This could be defined as an “ugly win,” considering much didn’t go right—save for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ defense—on Sunday in the Eagles’ 17-16 escape over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Eagles came back from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit on Hurts’ seven-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left to play and his 22-yard touchdown pass to Quez Watkins.
The absence of tight end Dallas Goedert showed.
The Eagles’ offense worked in starts and stops. Hurts was often left scrambling without his primary receiver in the middle of the field, though completed 18 of 25 for 190 yards and a touchdown. Those were modest numbers that don’t speak of the impact he had when the game was hanging in the balance. Hurts’ fourth-down run with less than two minutes to play set up his game-winning score.
The Eagles had a tough time at the outset dealing with the Colts’ Matt Ryan and Jonathan Taylor. Ryan ended the game completing 23 of 32 for 213 yards, though failed to do what Hurts in the fourth quarter, and that’s close out critical drives with touchdowns.
The Eagles’ 17-16 victory snaps a 41-game losing streak when they trailed 10 or more points in the fourth quarter, dating back to DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard walk-off punt return in the Eagles’ resonating 38-31 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday Dec. 19, 2010.
Against the Colts, the Eagles turned the ball over twice (now six times in the last two games), and were hit with seven penalties for 55 yards.
There was some good, some bad and a whole lot of ugly. Still, the Eagles won, 17-16, over the Indianapolis Colts, which is all that counts.
Defensive end Brandon Graham’s seven-yard sack of Ryan with :39 left to play on a third-and-nine at the Colts’ 33. It forced Indianapolis to panic and closed what had been a scary game for the Eagles.
Hurts’ seven-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left to play. His three-yard run for a first down on fourth-and-two at the Colts’ nine with two minutes to play preserved the drive. Earlier, Hurts’ 22-yard touchdown pass to Quez Watkins with 13:31 to play pulled the Eagles to within 16-10. The touchdown was made possible by Hurts’ 23-yard scramble. Hurts did everything he was supposed to do for the Eagles to win.
Linebacker Haason Reddick’s 14-yard sack on Ryan on third-and-goal at the Eagles’ five with 4:52 left to play. Reddick may have gotten away with a late facemask, which was missed by the officials in the Eagles’ Monday Night game against Washington when Goedert was pulled down in a far more blatant manner.
Safety Marcus Epps forced fumble at the Eagles’ 43 when Taylor tried moving the pile with 10:48 left to play.
By halftime, the Eagles run defense allowed Taylor 64 yards rushing on 11 carries, averaging 5.8 yards a carry. In the second half, Taylor had 20 yards on 11 carries, averaging 1.8 yards a carry. After the Colts’ first series, Taylor was held to 35 yards on 15 carries, after blistering the Eagles for 49 yards on his first seven carries.
The Eagles’ shiny, new toys, defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph, made good on a six-yard sack on Ryan on a first-and-10 at the Indianapolis’ 47 with 8:56 left in the third quarter. The pair got stronger as the game progressed. They held up the Colts’ offensive front and stuffed a strong running back at the line of scrimmage.
Nickel corner Josiah Scott coming up and forcing Taylor inside on the Colts’ first play of the second half on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 22, just after the Colts recovered a Hurts’ fumble on a strip sack.
Eagles’ third-down defense. After allowing the Colts to convert their first three third downs, the Eagles stopped the Colts eight-straight times, before that streak was snapped when Ryan hit Alec Pierce for a 17-yard completion with 8:49 to play. For the game, the Colts converted 5 of 15 third downs.
Great open field tackle by linebacker T.J. Edwards on Taylor on the first play of the Colts’ second drive for a four-yard loss. Edwards later made a similar play later in the first half taking down Deon Jackson for another 4-yard loss with 1:20 left in the half. Edwards later recovered Taylor’s fourth-quarter fumble. It may have been Edwards’ best performance as an Eagle.
Cornerback James Bradberry’s tackle on Michael Pittman on the Colts’ first possession, a second-and-seven at the 28, holding Indianapolis to a yard. It was the only thing the Eagles had going on the Colts’ first drive.
Scott losing the Colts’ Parris Campbell on a third-and-three at the Eagles’ 36 with 6:05 left to play. The 31-yard reception brought the ball to the Eagles’ 5, though all the Colts could manage was a field goal. Scott earlier got toasted by Pittman on the Colts’ first drive, on a third-and-six at the Indianapolis 28 for a 24-yard gain. Ryan looked reborn, hitting his receiver in stride as Scott trailed on the play.
Linebacker Kyzir White losing tight end Kylen Granson down the sideline for a Colts’ 16-yard gain on a second-and-10 at the Eagles’ 43 with 2:42 left in the third quarter. Two plays prior, the Eagles’ defense lost Pittman for a 15-yard gain on a second-and-13 at the Indianapolis 42.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata not even bothering to block Colts’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue on the Eagles’ third-and-two at their 13 with 5:39 left in the third quarter. Ngakoue came from the back side and pulled down running back Miles Sanders from behind for no gain, giving the Colts good field position.
Right tackle Lane Johnson getting flagged for holding on a first-and-10 at midfield on the Eagles’ second drive of the second half, pushing the Eagles back to their 40. It was the Eagles’ sixth penalty, which totaled 50 yards.
Bradberry failing to take down Taylor on his 28-yard run in the first quarter on the Colts’ first possession.
Suh and Joseph didn’t start well. On the Colts’ first drive, they looked like they were still on their couches rubbing hot sauce off their shirts by the way the Colts ran up the middle. Suh kept pushing his way up the field, and out of position, and Joseph simply couldn’t move. On third-and-one at the Eagles’ 10, Ryan’s sneak came over them. If you replay the Taylor touchdown, who will you see at the bottom of the pile on his back in the end zone but Joseph. Both, however, recovered nicely to contribute to the Eagles’ victory in the end. Considering the battering they took, how will both veterans physically hold up moving forward?
On the first play of the second half, Sanders getting beat by Ngakoue, whose strip sack of Hurts gave the Colts possession at the Eagles’ 22. It led to a field goal and a 13-7 Colts’ lead. Sanders gave Ngakoue a token push, and for some reason put his hands up trying to show the refs that he wasn’t holding. He should have. There could have been a chance Ngakoue might not have reached Hurts and forced the fumble.
The Colts were the only team in the NFL that had not scored on an opening drive this season. Well, that changed quickly. The Eagles’ defense on the first drive of the game was ugly. The last time the Colts scored a touchdown on their opening drive, Carson Wentz drove them down the field against the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Day 2021. It’s been 12 games. So, what did the Colts do this time? Rip through the Eagles on a 10-play, 75-yard drive over 5-minutes, 23-seconds. Indianapolis was three-for-three on third-down conversions and gained 50 yards on eight rushing attempts.
On first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 47, defensive tackle Milton Williams was completely blown out of the play by Colts’ left tackle Bernhard Raimann, who steered Williams right, and right out of the way for Taylor’s 28-yard run to the Eagles’ 19 on the Colts’ first drive. Williams later got plowed over on Taylor’s 9-yard run up the middle to the Eagles’ 10 the following play.
On the Eagles’ first drive, on a third-and-two at the Eagles 47, tight end Grant Calcaterra getting flagged for a holding call. The penalty short-circuited that series.
On the Eagles’ second drive, they reached the Colts’ 34. And just when it looked like they were getting the offense going, three successive penalties brought them back to the Eagles’ 40. First, in a highly uncharacteristic call, center Jason Kelce got nailed for an ineligible player downfield for 10 yards; followed by left guard Landon Dickerson getting hit for a 10-yard hold, and then tight end Tyree Jackson’s offensive pass interference wiping out an 18-yard catch by A.J. Brown. Jackson watched the next play from the sideline. After those flags, they were looking at first-and-35.
It wasn’t a very good first half for Kelce. On second-and-goal at the Indianapolis two, Kelce snapped the ball over Hurts’ head, forcing the quarterback to scramble for the loose ball for an eight-yard loss. The blown opportunity to score a touchdown resulted in a Jake Elliott 22-yard field goal.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.