For some (myself included), it was hard to be very optimistic about the Eagles following a post-Super Bowl decline that culminated in a 4-11-1 season last year.
Others kept the faith and were clearly rewarded. The Eagles are going to the playoffs!
The organization appears to be in much better shape than previously thought. Of course, just because they’re on the right track doesn’t mean they won’t screw it up. There is still work to be done.
On the whole, though, it’s been an encouraging, successful season. Credit to Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman for overseeing this turnaround.
Hurts didn’t post the most glamorous numbers you’ll ever see: 17/26 (65.4%), 214 yards (8.2 average), 0 TD, 0 INT, 90.0 passer rating ... 7 rushes, 44 yards.
But, perhaps more than ever, he looked like a franchise quarterback out there on Sunday afternoon. He appeared to be very comfortable as a passer. He kept the ball out of harm’s way and he came up big in some really crucial spots.
The 27-yard completion to Greg Ward to bring up 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line was obviously the highlight. The Eagles scored a touchdown to cut their deficit to two points.
This is probably best play of Jalen Hurts career— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) January 3, 2022
** Miscommunication on play call from coaches
** Must-win game going poorly for team
** Avoids pressure
** Throws it where only Ward can get it on a difficult throw
** Turns game around
Hurts’ composure, which has never really been in doubt, was a big takeaway from this game. That he was able to pitch a perfect toss to Boston Scott for a touchdown on fourth down while tripping was pretty good:
And no one will forget his composure when a group of fans nearly collapsed onto him after the game:
Hurts hasn’t been so good that the Eagles shouldn’t even make an effort to explore other quarterback avenues. It’s the most important position in professional sports; there shouldn’t be a rush to settle for anything less than the very best.
But I do think that they’ll ultimately fall back on Hurts being their best option for 2022. Such a return wouldn’t guarantee his status as the starter beyond next season. He still needs to improve in a number of key areas and perhaps he can with another year of development. He only turns 24 in August.
It’ll be really interesting to see how Hurts fares in the playoffs. Knowing his personality, the moment shouldn’t been too big for him. But we’ve yet to see him lead the Eagles to victory against one of the league’s better quarterbacks. Let’s see if he can finally check that box.
This game was hardly an offensive masterpiece for the Eagles, who scored just 20 points.
Credit Sirianni for making the right calls in some big moments, though. The Eagles scored their two touchdowns on 4th-and-goal situations. It should be obvious to go for it in those scenarios but, despite as much, not every head coach would actually have the courage to do it.
Sirianni himself can still afford to be more aggressive. Can’t say I loved the call to punt from 4th-and-4 at WFT’s 45-yard line, which resulted in just 36 yards of field position change and a field goal drive to give Washington a two-score lead.
Sirianni was actually too aggressive when he called a timeout with WFT at 3rd-and-1 with 31 seconds left in the first half. That stoppage ultimately assisted in Washington picking up three points. Not the best game management from the rookie head coach.
Zooming out a bit, which feels necessary in this situation, it’s hard not to give Sirianni credit for the Eagles’ turnaround from the 2-5 start. The Eagles have outperformed expectations in part due to the guidance from their rookie head coach. While he has room to improve, there is ample reason to be encouraged about his outlook.
Nick Sirianni is the second rookie head coach in @NFL history to lead his team to a winning record and postseason berth after starting 2-5 or worse through seven games, joining Frank Reich in 2018 with Indianapolis. #FlyEaglesFly— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) January 3, 2022
It’s mostly been a quiet season for McLeod (and, really, the Eagles’ safety position as a whole). Now more than a year removed from his December 2020 ACL injury, however, he’s come alive the past two weeks. The defensive captain followed up a big game against the Giants with a diving, game-sealing pick to ensure a win over Washington.
JONATHAN GANNON: For the pre-snap alignment, took the quarterback off their best player because we’re in man-to-man, so he was in the right spot with that. Had the right alignment. Had the right depth. Read the quarterback the right way. Cleared through the three step, saw the concept coming to him, which was a high-low over concept. Started to meld with the quarterback’s eyes. Held the dig window off long enough to where that wasn’t going to be the second level dig, and then reacted to the quarterback. Took a great angle. Ball was slightly underthrown. Anthony Harris did a great job undercutting that. When you’re playing post-closed defense and you’re in man-to-man, when the ball gets to you on some of those over-routes, we’re always talking to our guys about being ball, you, man, because that’s how you use the post defender, where you’re making that quarterback throw it over you and in between the post defender. Sometimes that ball on that route, that’s a hard throw, that can sail, and he was in the right spot at the right time. Made a play. It was good to see that. But, I mean, honestly, I see Rodney do that in practice. I expect him to do it in the game. Kudos to him. Well executed walk off for us there.
For the second week in a row, Sweat was able to take advantage of a team missing their starting right tackle. He finished the game with two pass deflections, 1.5 sacks, and one tackle for loss.
Sweat’s first sack (actually half a sack split with Fletcher Cox) knocked Washington out of the red zone and contributed to Washington settling for a field goal.
His second sack brought up a three-and-out right after the Eagles scored their first touchdown to make it a two-point game.
The Eagles paid Sweat to make impact plays. Good to see he’s delivering. With four sacks in his last four games, he’s been hot down the stretch. The Eagles need him to stay that way.
He didn’t have a sack or a quarterback hit but he was active with seven total hurries, according to Pro Football Focus’s charting. Also had three run stops.
Avery was actually PFF’s lowest-graded defensive player for the Eagles. He had a penalty wipe out his own interception and he didn’t hold up in run defense.
But we’ll show Avery some love for coming up with a really big sack for a 13-yard loss on 3rd-and-9 to force a punt. Avery’s play assisted in the Eagles taking over at their own 43-yard line and picking up a field goal that gave them their first lead.
Avery has made some plays for the Eagles in recent weeks. I liked how the Eagles had him lined up as a stand up interior rusher and I liked the pass rush move he put on Washington’s center to get to Heinicke. Nice contribution from a specialized role player.
Goedert caught six of his seven targets for 71 yards to be the Eagles’ leading receiver. Goedert has been a very trusty target, catching 21 of the last 26 passes that have gone his way.
Maddox got hit with a bad pass interference call on Washington’s penultimate drive. He responded by coming up a tackle on Terry McLaurin short of the sticks and a pass breakup to help force a turnover on downs.
Scott only logged 3.4 yards per carry but he led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns. He has quite the knack for finding the end zone:
Highest Rushing Touchdown Percentage (@NFL Players This Season)— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) January 3, 2022
8.0% . . . Boston Scott (@Eagles)
7.5% . . . James Conner (Ari.)
7.3% . . . Damien Harris (NE)
7.2% . . . Jalen Hurts (#Eagles)
6.4% . . . Kareem Hunt (Cle.)
(min. 75 attempts)#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/WK0XDplfsd
Scott also pitched in with four grabs for 39 receiving yards, putting him at 86 total yards from scrimmage. No skill player from either team had more in this game.
It’s comforting for the Eagles to know they have Scott to turn to if he’s needed.
Smith didn’t totally light up the stat sheet with just six targets for three receptions and 54 yards. But his impact went beyond the box score. He should’ve been responsible for drawing an obvious defensive holding penalty in the end zone that went uncallled. Smith also contributed well as a run blocker (specifically on Scott’s toss run for a touchdown), an underrated area of his game.
Smith is just 38 yards away from breaking DeSean Jackson’s Eagles rookie receiving record. It’s unclear if he’ll get the opportunity to become the new leader with the Eagles likely looking to rest key players against Dallas in Week 18.
Even if Smith doesn’t overtake DJacc, it’s still been a successful season for Philly’s first-round pick. He was still productive in a very run-heavy offense.
EAGLES DRAFT POSITIONING
The Eagles will certainly live with the “bad news” that, by clinching a posteason berth, their own pick will be No. 19 at the very highest.
The Indianapolis Colts failed to clinch — for now, at least — meaning that they won’t be able to rest starters against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18. Frank Reich has never swept the Jags since becoming Indy’s head coach, so, maybe Jacksonville can actually pull off the upset? Seeing the Colts choke their way out of a playoff spot would benefit the Eagles. Go Jags! (AKA Doug Pederson’s future team?)
THE MEDICAL STAFF
Hard to say just how much the medical staff is to credit for the Eagles staying healthy. There’s always a luck factor when it comes to injury.
But if the Eagles WERE dealing with a lot of injury issues, like they did in previous years, the staff would be getting crushed. So, it only feels right to give them some credit for the Birds staying mostly and comparatively healthy this season.
Sorry for jinxing it.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Swept by the Eagles. No long-term answer at quarterback or obvious avenue to acquiring one. Dan Snyder is still the owner. Joke of a stadium. Trash organization that gives their fans nothing substantive and lasting to hang their hats on. Losers.
"They didn't ask if anyone was hurt, and they sure as hell didn't ask if anybody needed medical attention. The only thing the staff said to us was to get the 'F' off the field."— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) January 3, 2022
Four fans involved in railing collapse at FedEx share their side of story:https://t.co/bSFhkF5uNt
THE EAGLES EARLY IN GAMES
Week 12 at Giants: Down 0 to 3 at halftime
Week 13 vs. Jets: Down 7 to 12 after the first quarter
Week 15 vs. WFT: Down 0 to 10 after the first quarter
Week 16 vs. Giants: Tied 3 to 3 at halftime
Week 17 at WFT: Down 0 to 10 after the first quarter
The Eagles went 4-1 in this stretch with four straight wins. That they’ve shown an ability to overcome slow starts is nice.
But part of why they’ve been able to get away with starting slow is because they’ve had a lot of margin for error against inferior opponents. The Eagles will need to be much sharper from the start against higher quality teams in the playoffs.
After straight two straight weeks in the “Winners” section, it seemed like the Eagles’ 2020 first-round pick was building positive momentum.
Reagor saw just one target. It might be too harsh to call it a drop but he failed to make a play on a catchable ball. A better effort might’ve at least drawn a pass interference penalty.
Reagor’s sole offensive touch was a jet sweep that went for a three-yard loss. Sunday marked the third time this season that Reagor finished a game with negative yardage from scrimmage.
The Eagles can’t possibly project him as a starter for the 2022 season. They can keep him around as a fallback option and hope the light finally goes on for him. But they shouldn’t be holding their breath on that front.
He missed a chance to log a sack despite not being blocked and instead allowed Heinicke to get a throw off for a first down. Barnett has just three sacks in his last 21 appearances and should be entering his final games with Philly.
Howard entered Week 17 questionable to play with the stinger injury that kept him limited in practice. He ended up toughing it out but he wasn’t very effective; he gained just 26 yards on 14 carries (2.6 average).
Howard hasn’t provided the same efficiency he did prior to hurting his knee against the New Orleans Saints in Week 11. Updated splits:
Pre-injury: 51 for 274 (5.37 avg), 3 TD
Post-injury: 35 for 132 (3.77 avg), 0 TD
One must wonder if Howard can get back to pre-injury form. The combination of the knee injury and the stinger issue might be a problem.
With Miles Sanders out and Howard clearly banged up, the Eagles didn’t trust Gainwell to play much. The rookie running back saw his third-lowest snap percentage of any game he’s played this year. Gainwell’s sole offensive touch was a carry that went for four yards. Unfortuante that he’s been in the doghouse. It could be nice to get him more involved.
Gainwell did not gain well as a kick returner. His two returns went for 21 yards.
The Eagles broke the Vikings.
The Vikings went 13-3 and were one game away from the Super Bowl before Kirk Cousins arrived. Since then, they’ve been to the playoffs once in four seasons. They’re a middle of the pack franchise, seemingly satisfied to reside on the fringes of contention.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 3, 2022
Fitting that Minnesota’s loss to Green Bay on Sunday night was what officially clinched a playoff spot for the Birds and eliminated the Vikings.
I DONT KNOWS
There was a point when it looked like Taylor Heinicke was going to become sixth quarterback to complete 80% of his passes against the Eagles this season. He didn’t end up incredibly far off at 75%.
Things just looked too easy for Washington at times, especially considering how they were without a number of key players (see: their top running back, their second leading receiver, their top tight end, their starting left guard, their starting right tackle, their top three center options). The Football Team took advantage of Gannon once again playing so soft.
It’s hard to crush the defense when they ultimately allowed just 16 points and none in the second half. Gannon’s unit did come up with some timely stops, including the game-sealing interception in the end zone.
But, honestly, what’s your level of confidence in this defense being able to hold up against a non-terrible quarterback in the playoffs? Gannon still must answer the bell in that situation.