For the first time this season, Jalen Hurts ran with abandon. For the first time this season, the Eagles’ quarterback was not looking for the softest green to slide on as he had done frequently. He cut up the field with the intention of taking the ball as far as he could, before someone took him down.
It was pleasantly reminiscent of the way Hurts ran during his MVP-caliber 2022 season and it translated into a 23-14 Eagles’ victory over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
The Eagles remain undefeated at 5-0 in what was their most complete game this season.
Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni got into some more sideline theatrics, engaging in lively conversations with Hurts and Jason Kelce, though it did not impact the game.
The Eagles finally used tight end Dallas Goedert, who had season highs in catches, targets and yards, plus he caught his first touchdown of the season, while receiver A.J. Brown had six catches for 127 yards, and Hurts completed 25 of 38 for 303 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Overall, there was a lot of good, some bad and smidge of ugly in the Eagles’ convincing 23-14 victory over the Rams.
Hurts’ season-high 72 yards rushing, including his 17-yard balancing act in which he was a hit a few times on a third-and-seven at the Eagles’ 38 with 2:12 left in the third quarter. The play prolonged the drive that resulted in the Eagles taking a 20-14 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Eagles’ offensive line of left tackle Jordan Mailata, left guard Landon Dickerson, center Jason Kelce, right guard Sua Opeta, playing in place of the injured Cam Jurgens, and right tackle Lane Johnson. They rendered Rams’ all-planet tackle Aaron Donald into a non-factor, they controlled the line of scrimmage, and aided the Eagles in converting 13 of 18 third downs and 454 yards of total offense.
Linebacker Haason Reddick’s consecutive sacks on third and fourth downs with 2:46 to play. Reddick’s second sack sealed the victory for the Eagles. The 13-yard sack came on a fourth-and-12 at the Rams’ 28, turning the ball over to the offense.
Goedert’s monster game. He finished with season highs in catches (8), yards (117), targets (9) and touchdowns (1). It is interesting how effective the Eagles’ offense can be when the Eagles target Goedert. The first series set the tone, when he caught four passes for 45 yards, averaging 11.2 yards a catch, the longest being for 19 yards. He finished the drive with his first TD of the season, however, it should not have taken five games to get it. Goedert entered the game with 13 receptions for 88 yards in the previous four games.
Hurts’ great 49-yard touch pass to Goedert with 9:50 left in the third quarter. The play came on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 20 and brought the ball to the Rams’ 31. Unfortunately, Hurts’ magical touch fell short three plays when he threw an interception in the end zone to the Rams’ Ahkello Witherspoon.
Hurts finding A.J. Brown on a third-and-one at the Eagles’ 34 for a 38-yard reception with :17 left in the half, which came with an additional 15 yards due to a Rams’ horse collar penalty giving the Eagles the ball at the Rams’ 14 with :07 left. The play later set up Hurts’ one-yard unstoppable “Brotherly Shove” touchdown on the last down of the half. The Eagles began the drive at their 25 with :32 left, which was moved along by 27 yards in Rams’ penalties. The scoring drive went 75 yards over four plays in 32 seconds.
Defensive tackle Jalen Carter taking down Matt Stafford for a one-yard loss on a second-and-nine at the Eagles’ 21 with :38 left in the first half. Regrettably, the play was wasted, because Stafford found rookie sensation Puka Nacua for a 22-yard touchdown on the next play that gave the Rams a 14-10 lead. On the second play of the second half, Carter had his second sack of the game for 11 yards, beating Rams’ center Coleman Shelton inside.
Opeta opening up a hole for Hurts on the Eagles’ third drive. Hurts went up the middle for 12 yards on a third-and-nine taking the ball from the Rams’ 46 to the 34. Opeta did a nice job occupying Donald up the middle to free Hurts on a quarterback draw. The Eagles had to settle for a Jake Elliott 34-yard field goal.
Hurts finding Kenneth Gainwell on a third-and-six at the Eagles’ 32 on the Eagles’ third drive. Hurts bought time with his legs and found Gainwell down field for seven yards. Gainwell lowered his shoulder and muscled his way to the first down at the Philadelphia 39. On the same drive, Gainwell did a nice job picking up a blitz.
Hurts’ nine-yard scramble on third-and-nine at the Eagles’ 41 on the Eagles’ second drive. Hurts showed a glimpse of running with the same abandon he did last season.
The Eagles’ first drive. It looked like the vintage 2022 Eagles’ offense. The Eagles drove 75 yards over 12 plays, chewing up 6 minutes, 23 seconds. Hurts was six for seven for 57 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles used great balance, running the ball five times for 18 yards and throwing seven times, the culmination coming on the lone third down of the drive, when Hurts looked off Rams’ safety Russ Yeast in the end zone to find Goedert in the end zone.
Hurts missing Quez Watkins wide open in the end zone with 12:41 to play. It came on a third-and-seven at the Rams’ eight, and forced the Eagles to settle for an Elliott field goal—and a 20-14 lead, giving the Rams some room to score and take the lead. The season-long 17-play, 83-yard drive took 8:09 off the clock and should have secured an Eagles’ victory—if they had scored a touchdown. For how good Hurts looked through much of the game, not seeing Watkins alone stung. Earlier in the game, Hurts missed an open Watkins on a third-and-10 at the 50 on the Eagles’ second drive. Watkins was alone down field and Hurts sailed the ball through his hands.
The Eagles wasting their second timeout with 7:08 to play because they had 10 players on the field. In a crucial situation like that, that should not happen. Earlier in the second half, the Eagles wasted their first timeout of the second half with 10:20 left in the third quarter. There has been some miscommunication at times with the Eagles this season and this was another case in point.
Watkins on a third-and-two at the Rams’ 16 on the Eagles’ third drive. Watkins had receivers DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown out front blocking on a screen, and did not read the block, going outside instead of cutting inside using the route provided by Smith and Brown’s blocks. Sirianni showed his displeasure throwing his headset down after the play. The failure forced the Eagles to settle for an Elliott field goal.
Hurts’ third-quarter interception in the end zone. Hurts underthrew A.J. Brown at the right pylon. Rams’ cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was there to scoop it up on a first-and-10 at the Rams’ 20 with 7:36 to play in the third quarter. Sirianni had to let Hurts know about it when he left the field and the two got into a yelling match for a few moments. Kelce also went off in an animated way over how the plays were coming in. Sideline drama seems like a weekly thing now for the 2023 Eagles.
Safety Reed Blankenship’s facemask penalty after Nacua’s 15-yard reception down the middle at the Rams’ 42 on a second-and-three at the Rams’ 27 on the Los Angeles’ second drive of the second half. The play wound up being for 30 yards with the Blankenship penalty tacked on.
On third-and-26, linebacker Zach Cunningham getting nailed for a personal foul 15-yard facemask call on Los Angeles’ first drive of the second half. The Rams conceded the down to the Eagles, but Cunningham caught Kyren Williams’ facemask prolonging the Rams’ drive. Against Washington in Week 4, the Eagles allowed the Commanders two first downs because of third-down penalties.
Cornerback James Bradberry getting smoked by Nacua down the sideline on a 22-yard touchdown pass. Nacua and Bradberry were matched one-on-one, and the fifth-round rookie beat the veteran with :32 left in the first half.
Cornerback Darius Slay getting toasted by Cooper Kupp, looking like a prime Cooper Kupp, for 39 yards on a first-and-10 at the Rams’ 39 just after the two-minute warning of the first half. If you noticed, Slay could not contain Kupp even while holding on to the 1 on Kupp’s No. 10 jersey with his right hand.
The Eagles’ first defensive series. The Rams answered the Eagles’ opening drive with a 75-yard, 14-play touchdown drive of their own. The Rams converted three third downs and a fourth down going to Kupp, who caught five passes on six targets for 56 yards. What made things worse was Kupp kept burning the Eagles on the same route. Every time Kupp went up the field, no one was there inside for the Eagles to stop him, over playing the outside leverage. The Eagles let Kupp break across the middle three times without rookie cornerback Eli Ricks taking away the inside move.
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, 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 Inquirer/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.