The Eagles went 14-3 this year and, had things fallen a little differently, easily could have gone 17-0.
Think about it. If Quez Watkins doesn’t drop the ball after that long completion in the 4th quarter of the Commanders game, they likely don’t suffer their first loss. The offense was moving up and down the field in the second half, and Washington was barely hanging on. Bad luck on turnovers, that’s it.
If Jalen Hurts doesn’t get hurt in Chicago, it’s possible he pulls off the late-game comeback that Gardner Minshew frittered away as he was freaking out late in the Cowboys loss on Christmas Eve. He also probably doesn’t throw two interceptions or fumble the handoff with Boston Scott in that contest, although who knows? And the Eagles certainly don’t lose to the Saints if Hurts is in there.
Of course, every team has a few games like that during a long season, but the fact the Birds won 14 games and realistically had a chance to win all 17 is remarkable. I cannot remember another year where they legitimately should have won every single game.
It was an amazing regular season, and even though everyone in the locker room will tell you the job isn’t done, one shouldn’t be so quick to brush past what we witnessed this season.
Jalen Hurts, perhaps the league’s biggest question mark coming into the season, turned into an exclamation point. He won’t win the MVP, but up until his injury, he was the league’s most valuable player. Miles Sanders had a career year, running for 1,000 yards for the first time ever. The wide receivers were amazing, Dallas Goedert showed once again why he’s one of the five best tight ends in the league, and the offensive line shoved.
The defensive line was ravenous and included big seasons from their biggest off-season free agent acquisition, Haason Reddick, as well as bounce back seasons from a couple aging veterans in Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, with Graham earning double-digit sacks for the first time in his career. Darius Slay and James Bradberry locked down receivers all season long and, even though the interceptions dried up a bit in the second half, opposing QBs were held to a rating of 81.6, 3rd-lowest in the league.
The Eagles were so clearly the best team in the NFC until the final month, when injuries took a toll. One must admit San Francisco is playing the best ball right now, winners of 10 straight. On a neutral field, the 49ers would likely be the favorite to win a potential NFC Championship Game.
But Sunday’s 22-16 win over the Giants means a trip to the Super Bowl must come through Philadelphia.
Before we dive head-first into playoff mode, let’s take a step back and look at five statistics that truly tell the story of this incredible regular season ride.
The NFC East Will Not Have a Repeat Champion — Again
Last year, I wrote about this phenomena and, wouldn’t you know, it happened again. With the Eagles racing out to a 13-1 record and building a three-game lead over the Cowboys with three weeks to play, a division title seemed a fait accompli, although the last two weeks made things... interesting.
If you’re keeping score, that’s 18 straight seasons without a repeat division winner. Sure, Dallas was every bit as good this year as they were last year and, under normal circumstances, probably would have repeated, but the emergence of Jalen Hurts scuttled all that.
NFC East champs by the years:— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 9, 2023
Now 18 consecutive years that the defending NFC East champion did not repeat the following year.
It remains the oddest record in sports, and one that will hopefully end next season!
DeVonta Smith Sets Franchise Catch Record & A.J. Brown Sets Receiving Yards Record
Forget about the fact both players crossed 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in franchise history and revel in the realization that no wide receiver wearing Eagles green ever caught more than the 92 balls Smith did in this, his second season, and no receiver hauled in more yards than Brown’s 1,496. Mike Quick held the record with 1,409 in 1983, Zach Ertz holds the reception record with an insane 116 in 2018.
Yes, it took an extra game to do it, but the fact both players set both marks at the same time speaks to what is obvious to anyone with a pulse. We’re witnessing the greatest wide receiver duo in Eagles history.
Sorry Thrash and Pinkston.
Eagles Set Franchise Points Record
With Jake Elliott’s 22-yard field goal in the 4th quarter, the Birds set a new franchise record with 477 points and yes, I know, they had an extra game to do it, but when Jalen Hurts was in the lineup, the Eagles’ offense was simply inevitable.
You couldn’t stop them. If you took away the run, they passed it. If you took away the pass, they ran it. If you took away the running backs, Hurts ran it. The Eagles had an answer for everything, and opposing defenses still haven’t shown they can stop it when Hurts is at the top of his game.
It’s understandable the last two weeks have people nervous about the offense, but understand how awful Minshew was against New Orleans, and how limited Hurts was on Sunday. They weren’t going to run him. At all. And without the threat of Hurts as a runner, defensive linemen could pin their ears back and blitz Hurts without fear, as the Giants did yesterday. They could key in on the running backs, too. It took away a major weapon inside the red zone, a weapon that allowed Hurts to rush for a ridiculous 13 scores this year.
One hopes that all-important bye week will allow Hurts to be close to 100% and once again be the dual threat that helped him pile up a franchise-tying 35 total touchdowns this season.
Jalen Hurts Winning at a Young Age
Hurts’ maturity, both on and off the field, make him appear much older than he actually is. After winning his 14th game of the season on Sunday (against just one loss), Hurts did something incredibly impressive.
Jalen Hurts is the second-youngest QB in NFL history to win 14 regular-season games, only behind Dan Marino with Miami in 1984.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 9, 2023
The Eagles are 17-1 in Jalen Hurts' last 18 regular-season starts:— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) January 9, 2023
Certainly Hurts doesn’t do it all by himself. His defense was outstanding for most of the season and he has a cadre of talented players around him, but the same can be said for so many of the outstanding young quarterbacks that have populated the league for years. No one, not Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, John Elway, none of them did what Hurts has done, other than Marino. At 24 years, 155 days, Hurts is winning at a pace only one other signal caller has ever done before.
All the Sacks
It’s been mentioned before but it bears repeating, the Eagles are the first team in NFL history to have four players with double digit sacks in the same season, and they did it before their bonus 17th game.
- Haason Reddick (16)
- Javon Hargrave (11)
- Josh Sweat (11)
- Brandon Graham (11)
Meanwhile, Fletcher Cox finished 5th on the team with 7.0 sacks, the most he’s had in any season since his career-high 10.5 sack season in 2018. The only other season in which he had more was 2015, his first Pro Bowl season, when he had 9.5.
The team also finished two sacks shy of tying the all-time team record in a season, although it would have come with some asterisks. After last week’s 16th game, the Birds had 68 sacks, 4th-most in NFL history. The 1984 Bears have the record of 72, set in 1984 and, with two more sacks, this 2022 Eagles ended the season with 70. However, in terms of sacks per game, it’s the 1987 Bears who hold that record, recording 70 in that 15-game, strike-shortened season, with three of those games played by replacement players. Nevertheless, the fact this Eagles defense had more sacks, even before the season’s final week, than any defense helmed by Buddy Ryan, Bud Carson, Jim Johnson or Jim Schwartz, is truly remarkable.
What a crazy, ridiculous, remarkable regular season by the 2022 Eagles.
Now, they wait a week for their next victim.