The Eagles made easy work of a team that they weren’t supposed to have an easy time against, smashing the visiting Tennessee Titans, 35-10, on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles have all but clinched a playoff berth in getting to 11-1 for the fourth time in franchise history (1949, 1980, 2004).
It wasn’t supposed to be easy against Tennessee.
The Eagles made it easy by dropping the second-highest point total this season on the Titans, who had previously held eight-straight opponents to 20 or fewer points.
The Eagles made it easy by Jalen Hurts completing 29 of 39 passes for a season-high 380 yards, tossing three touchdowns and rushing for another. They made it easy by A.J. Brown catching eight passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns and made it easy by sacking Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill six times and holding powerback Derrick Henry to 30 yards on 11 carries in a game when the Eagles did not particularly play clean.
They beat an AFC playoff team while getting flagged 12 times for 80 yards.
There was a mountain of good, some bad, a smidge of ugly in the Eagles’ 35-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Hurts threw for a season-best 380 yards, completing 29 of 39 and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown. If he wasn’t hitting DeVonta Smith when he was left free the times the Titans were double-teaming Brown, he was hitting Brown for two touchdowns.
Brown getting a big dig at his former team, scoring his first touchdown by bulling over Titan corner Kristian Fulton on a 40-yard catch and a 14-7 Eagles’ lead with 13:55 left in the half. Then Brown made a spectacular catch on a 29-yard, third-quarter touchdown reception with Titans’ cornerback Tre Avery draped over him. Brown finished with eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against the team that didn’t want to sign him to a new contract. What are they thinking now?
The job the Eagles’ defense did on Henry. They never let the powerback get going. He was held to 30 yards on 11 carries, averaging a mere 2.7 yards a carry. Put it this way, Tannehill outrushed Henry 34 yards to 30. And, the Eagles did not have to alter their defensive scheme to do it.
Center Jason Kelce playing human bulldozer steering mammoth Titans’ nose tackle Kevin Strong out of the way on Miles Sanders’ three-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a comfortable 35-10 cushion.
Defensive end Brandon Graham’s six-yard sack at the Titans’ 30 on second-and-eight with 10:24 left in the third quarter.
Kick returner Britain Covey’s 27-yard punt return to midfield early in the third quarter, setting up Brown’s second TD catch. Covey later had a 25-yard punt return. If the Eagles can get touch of production from their special teams, creating positive field position, a bigger picture could emerge.
Linebacker Nakobe Dean opening the second half with a big pop on C.J. Board on the Eagles’ kick return coverage. Someone may have said something to the Eagles’ special teams unit, because they played with an energy that they previously had not played with. When Dean got a chance to play regularly on defense, he did well. On a second-and-10 at the Eagles’ 17, Dean came up to stop Julius Chestnut for a two-yard loss.
The Eagles first half offense. They pounded Tennessee for 300 yards of total offense, averaging 8.6 yards a play. Of the Eagles’ six drives in the first half, they scored on three of them, and were so efficient on first and second down that they faced only four third-down situations. The Eagles ran off 35 plays, though ran the ball eight times in the first two quarters, peppering Tennessee through the air to the tune of 263 yards. Tennessee had only given up 21 points or more twice this season, in its 21-20 season-opening loss to the New York Giants and a 24-22 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3.
Defensive end Josh Sweat’s five-yard sack at the Eagles’ 13 with Tennessee driving on a third-and-six after the Titans had a false start. It forced the Titans to kick a field goal late in the half. Sweat later combined with linebacker Haason Reddick for a nine-yard sack at the Titans’ 15 on Tennessee’s first third quarter drive. Sweat and Reddick combined for a nine-yard sack at the Titans’ 19 with 6:29 left in the third. It was the sixth sack for the Eagles.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox taking down Tannehill for a one-yard sack on a third-and-six at the Titans’ 27 with 13:01 left in the first half. Allowing Tannehill outside had been a problem early on.
Linebacker Christian Elliss coming up to nail Board on the Eagles’ first punt of the game. It was a rare special teams slam in what has been a dubious area of the team this year.
Reddick coming up field and forcing Tannehill to step up in the pocket on a third-and-four at the Tennessee 31, setting up the five-yard sack by Javon Hargrave on Tennessee’s first drive that forced a punt.
The Eagles’ first drive. Two false starts and a forced timeout because the right personnel weren’t in the game couldn’t stop them from going 75 yards over seven plays in 2-minutes, 57-seconds. Key plays were the Eagles converted third-and-eight at the Eagles’ 27. Hurts connected with Smith on a 34-yard touchdown pass. It set the tone.
With the Titans paying added attention to Brown, DeVonta Smith caught three passes for 59 yards on the opening drive. Two of his first three catches were crucial. His 20-yard catch kept the drive on third-and-eight the Eagles’ 27, and his third catch was the 34-yard touchdown reception. Smith finished with five catches for 102 yards.
This falls under bad for the Eagles. With 12:04 left in the half, left guard Landon Dickerson leaving the field favoring his left leg. Andre Dillard came in to replace Dickerson. That turned out to be potentially bad, when Strong ran through Dillard and forced Hurts out of the pocket to throw an incompletion on a second-and-five at the Titans’ 39. Dickerson, fortunately, returned.
Hurts missing Smith on a third-and-five at the Eagles’ 33 on their second series. Hurts had Smith open on the sideline and short-hopped a pass that he has been consistently making this season. Hurts was cursing himself under his breath as he trotted off the field.
The Eagles forced to call a timeout on the third play of the game, when they didn’t have the right players on the field.
Right tackle Lane Johnson and Kelce’s false starts on the Eagles’ first drive. It was a portent of things to come for the offensive line’s penalty woes.
The Eagles getting flagged nine times for 60 yards in the first half, five flags coming on false start calls on the offensive line. They were flagged 12 times overall for 80 yards.
Safety Marcus Epps whiffing terribly on tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo for a 41-yard catch to the Eagles’ 17 late in the second quarter. It led to a Tennessee field goal.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata letting Titans’ linebacker Bud Dupree run right by him on a third-and-14 at the Titans’ 49 with 10:46 left in the half for a sack. Fortunately, Dupree made illegal contact with Hurts on the play, and the Eagles received a first down at the Titans’ 34 on a roughing-the-passer call. On the same drive, Mailata took a false start penalty (the Eagles’ fifth in the half). Mailata lost Dupree later on the same series, on third-and-14 at the Titans’ 38, though luckily came back to recover the fumble Dupree caused when he knocked the ball loose from Hurts.
Nickel corner Josiah Scott running after Treylon Burks on Tannehill’s 25-yard touchdown to him on a third-and-three at the Eagles’ 25 with 2:47 left in the first quarter for a 7-7 tie.
The Eagles getting flagged six times in the first quarter for 40 yards. Three of the six flags came on false starts by the offensive line. The Titans, meanwhile, did not have a penalty walked off against them in the first quarter.
On fourth-and-seven at the Eagles’ 40 on the Titans’ second drive, Tannehill hitting the Eagles again with another effective scramble. The first time it was for 17 yards. That came on first down. This time, it happened on fourth down. Reddick got caught taking an inside rushing lane and was shoved back by Titans’ right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere allowing Tannehill a free passage down the sideline for an eight-yard gain and first down. It led to the Titans first score.
The Titans second drive wasn’t a good one for Reddick. On first-and-10 at the Tennessee 40, Reddick lost outside contain, allowing the slow-footed Tannehill up the field for a 17-yard gain. Until that point, Tannehill had only 47 yards rushing all season.
Sweat going offsides on a third-and-four at the Tennessee 35 on the Titans’ second drive. It gave Tennessee a first down and eventually the Titans’ first touchdown of the game. It was also the Eagles’ third penalty in the first quarter. Sweat more than made up for it later with two sacks.
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.