, 9, 4, 13, and 4. That got Philly to the Saints’ 27-yard line. The Eagles ultimately settled for a field goal to make it a 13-point game at that phase. Regardless, it’s nice to know they have an option that they don’t need to overthink. Just give the ball to JoHo and let him bowl over the defense. Even if it’s the top-ranked run D in the NFL.
Hopefully Howard’s knee injury isn’t too serious. It seems positive that he was able to remain on the sideline as opposed to being taken inside to get looked at.
UPDATE: Sirianni said Howard will likely miss Week 12 but has a chance to play in Week 13. NFL insider Adam Schefter suggested that Howard could sit until after the Eagles’ Week 14 bye, though.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Hurts got sacked three times but he also held on to the ball way longer than any quarterback at 3.86 seconds (Taylor Heinicke was second at 3.24 seconds). The line gave him a lot of clean pockets to work with. They also paved the way for Philly’s rushing success yet again.
The Eagles have PFF’s fourth-highest graded pass blocking OL and eighth-highest graded run blocking OL on the season.
Jordan Mailata likes to serve his pancakes with 1 hand pic.twitter.com/4ZDwMsVKrE— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) November 21, 2021
Fresh off his lucrative contract extension, Goedert led all Eagles pass-catchers in snaps played (75), targets (8), receptions (5), and yards (62). He had a few big conversions, including his crazy
one-handed three-fingered grab:
Goedert wasn’t far off from having two touchdowns in this game. It looked like he may had the ball cross the goal line after breaking multiple tackles (Hurts scored a 1-yard rushing TD instead). Goedert did a nice job to uncover from Malcolm Jenkins to catch another score ... that got called back by two penalties (DeVonta Smith OPI, Jack Driscoll illegally downfield).
Maddox, who lives with Goedert, also recently received an extension. He’s had a good season and that continued on Sunday with Philly’s slot CB playing sticky coverage. Maddox’s passer rating allowed is just 76.6.
Not the biggest day for DeVonta but he was efficient with four catches for 61 yards (15.3 average). His 33-yard gain on a crosser was fun to watch since he was able to shake Marshon Lattimore to pick up some valuable YAC.
JJAW’s first catch of the season came at a big time. The Eagles offense was coming off two straight three-and-outs and nine total drives without a touchdown that saw Philly’s lead shrink to 11 points. On 2nd-and-11 from the Eagles’ 25-yard line, Hurts hit JJAW for a 23-yard gain. The Birds then went on to ice the game.
Speaking in his postgame presser, Sirianni was effusive in unprompted praise for JJAW.
Q. When QB Jalen Hurts had the 24-yard touchdown run and made the move on the guy, how demoralizing do you think it is to a defense when they think they have him bottled up and he breaks free?
COACH SIRIANNI: I think in that scenario, too, with what the score was and the way it was going, I got too conservative. I’ll say that right now. I’ll say it out loud. I got a bit conservative with the play calling that allowed them to work their way back into the game. So that’s on me. But Jalen made a huge play. And the guy read the play pretty well and made a great move. It was awesome. It was a great individual play by Jalen.
I’d also like to recognize J.J.’s [Arcega-Whiteside] play that he made in a critical time. Because I think everybody in the stadium felt, and you guys probably felt, it kind of slipping a little bit. They were coming back into the game. We needed it. Was it a 23, 26-yard gain? I don’t know what it was. But a big-time play by a guy that’s had a tough week. And I don’t want to give his personal information out so I’m not going to, but he’s had a tough week. And for him to go out and make the type of play that he made right there, I love J.J.
I think he embodies the toughness of this city and this football team. He’s been asked to do things that he hasn’t been asked to do before. He’s been asked to be a special teams guy that really is gritty and tough because he has that in his body.
He’s been asked to be our blocking type of receiver in critical times. So, it was great to reward him with a catch in that scenario.
And I’m just so happy for him that he made that type of play and helped kind of stop the bleeding in that drive and make a big play to help us kind of put that game away.
We always vote for player of the game. We always vote for play of the game. That for sure, I guess I got the trump card because I’m the head coach, that will be the play of the game. I’ll tell [Eagles offensive coordinator] Shane [Steichen] that on the way home.
JJAW obviously hasn’t come close to living up to the expectations for a second-round pick. But he’s at least salvaged his career to some extent by carving out a role as a special teams guy and blocking WR, often doing the dirty work. He answered the bell when his number was called in a big spot in this game. Good for JJAW.
The sack production still isn’t what you’d want it to be but Cox has been more active recently. Big play to force a fumble and help the Eagles take a 33 to 7 lead.
After going 4/4 on Sunday, Elliott is 18/20 (90%) from field goal range on the season. He’s still perfect on extra points at 29/29. Elliott’s 16 points scored on Sunday marked a single-game career-high for him.
Fans got to witness the first Eagles win at the Linc in 343 days! And the first Eagles back-to-back win in 385 days.
The Eagles have juice again. They’re a likeable group that has a real chance of going to the playoffs. Been too long since the Birds offered this excitement.
Payton and the Saints really don’t like the Eagles. I wrote about this last year:
I typically don’t like to acknowledge one-sided affairs as “rivalries.” It’s hard for the Eagles to call the New York Giants true rivals anymore, for example, given how they just always beat the G-Men. You even have Giants fans admitting as much.
So, there’s a part of me that hesitates to dub the Saints as the Eagles’ biggest non-division rival.
But then I think about how Sean Payton had the Saints’ team bus driver do laps around Lincoln Financial Field after they beat the Eagles. I think about how Alvin Kamara said the Saints would have “beat the shit out of” the Eagles in the 2018 NFC Championship Game if they didn’t embarrassingly choke against the Minnesota Vikings. I think about how Kamara and Mark Ingram (now with the Baltimore Ravens) mocked the Eagles’ ski masks and referred to the Eagles as “fraudulents.” I think about how Sean Payton was so willing to boast to Peter King about how the Saints viewed Carson Wentz and Sidney Jones as the Eagles’ weak points in 2019. I think about how the Saints played the anthem of the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season — Meek Mill’s Dreams And Nightmares — in the locker room after beating Philly in the 2019 divisional round.
The Saints have made it personal.
The Saints are 0-2 in their last two trips to Philly. Albeit in different ways, both losses damaged New Orleans’ playoff outlook.
Eat it, Saints.
“It” meaning the 40-burger the Eagles dropped on you.
(Side note: Payton kicking a field goal from the 10-yard line to make it an 11-point game with over seven minutes remaining was hilariously cowardly.)
CARL GRANDERSON’S ANKLES
JALEN HURTS OWNS CARL GRANDERSON’S ANKLES. pic.twitter.com/t5Jw2Ii75c— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) November 21, 2021
A positive: Reagor was 4/43 on punt returns. A 10.75 average is good!
As a kick returner, though? Reagor only had 51 yards on three returns (17.0 average), which is bad! His 21.1 yards per kick return this season puts him 15th out of 20 qualified returners. Reagor made some bad decisions to run the ball out of the end zone earlier this season. That didn’t happen on Sunday because the Saints intentionally kicked it short of the goal line to force Reagor to return it. They clearly saw the Eagles’ 2020 first-round pick as a weakness.
It’s hilariously on brand for me to suggest that Eagles should call up Jason Huntley from the practice squad to return kicks ... but they really should. He has a track record of being good at that!
Reagor has obviously been invisible on offense. 10 receptions for 63 yards in his last eight games. -3 yards on his last four offensive touches. His playing time is based on his draft status and not merit.
Kenny G started the season as RB2 and now he’s a healthy scratch as RB4. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a promising career ahead of him. But a bummer to see it go this way.
The Eagles’ three first-round picks dropped in Week 11 with the Eagles, Colts, and Dolphins all winning. Indy’s unexpected blowout victory over Buffalo is especially annoying. Whereas it was once looking like the Eagles could have three top 10 picks, it now looks like they might have none.
Still good to have three firsts regardless of the exact position, obviously.
Then again, Howie Roseman’s first-round picks outside of the top 12 haven’t been great! See: Marcus Smith, Derek Barnett, Andre Dillard, Jalen Reagor.
THE DALLAS COWBOYS
They’re 1-2 in their last three games after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday evening. (Thanks for the assist, Big Red!)
The Cowboys are still probably going to win the NFC East; they have a 86.4% chance of doing so, according to Football Outsiders. But that’s down from 95.7% ahead of Week 11. The Eagles’ slight chances of winning the division increased from 3.1% to 11.2%.
If Dallas continues to slip, the Birds could be there to take advantage.
I DON’T KNOW
The box score looks good: 16 carries for 94 yards (5.9 average). Sanders broke some explosive runs, including a long of 25.
But it’s hard to totally gloss over Sanders’ fumble that gave the Saints the ball at Philly’s 6-yard line. Sanders almost had another fumble that was prevented by the refs blowing his forward progress dead. Not good to be putting control in the official’s hands like that. (Also not good to be running out of bounds to stop the clock late in the fourth quarter yet again.)
Sanders finished Week 11 as the Eagles’ worst graded offensive player by PFF. He ranked 41st out of 41 running backs.
There’s no denying Sanders brings a big play element to the offense. And he might deserve some slack in his first game back from an ankle injury.
Perhaps we’ll see more consistency from No. 26 moving forward. But if the run game starts to struggle at some point, the Birds should be leaning more and more on Howard.
Jordan Howard: 68 games, 6 fumbles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 21, 2021
Miles Sanders: 36 games, 7 fumbles