The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Washington Football Team on Tuesday night. In honor of this unnecessarily postponed game, I’m here to provide an unnecessarily postponed postgame column. Even though we’re just a couple days away from the Eagles playing in Week 16. OK, enough preamble. Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
WILD CARD FEVER
We already wrote about the Eagles’ playoff outlook in more detail. The short of it is in they’re in a decent spot. It’ll be tough for them to miss it if they win out. Going 2-1 could be good enough unless the Minnesota Vikings and/or New Orleans Saints win out. The feeling here is things will shake out where the Birds make the postseason.
Hard not to give the head coach credit when you look at these numbers:
#Eagles Offensive Rankings Since Week 8:— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) December 22, 2021
Points/Game . . . 29.3 (2nd)
Yards/Game . . . 388.0 (2nd)
Rush Yards/Game . . . 214.4 (1st)
3rd-Down Efficiency . . . 51.6% (1st)
Scoring Efficiency . . . 52.9% (1st)
Explosive Plays . . . 80 (1st)#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/AwVkozDvFg
Such a wild turnaround. It once looked like Sirianni was in over his head and the Eagles had no offensive identity. Now they’re one of the best offenses in the entire NFL.
We can always wonder what took so long for Sirianni to change the approach but, ultimately, he deserves credit for adjusting.
Sirianni’s play-calling was especially on-point against Washington. As highlighted by BGN’s Jonny Page, the Eagles showed some interesting looks. I really liked the 3rd-and-2 design where both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders were lined up in the backfield with Quez Watkins running in orbit motion. Sanders ended up being uncovered and Hurts hit him for a 16-yard catch-and-run. The inclusion of Darius Slay on offense was also fun and seemed to be effective considering Sanders had a lot of space for a 7-yard carry on that play.
I wouldn’t say it was an A+ game for Sirianni since he did have some questionable game management decisions. Punting on 4th-and-4 from WFT’s 41-yard line was a bad look, especially after Arryn Siposs’s punt went for a touchback to result in a net difference of just 21 yards. Kicking a field goal with the ball at the 2-yard line was too conservative. I would’ve opted to accept the offside penalty on Jake Elliott’s last field goal to set up 4th-and-1 instead of settling for the points.
Bringing up these moments might seem nitpicking. And, to some extent, it is. The Eagles won and Sirianni had a good game. That’s the bottom line. But the reality is the margin for error was bigger with the Birds playing a team with a depleted roster and starting a fourth-string quarterback. Sirianni’s decision-making is going to need to be more aggressive and sharp against higher quality opponents.
On the whole, Sirianni is clearly trending in the right direction.
By the numbers: 20/26, 296 yards (11.4 average), 1 TD, 1 INT, 110.4 passer rating. Eight rushes for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
Not too shabby.
Hurts’ completion percentage could’ve been even higher if he didn’t have to deal with three drops, including one that resulted in a very fluky interception that wasn’t his fault.
Of course, Hurts also could’ve been picked off on his underthrown deep pass to Dallas Goedert. The picture above this article shows how the ball was in the defender’s hands before the tight end was ultimately able to out-muscle the opposition. Hurts also had a really bad fumble that doesn’t impact his passing stats.
On that note, much was made about the broadcast showing Sirianni getting on Hurts for that mistake. After the game, both talked that moment.
Sure, Jalen and I — Jalen’s dad coached him hard and my dad coached me hard, so I think Jalen responds to tough coaching. He likes tough coaching, and I wasn’t going to back down on him. I thought he was careless with the football, and I let him know that and we are just honest with each other. Sometimes it comes off as we’re just talking through it and sometimes I’ve got to deliver the message a little bit different. But what a great job by him having that mentality just to — he had two turnovers early and the first one is not his fault. He played a great football game today. One of the best football games I’ve seen him play and so what an unbelievable job by him of — what did he say? Flush it, don’t look at it, flush it, and then move on. So awesome job by him and when you have a good relationship with your quarterback, you’re able to have those tough conversations like that. We moved on and he played a great game from there on out.
“I’ve been telling him all year that I’m a coaches’ kid. Basically all the coaches’ kids out there know what that means. It means they’ve been coached. They’ve heard everything. In high school I lived with the guy that was chewing me out. I made it clear to Coach all year, ‘You know, you can get on me a little bit.’ So after the fumble, he came up to me and said what he had to say. Then later on in the game he comes back and jokes with me and says, ‘I guess I’m just going to start coaching you like your dad coached you.’ So it was a funny moment. Whatever he said worked.”
There’s certainly something to be said for Hurts being able to take the tough love. That much is something that Carson Wentz struggled with and, while not the only reason, likely contributed to the Eagles moving on from him.
Sirianni’s behavior shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. He can be a fiery guy. We saw as much in training camp when he really got on Jalen Reagor’s case for some practice struggles. The next day, however, Sirianni was the first person to run up to Reagor after a good catch. So, there seems to be a healthy balance of criticism and support.
But, anyway, back to Hurts. This was a “stock up” game for him. Among his best moments, the back-shoulder touchdown throw to Greg Ward really stood out.
Former BGN Radio hosts Michael Kist and Benjamin Solak used to say “Build the plane out of Jeff Stoutland!” equating the Eagles OL coach to an ever-reliable and indestructible “black box.”
For as much credit as Sirianni deserves, Stoutland should be right there up with him. He is the Eagles’ run game coordinator, after all, and the Birds have been flat out DOMINANT on the ground. That the Eagles are the first NFL team to record 175+ rushing yards in seven consecutive games (a franchise record) since the 1985 Chicago Bears is pretty darn impressive.
The Eagles’ offensive line is regularly kicking ass out there. And this isn’t like how it was in 2013 when the starters stayed healthy for the entire year. The Birds started third-string options at both left guard (Sua Opeta) and right guard (Nate Herbig) on Tuesday night. Stout consistently gets the most out of his guys.
Since the 1970 @NFL merger, only five OL coaches have coached Pro Bowlers in 9+ straight seasons with the same team:— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) December 23, 2021
Oliver Spencer (1970-78, Raiders)
Jim McNally (1981-91, Bengals)
Hudson Houck (1993-01, Cowboys)
Mike Solari (1997-05, Chiefs)
Jeff Stoutland (2013-21, @Eagles) pic.twitter.com/6OzzdPik56
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
The Eagles’ offensive line is their identity. They’ve majorly leaned on that strength.
The Eagles had their way with Washington’s defense, logging 11.4 yards per pass attempt and 5.8 yards per rush attempt.
The Eagles have rushed for 1,569 yards before contact this season.— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) December 23, 2021
Meaning, their O-line has created more yardage than 16 teams have gained overall.
That is preposterous.
Kelce deserves some extra attention. The way he got downfield to block for Miles Sanders’ big run was just something you don’t see from other centers. He’s just such a special player and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame one day. His fifth Pro Bowl selection should help with that. He should also be getting his fourth first-team All-Pro recognition.
It previously looked like Kelce might retire after this year, for real this time. But will that definitely be the case? He’s thriving despite turning 34 years old last month.
Sanders admitted he left some meat on the bone during his biggest run of the night.
Still, he finished with 131 yards on 18 carries for a 7.3 average. It was the highest rushing total of his career, surpassing his previous mark of 122 yards (December 2019). It was also the highest rushing total of any Eagles running back since LeGarrette Blount had 136 against the Chargers in 2017.
Sanders became the first Eagles running back with consecutive 100+ rushing yard games since LeSean McCoy last did it in 2014.
Howard had a nice showing with 69 yards on 15 carries for a 4.6 average. It was good to see he was able to be effective and handle volume in his first game back from a knee injury. The Eagles might need to continue to lean on JoHo with Sanders seemingly picking up a new injury (quad) against Washington.
Goedert’s last two games: 15 targets, 13 receptions, 240 yards (18.5 average), 2 TD. He’s feasting out there.
Goedert would’ve had an even bigger game against WFT if he didn’t drop two passes that hit him right in the hands. The first drop led to a strange interception for Landon Collins while the second one was a dropped screen pass that would’ve went for at least a first down ... and maybe even a score.
Many suspected Goedert would thrive with Zach Ertz out of the picture but it’s been good to see it actually come to fruition. The Eagles have a really strong weapon at tight end moving forward. Goedert can do it all in terms of getting open, making contested catches, fighting for yards after the catch, blocking. The complete package.
And the man even has some personality:
Goedert says Elf is one of his favorite movies. Says his sister inspired the idea of getting the costume.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 22, 2021
“Shit, I think it looks pretty good.”#Eagles
Look at this. Reagor in the winner section! The 2020 first-round pick deserves it after posting a career-high 57 yards. His previous high was 55, which came on one reception in the first game of his career.
Reagor could’ve had a score if he didn’t slip en route to the end zone, so that was unfortunate. Still, he made some nice grabs.
This wasn’t a breakout performance by any means but it’s one for him to build on. If he plays well the rest of the season, we can look back at this game as a turning point for him. If he continues to struggle, however, his WFT performance loses meaning.
Smith still isn’t getting the volume we’d all like to see. His toe-tapping sideline catch absolutely earns him a spot in the winner section, however. Not every WR can make that play.
Incredible catch down the sideline by DeVonta Smith pic.twitter.com/4r2TJWEyze— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) December 22, 2021
G-Ward is no longer catchless since Week 4. The fourth man in the Eagles’ receiver rotation had a really nice grab on Hurts’ back-shoulder throw to him. Historically, Ward has been most productive in December. Is he something like the Eagles’ version of Danny Briere?
After a slow start to the year, Cox has turned it on lately. He was a force against WFT with two sacks, four quarterback hits, and one tackle for loss. Cox’s sacks were both impact plays, too. The first one ended WFT’s chance of getting points before the end of the second quarter. The second resulted in a forced fumble to essentially seal the deal for an Eagles win.
It should be noted that Cox was going up against a Washington offensive line that was starting their third-string center and missing All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff. Still, Cox came up big in a way. The Eagles need him to see more of this version down the stretch.
Slay gave up a big play to Terry McLaurin, who is really good, for 46 yards. Outside of that one, though, McLaurin had just one grab for five yards and no scores. The Eagles’ Pro Bowl cornerback took WFT’s best offensive option away. Slay also helped the Eagles on offense when he came in as a decoy. It would be fun to see the Eagles actually give him a touch at some point.
THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Cute four-game win streak. Too bad your season is now essentially over.
Sweat was seemingly the origin of WFT’s COVID breakout that pushed this game back and disrupted a lot of people’s lives during Christmas week. Myself included. Jerk.
What did postponing this game achieve, exactly?
Nothing. And now the Eagles are unnecessarily facing a short week. Sure, they should be able to win in Week 16 anyway. But there was just no good reason for them to be in this situation.
That the NFL made absolutely no effort to throw the Eagles a bone in this situation was so pathetic. Could’ve had the game on Monday or earlier on Tuesday. Or pushed the Giants game back to Monday. Something to acknowledge the Eagles were undeservedly being put in a bad spot. Instead, nothing.
I would hope that Jeffrey Lurie got an “IOU” from Goodell for this situation. Maybe the Eagles can avoid playing in London or facing multiple opponents coming off their bye weeks next year.
Scott didn’t see an offensive touch for the second week in a row. He’s currently RB4 behind Sanders, Howard, and Kenneth Gainwell. BoSco could get back in the mix at some point, especially if injury issues arise. For now, he’s out of the rotation.
I DONT KNOWS
THE EAGLES GOING UP A NON-LESSER QB
The Eagles’ success is nice! They’re 7-7 with a real chance to make the playoffs.
But one can fairly wonder about this group’s ceiling.
Can the Eagles beat a team with a legitimately good quarterback? It’s something they haven’t done in quite some time.
Dak Prescott (injured)
There are some truly terrible starters on this list.
Ryan is arguably the best quarterback the Eagles have beaten this year and he’s at the end of his rope on a team that ranks 32nd in DVOA.
I’d say Rodgers qualifies as the last good quarterback the Eagles beat. And that was over two years ago.
You could argue it was most recent than that since they beat Dak at the end of 2019 ... but he was clearly hurt in that game. Allen hadn’t yet blossomed into the player he is today and that was a very windy game where the quarterbacks weren’t even able to really throw effectively.
The Eagles being able to beat bad quarterbacks can’t totally be taken for granted. There are some real pathetic teams out there (see: Jets, Giants, Jaguars, Texans, etc.) that can’t even do that much.
That said, the Eagles still need to prove they can hang with the big boys. They won’t really get that opportunity until Week 18 at the earliest, assuming Prescott (who has been struggling!) isn’t being rested by Dallas.
It’s not totally unforgivable if the Eagles can’t top one of the better quarterbacks this year. They could be ready to do as much next year with some potential upgrades coming in the offseason.
Until we see it happen, though, it’s still a bell for them to answer.
PEOPLE WITH QUESTIONABLE SPORTS FASHION DECISIONS
I just don’t know what this is all about.
There are two people decked out in Miami Dolphins gear (matching jackets and winter hats) sitting behind someone in a Maxx Crosby Raiders jersey/hoodie combo at this Eagles-Washington game in Philly.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 22, 2021