The Eagles are 13-1 after beating the Chicago Bears! Not a pretty win but they’ll take it. Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
The Eagles have 13 regular season wins for just the third time in franchise history. They previously hit that mark ahead of their last two Super Bowl appearances: 2004 and 2017.
They’ll set a new record by winning at least one of their remaining three games.
At that point, they’ll be two postseason wins at Lincoln Financial Field away from making it back to The Big Game.
This was hardly Hurts’ best game of the season. It may have been his worst. He turned in his lowest passer rating this year at 64.6.
Of course, that number doesn’t tell the whole story.
Hurts started slow, which hasn’t been totally uncommon for him this year. He’s oddly had accuracy issues very early in games before typically heating up.
Hurts followed up a great improvisational throw to DeVonta Smith along the left sideline with perhaps his worst pass of the season, an underthrown ball that was easily intercepted by Kyler Gordon. Hurts was picked off again on a play where Quez Watkins may have been more at fault for not getting out of his break sooner. Still, Hurts ultimately put the ball in harm’s way, which he usually avoids.
Beyond the turnovers, Hurts had some issues with ball placement. He left plays on the field by overthrowing deep shots to A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. While many were quick to blame the game plan (not totally unfair and we’ll get to that), the reality is that there were completions to be made that the quarterback was missing.
Hurts finished the first half strong by connecting with DeVonta Smith, who made a nice over-the-shoulder grab, on a 38-yard reception to set up Philly’s first touchdown. A touchdown that Hurts scored with his legs by taking advantage of the Bears entirely vacating the middle of the field with a blitz.
Hurts set up his second rushing touchdown with another downfield shot to A.J. Brown to bring up goal-to-go. And then later his third with a 68-yard completion right in the bread basket to Brown down the right sideline.
This was a gritty performance by Hurts. He took a lot of hits from the Bears’ defense. Too many, in fact. He was to blame for some of those since it’s not like the Eagles drew up designed runs for him on all 17 of his carries. Hurts also managed to overcome the cold and windy elements that admittedly bothered him. Speaking after the game, Hurts said he couldn’t feel his hands in the 18 degree Fahrenheit (-7.78 degree Celsius) weather at Soldier Field.
It’s not like these cold weather conditions can be written off as a total anomaly that Hurts won’t have to deal with moving forward. It’s probably going to be cold at The Linc in the playoffs. Maybe not as cold as it was in Chicago ... but it’s possible it will be, if not even chillier.
Ultimately, Hurts helped lead his team to victory, as he’s mostly done this season. He came through in crucial moments and made some great throws with fantastic touch. There continues to be a feeling that this team is never truly in trouble with him at the helm. Even if things aren’t going so smoothly, one expects him to find a way to turn it around. This performance didn’t help his MVP case from a statistical perspective but it did illustrate his value by contrasting how the Eagles looked when he wasn’t playing well (trailing due to early offensive struggles) versus when he was (establishing a lead to help them win).
#Eagles LT Jordan Mailata on QB Jalen Hurts taking hits and popping up, except for the one it took a little longer on:— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) December 18, 2022
“The one that scared me he just laid there. I ran over and said, ‘Stay down.’ And he said, ‘Pick me the fuck up.’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir.’”
Hurts is now just one rushing touchdown away from tying Cam Newton’s single-season record (14), by the way. More context to put Hurts’ special season in perspective:
Jalen Hurts is responsible for 35 TDs this season, which is tied with Randall Cunningham (1990) for the Eagles single-season record.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 18, 2022
Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott are the only QBs since the 1970 merger to rush for 3 TDs and throw for 300+ yards in a single game.#Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 18, 2022
A.J. Brown was largely unstoppable on slants. He also made big plays as a vertical threat. Brown was targeted 16 total times for eight catches and 181 receiving yards, a new career-high.
Brown was able to regularly win despite facing tough coverage and not getting wide open. Only 10 qualified wide receivers averaged less separation in Week 15, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. On a related note, Brown faced the third-lowest cushion of any player at his position. Only Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill were allowed less room to work with from the line of scrimmage.
We already know this by now but it’s worth reiterating that Brown is an unfair matchup for opposing defenses. Good things happen when Hurts throws him the ball. It’s that simple.
Brown is having a career year. He surpassed his previous high of 1,075 yards, which were amassed in 14 games played. He’s currently at 1,201 through 14 appearances this year.
Here’s how Brown ranks among NFL players in key categories:
- Total receiving yards: 5th
- Yards per reception: 3rd
- Touchdowns: t-2nd
A.J. Brown has 12 receptions of 50+ yards since 2019, which leads all NFL players in that time span.#Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 18, 2022
DeVonta was basically the only good thing the Eagles’ offense had going for them in the first half. He made a number of tough grabs look easy.
DeVonta powering through contact on a bubble screen that beat a blitz with the Eagles backed up deep in their own territory was a big underrated play to come out of this game.
Skinny Batman ultimately finished with five receptions on eight targets for 126 yards (25.2 average). He’s up to 901 yards on the season, which is 15 yards shy of his rookie receiving total. He’s obviously going to surpass that figure and there’s a solid chance he gets to 1,000.
Assuming he can get to the millennium mark, the Eagles will have two 1,000-yard receivers for the first season in franchise history. Pretty crazy considering they previously hadn’t had a single 1,000-yard wide receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.
DeVonta is incredibly overqualified as a WR2 on this team. He’d be a WR1 on so many other teams.
A.J. Brown (181) and DeVonta Smith (126) are the first Eagles duo to each have 120+ rec yards in a game since 2013 (DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper)— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) December 18, 2022
Reddick was a monster in this game. There was a stretch where Bears right tackle Alex Leatherwood just could not block him.
Reddick finished with two sacks, one tackle for loss, and one pass defensed. It looked to me like he was the one to initially jar the football loose on the Bears fumble that the Eagles recovered. He was everywhere out there. It won’t be a surprise if he wins his second NFC Defensive Player of the Week award this season for that performance.
Reddick is now up to 12 sacks this season. Only Nick Bosa (15.5), Matt Judon (14.5), Myles Garrett (13.5), and Micah Parsons (13) have more.
Reddick is also up to four forced fumbles this season. Only one player has more: Alex Highsmith (5). Reddick’s 12 forced fumbles since 2020 are the most in the NFL.
Excellent free agent signing by Howie Roseman.
Sweat notched two sacks and three TFLs in this game. He’s on a hot streak with six sacks in his last four games.
Now at 9.5 sacks, Sweat is two sacks over last year’s previous single-season high. He’s half a sack away from becoming the Eagles’ third double-digit sacker.
If Sweat gets his half a sack and Brandon Graham gets at least 1.5 over the last three games, the Eagles will be the first team in NFL history with four double-digit sackers.
Philly’s pass rush is for real.
After only having one sack and one TFL over his last four appearances, The Grave Digger logged two sacks and two TFLs in this game. Perhaps another hot streak is here?
Hargrave is up to double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.
The Eagles allowed three touchdowns. It’s hard to blame the Eagles’ defensive coordinator for those scores.
The first Bears TD was set up by Justin Fields escaping a would-be Reddick sack and taking off for a crazy 39-yard run on 2nd-and-27. Gotta tip your hat to Fields for making an incredible play.
The second Bears TD was set up by Miles Sanders fumbling and Chicago recovering at the Eagles’ 15-yard line. Gannon’s unit had previously allowed zero points directly after Philly’s first two turnovers.
The third Bears TD occurred on a blown coverage. Just poor communication by the players.
Gannon’s defense allowed just 4.3 yards per play. For context, the Eagles are allowing the fewest yards per play in the NFL this season at 4.7.
Aside from a few exceptions out of his control, Gannon’s unit played well. As it should have against a poor offensive line and abysmal receiving corps.
Edwards, a Chicago suburbs native, tied for the team lead in total tackles with nine. His presence was important against the league’s run-heaviest team. Edwards specifically made a real nice tackle on a Cole Kmet screen on 3rd-and-10 that prevented a first down. Edwards also played a role in the forced fumble that was recovered by Reddick.
Maddox was credited with the forced fumble that was recovered by Reddick. He also had another where the ball bounced out of bounds. Only one defensive back has more FFs than Maddox’s five since 2021: Josh Norman. Norman had seven with San Francisco last season.
With C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Reed Blankenship both out, the Eagles trusted Maddox to take snaps on the back end as a safety. He mostly handled himself well there.
Wallace has rightfully caught a lot of flak for mostly struggling during his Philly tenure. Relative to very low expectations, however, Wallace seemingly played well in this one.
He finished tied with Edwards for the team lead in total tackles, including one TFL. He made a nice stop on a Fields run attempt up the middle at one point.
It must be noted that this was an usually favorable matchup for Wallace. The Bears weren’t working much at receiver and they run the ball more than any team. Wallace is still a concern when it comes to coverage. The hope is that he’ll soon head back to the bench with Blankenship and/or CJGJ potentially ready to return.
BoSco is the first Eagles player with kick returns of 50+ in back-to-back weeks since ... Josh Huff in 2016.
Scott had a 58-yard return in this game that set the Eagles up for their second touchdown to take a 17 to 6 lead. Scott previously had a 66-yard return last week. Nice to be getting some positive contributions from special teams!
It probably took the Eagles too long to utilize Scott on kick returns after messing around with Quez Watkins and Britain Covey earlier this year. But, hey, they finally found an option that works.
Watching the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime was honestly more exciting than anything the Eagles did on Sunday. Shout out to Dougie P for pulling off an upset that helped his former team!
Had the Cowboys won, Dallas would’ve been able to beat the Eagles on Christmas Eve and forced Philly to win both of their last two home games in order to get the No. 1 seed. Now the Eagles can lose to the Cowboys and win just one of their final two games, both of which are at The Linc.
The Eagles would have to lose out and the Cowboys would have to win out for Dallas to win the NFC East at this point.
So, again, the Eagles can thank Doug for his assistance.
Pederson might actually lead these Jags to an AFC South crown, by the way. The former Eagles head coach typically has his teams playing their best football in December. And the Jags seems to be surging while the Tennessee Titans are faltering. It would be pretty impressive by Doug to take over a Jags squad that finished as THE worst team in the league in each of the past two years and instantly turn them into a division winner. He’ll certainly be in consideration for Coach of the Year if he can pull it off.
EAGLES BALL PROTECTION
Three giveaways caused the Eagles to be minus two in turnover differential. They were able to get away with it because the Bears are terrible. Probably not going to be able to survive those kind of mistakes in the playoffs. Need to clean it up.
THE COLLECTIVE OF EAGLES PASS CATCHERS OUTSIDE OF A.J. BROWN AND DEVONTA SMITH
The Eagles could really afford to get Dallas Goedert back:
A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith combined: 24 targets, 14 receptions, 307 yards (21.9 avg)— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 18, 2022
Kenneth Gainwell, Jack Stoll, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal, Grant Calcaterra, and Miles Sanders combined: 13 targets, 8 receptions, 8 yards (1.0 avg)#Eagles
Thankfully, it looks like he’s on track to be activated this week.
Cox has been more productive recently but he failed to log a stat in this game.
It felt like he should’ve been able to recover the fumble that Reddick forced when he absolutely crushed Fields. Cox had the best combination of view and path to recovering the ball:
A bouncing football is never easy to recover but the movement had basically stopped before he got there.
If Cox gets the ball, the Eagles don’t give Fields a chance to break off that ridiculous 39-yard near-TD run one play later.
So, I’m not going to say Quez’s lack of production was entirely his fault. The coaching staff misused him quite a bit and we’ll get to that later in the IDK section.
Still, it’s hard to say he’s blameless for producing just 10 yards despite seeing six targets and four carries.
Watkins appeared to be late out of his break on the second interception that Hurts threw. He also seemed to struggle with the Bears’ tight coverage (unlike a superior player such as Brown) and couldn’t win downfield.
Quez did not capitalize in what was likely his last game before his offensive role decreases. The impending return of Goedert is bad news for his production outlook.
- Quez targets with Goedert in the lineup: 1.89 per game
- Quez targets with Goedert not playing: 4.50 per game
Not sure if the Bears’ final touchdown, which was scored on a blown coverage that left Byron Pringle WIDE open, was 100% on him. But Epps was the closest defender (albeit from far away) in the area and he did look visibly frustrated after that score.
Darius Slay let Pringle run by him but he seemed to think he was passing off the receiver to a safety. Slay made sure to absolve himself of blame on Twitter:
Y’all need to learn football before y’all start blaming people damn!!!— Darius Slay (@bigplay24slay) December 18, 2022
Epps has had a good season and he hardly struggled in this game. Still, that was a really bad mistake to make.
If Bears recover the onside kick, they have the ball with about 2:40 on the clock and one timeout to work with while being down five points. The game should’ve never gotten that close at the end. Or at least with that much time remaining in the game.
THE DALLAS COWBOYS
Remember when Jordan Mailata suggested Micah Parsons should be more focused on the Cowboys’ upcoming game against the Jags than trying to raise questions in an effort to discredit Hurts?
The Cowboys really should have lost to the Houston Texans. They had a chance to have that game serve as a wake-up call. And they almost did! They were up 27-10 on the Jags ... before blowing it.
It’s the perfect time for the Eagles to take advantage of Dak Prescott being interception-prone and clinch the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in their top rival’s building.
I DON’T KNOWS
NICK SIRIANNI/SHANE STEICHEN
If Twitter is any indication, there isn’t a shortage of people questioning the Eagles’ offensive plan of attack for this game.
To be clear, I’m not saying this was an A+ approach by Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen. I’m putting them here in the IDK section as opposed to the Winner section, after all.
But the Eagles did ultimately gain 421 yards, their sixth-highest yardage output this year. They averaged 5.9 yards per play. The Eagles are averaging 5.9 yards per play on the entire season, which ranks fourth-most in the NFL.
The biggest criticism I saw was that the Eagles weren’t running enough. (Probably the first time that critique has been made by Philly fans, right?) And specifically with their running backs.
Everyone should be able to agree that Miles Sanders taking his first carry with 6:41 remaining in the second quarter is too late to be getting him involved. Especially when he’s playing the best football of his career lately.
His lack of usage isn’t entirely on the coaching staff, though. There are some decisions made by Hurts to either check out of runs or keep the ball on reads.
The biggest issue with the offense early on wasn’t the lack of runs. It was Hurts missing throws that were there to be made. Take the Eagles’ second drive, for example. Hurts overthrew an open DeVonta Smith deep on second down and then was off target for an open A.J. Brown on third down. Three-and-out. There’s more blame to be placed on the quarterback than the coaching staff there.
More valid criticisms of Sirianni and Steichen involve exposing Hurts to too many hits. Again, it’s not like the Eagles called 17 designed runs. But the coaches played a factor in him running the ball that often. It felt like they could have dialed back on those when it became clear the Bears were mostly doing a good job against Hurts’ legs. Hurts has to protect himself but the coaching staff needs to help him protect him, too.
Another big issue was the aforementioned over-utilization of Watkins. Why did the Eagles feel the need to force-feed him? This isn’t to suggest Quez never should’ve touched the ball. Taking deep shots to him? That’s cool, he’s good at that. Getting him the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage? And as deep into the game as the Eagles’ penultimate drive after it clearly wasn’t working?! So bizarre. Quez had 10 combined targets and touches while DeVonta had eight. I get that the alternatives outside of Brown and Smith aren’t amazing with Goedert out but I don’t know how continuing to force it to Quez was the best option.
To end this section on a positive, I did like Sirianni’s decision to go for the two-point conversion to make it a 12 point game just 4:20 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Eagles also did this against the Houston Texans earlier this season. If it wasn’t already obvious, the value in being up 12 as opposed to kicking the extra point to make it an 11-point lead is that it forces the opponent to score two touchdowns. The alternative scenario allows the opponent to score just one touchdown with a successful two-point try and a field goal to tie the game.
The Eagles also did a great job of getting that two-point conversion from one yard out by drawing encroachment with multiple offensive shifts that encouraged the Bears to jump. In order, the Eagles motioned:
1) Miles Sanders from the backfield out wide to the left
2) Grant Calcaterra from in-line on the left side to out wide on the right
3) Cam Jurgens (!) from previously inside of Calcaterra to the slot on the left
4) Jack Stoll from in-line on the right side to the slot on the right
All with Tyree Jackson still lined up directly behind Hurts to potentially help to push the QB forward on a long sneak attempt.