This was a tough spot for the Eagles.
They were coming off short rest following a “Super Bowl rematch” road game on Monday night.
They were unexpectedly without one of their most valuable players on short notice with Lane Johnson unable to play.
They were facing a desperate Bills team that really needed the win more than they did. We had said prior to the game Buffalo was better than their record indicated since they ranked fourth in point differential and fifth in DVOA. Not to mention they hadn’t lost by more than six points all year.
They were down 10 points at halftime.
They were outgained.
And, yet, the Eagles did what they’ve almost always done this season ... and found a way to win.
First, the negative.
Hurts was just not good enough in the first half. The offensive coordinator is not the only issue when the $255 million quarterback has these numbers:
Jalen Hurts first half against Bills:— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 26, 2023
4/11, 33 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 7.0 passer rating.
7 carries, 22 rushing yards (3.1 avg), 1 TD, 1 fumble. #Eagles
The interception was another example of Hurts inexplicably throwing right into an oncoming defender and having the ball deflected for a pick. He previously did this in the Miami Dolphins game. He’s really gotta figure that out. Maybe pump fake? Change the arm angle? Just take the sack? Something.
The fumble has caused debate if it was him or Kenny Gainwell to blame but it looked to me like Hurts’ hesitation was the problem.
Regardless of how you parse the turnovers, the bottom line is that they’ve happened entirely too often. Hurts set a new career-high in single-season interceptions with 10 in 11 games. He’s on pace to set a new career-high in fumbles as well.
Now, the positive.
The Eagles’ “never say die” mentality undoubtedly originates from their franchise quarterback. Hurts is the catalyst and the juxtaposition of his intense will to win while remaining incredibly composed and calm is remarkable.
Hurts rebounded well to ultimately finish the game 18/31 for 200 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, and a 96.2 passer rating in addition to 14 carries for 65 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score in overtime.
Hurts used his legs to seal the deal but he made some really impressive plays with his arm. The touchdown throw to DeVonta Smith was pretty awesome considering how he placed the ball high enough over the well-positioned underneath defender but low enough for his receiver to still make a leaping catch in the end zone. The touchdown throw to Olamide Zaccheaus was ridiculous considering how he rolled left, reset his feet, and placed the ball over the defense to only where his receiver could make the play. Incredible.
Hurts was clutch when the Eagles needed him most and that’s not to be taken for granted. With him under center, the game never feels out of reach no matter how bad things may be going.
Hurts is the driver for their winning and that’s why he’s the MVP favorite with six games to go.
Eagles franchise rushing TD leaders— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 27, 2023
1) Steve Van Buren: 69
2) Wilbert Montgomery: 45
3) LeSean McCoy: 44
t-4) Jalen Hurts: 37
t-4) Brian Westbook: 37
59-yard game-tying field goal into the wind and rain?
No problem for Jake Elliott, who time and time again has proven to be incredibly clutch.
He’s had an awesome season. And he has a claim to “best kicker in the NFL” with Justin Tucker slipping (only 80.8% on field goals) this season.
It’s only fitting that BG came up with a huge sack in the game where he overtook David Akers to become the player with the most regular-season games played in Eagles franchise history.
As was the case in the Cowboys game, Graham’s sack set up the offense to take control and put the game away. As was the case in the Cowboys game, the offense failed to do so. But Graham doing his part to give them those prime opportunities should not be lost.
Despite his age, there’s reason to believe Graham is heating up down the stretch.
His first eight games: 0.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QB hits.
His last three games: 2.5 sacks, 2 TFLs, 3 QB hits.
With defenses keying in on A.J. Brown, Smitty has stepped up.
His last four games:
Week 8: 7 targets, 7 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD
Week 9: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 51 yards, 1 TD
Week 11: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 99 yards, 0 TD
Week 12: 8 targets, 7 receptions, 106 yards, 1 TD
All told, that’s 26 targets for 23 receptions, 355 yards (15.4 average), 3 TD, and a near-perfect 157.2 passer rating when targeted. Incredibly efficient.
Just another reminder that DeVonta is a WR1 on a team with two of those dudes.
Carter has been held without a sack in four of his last five games but the traditional box score does not do his impact justice.
In a game ultimately decided by three points, he blocked a field goal. Massive. The Eagles’ first-round pick was also credited with a team-high five pressures against the Bills.
Part of that volume had to do with Buffalo running so many plays. But kudos to Carter for playing a new career high snap count percentage with Fletcher Cox getting banged up and Milton Williams not playing.
Defensive Rookie of the Year ... and perhaps more:
Jalen Carter currently has a 19% pass-rush win rate, per PFF. No rookie DT has had a better mark since PFF started charting the NFL in 2006.— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) November 27, 2023
first-team all-pro hands down
Really nice to see Bradberry have a good game after some rough outings this year.
The veteran cornerback used his smarts to jump a route and come up with a crucial interception that allowed the Eagles to take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter.
In addition to his pick, Bradberry was credited with FIVE passes defensed. He nearly doubled his season total since he entered the game with six PDs.
Allen had a mere 54.0 passer rating when targeting Bradberry.
Maybe this is a turning the corner (no pun intended) moment for him in this season?
Great work to get open on a scramble drill and make an impressive leaping catch for a go-ahead touchdown. OZ isn’t going to be a feature player in this offense but he’s only ever made the case to see some more opportunities.
Olamide Zaccheaus has 2 TDs this year.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 27, 2023
1) 34-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 against the Bucs.
2) 29-yard reception on 3rd-and-15 against the Bills.#Eagles
Sirianni joined some impressive company on Sunday.
His role in the Eagles’ success shouldn’t be overlooked like it apparently is due to the lack of Coach of the Year consideration.
Now, I do have to bring up some questions.
- Why didn’t he go for two after the Bills were called offside on the PAT following OZ’s touchdown? Surely the Brotherly Shove from the 1-yard line could’ve made it a 29 to 24 game. Maybe the Bills then go for two and get it to make it a 32 to 29 game after their touchdown ... but maybe they DON’T successfully convert. And then the Eagles have a chance to win with a field goal instead of forcing the game to OT. Oddly conservative decision.
- Why weren’t the Eagles more aggressive about trying to end the game in regulation? They seemed to get content with playing for the game-tying field goal instead of going for the kill shot.
- Is the offense struggling early in part because Sirianni isn’t coming up with a good script and it’s actually Johnson who is doing a good job of adjusting?
I’ve been on Brian Johnson Island all season long and it’s there I’ll remain.
There’s no denying the first half was ugly with just seven points on seven drives. Three straight passes to start the game was a curious call. The 3rd-and-14 screen to Julio Jones on the first drive of the third quarter was indefensibly bad.
But after that failed sequence, here’s how the rest of the Eagles’ drives went:
Kudos to Johnson for adjusting.
Of course, it’d be nice if it didn’t take so long for the offense to find their groove moving forward. Need to see improvement in that regard.
I think he’ll get there. I think people have been entirely too harsh on him this season considering how the offensive production isn’t even THAT different from this time last year. Johnson didn’t have a good first half but there was only so much for him to do with his quarterback not living up to his end of the bargain and turning the ball over twice.
A question I’ve been wondering about as it relates to contextualizing Johnson’s performance this season is: how many fan bases are truly happy with their offensive coordinators this year? I bet you it’s not a very big number.
The Linc - Brian Johnson expected to be among top NFL HC candidateshttps://t.co/No8hpsR5IV— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 28, 2023
I know the defense gave up 505 yards. But they only allowed 5.5 yards per play and that’s actually below the 6.0 mark (third-most in the NFL) that the Bills were averaging prior to Sunday.
With the offense struggling early on, the defense did their part to keep the game within reach. 14 of the Bills’ 17 first half points came directly off turnovers with one touchdown drive starting at Philly’s 29-yard line and another starting at Philly’s 36-yard line.
On the whole, I thought Desai did things to make Josh Allen’s life difficult but the quarterback countered by making special plays and there’s only so much that can be done about that.
The Eagles’ defense did hold the Bills to a field goal in OT that allowed the offense to deliver a game-winning TD.
Swift’s ability to break off big plays has breathed life into the Eagles’ offense multiple times this season. And while he benefits from running behind a strong offensive line, it’s apparent when he makes plays happen beyond his blocking. Good day at the office for Swift with 80 yards on 14 carries (5.7 average).
Allen cowardly robbed him of reaching 9.5 sacks in 11 games this season by committing intentional grounding.
The idea that Reddick got away with a horse collar tackle is silly to me when neither Allen nor his teammates were immediately asking for that call after he got taken down.
Slay admittedly got away with being grabby:
Refs miss calls all the time.. nobody perfect. But holding an grabbing goes on every play. If they would’ve called it I wouldn’t be mad at all! https://t.co/IL8z5I3UB1— Darius Slay (@bigplay24slay) November 27, 2023
But this was a pretty good game for him. Slay had two passes defensed and Allen had just a 45.4 passer rating when targeting him.
The big man was counted on to play a higher snap count than normal with Cox getting hurt and Williams out and he responded well.
Davis helped to disrupt the Bills’ run game, such as when Buffalo was backed up against their own goal line. Pro Football Focus credited him with four “stops” (tackles that constitute a failure for the offense). He also generated one pressure and finished the game as the Eagles’ second-highest graded defender by PFF.
Davis made an incredible hustle play in overtime where he showed off his freakish athleticism:
Jordan Davis reached a top speed of 16.96 mph while chasing down Josh Allen per @NextGenStats, the 2nd-fastest speed reached on any play by a 330+ pound player this season.— Keegan Abdoo (@KeeganAbdoo) November 27, 2023
For reference, Allen's top speed was 18.27 mph. https://t.co/s6BncZb0u0
When Johnson was ruled out, I said that the Eagles needed to start either Fred Johnson or Tyler Steen in his place. Driscoll deserved to be demoted after previously struggling in relief of Lane back in Week 6.
To his credit, though, Driscoll stepped up in this one. After immediately allowing a pressure on the first play, he allowed zero the rest of the game. Hats off to him.
Driscoll did struggle as a run blocker but, in fairness, he started this game on very short notice. Hard to expect him to be perfect.
Gainwell broke off the longest regular season run of his career with a 23-yarder! He followed good blocking through a hole and then made the safety miss to help set up the Eagles’ first touchdown.
Gainwell also did well to get out of bounds after making two catches on the Eagles’ final drive of regulation to set up the game-tying field goal.
Smith was credited with two pressures on six pass rushing snaps. Let him play more!
The Eagles could afford a heavier edge rusher rotation after relying especially heavily on Sweat and Reddick recently.
Covey had an 18-yard punt return that set the Eagles up at their own 32-yard line with a four-point lead with 8:50 left in the game. He gave the offense a shot to at least drive for a field goal while taking some time off the clock. Unfortunately, the offense went three-and-out.
Covey leads the NFL in punt return yards this year with 295. He ranks second in punt return average with 14.75, which is only behind Derius Davis at 16.31.
Five punts for 269 yards and a 53.8 average (net 44.4). His longest punt was 59 yards.
One of Mann’s punts combined with a Bills penalty forced Buffalo to start at their own five-yard line. The Bills eventually punted on that drive after failing to reach Eagles territory.
A mea culpa for the Eagles’ special teams coordinator is due. I was certainly among those who questioned the team’s decision to not only retain him but give him a raise and contract extension after last year’s struggles.
Clay is overseeing a unit that ranks FIRST overall in special teams DVOA this season.
KELLY GREEN JERSEYS
The Eagles are undefeated in their new alternates!
Shame we won’t get to see them again this season.
... or will we? The Eagles only announced two kelly green jersey games but they’re allowed to wear alternates up to three times per season. Will they break them out as a surprise for one of their remaining home games? Maybe against the New York Giants on Christmas?
Allen was great, obviously. Very good player. The Eagles often defended Allen well only for him to make even better plays that require tipping your cap to him.
But ... Big Loser Energy trying to rob a player of a sack, while only further hurting his team!
Quotes via Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice (AKA my BGN Radio co-host):
“That’s some bulls***, and he did it on purpose,” Sweat said. “The f***ing dude literally begged [the officials] for intentional grounding to not f***ing take a sack. He f***ing begged for intentional grounding just to not give us a sack. It could’ve been a fumble, and you’d f*** your team at that point. How the f*** do we get penalized [in the stat sheet] for him getting a penalty? Don’t f***ing take my sh** away. It’s too hard to get there.”
“He was lobbying for an intentional grounding,” Reddick said. “If that doesn’t tell you what that means... they gotta start counting that as a sack. They’re just throwing the ball away with nobody in the area so they don’t get a sack. We rush well. They already don’t want us to get any sacks after we had 70 last year. They don’t want us to be who we are. There’s no benefit. They actually lost more yards on the intentional grounding than they did on the sack.”
SHAQ LAWSON AND JORDAN PHILLIPS
Lawson seemingly shoved a fan? The NFL can’t allow that to go unpunished.
Lawson and Jordan Phillips alleged that a fan was making “life threatening” remarks. If that’s true, there’s obviously no place for that. But there’s also no place for players going up to the stands to make aggressive physical contact with fans.
No threats. Just angry players who can't deal with heckling. Cut it out pic.twitter.com/0UKAjl3CYj— it's always something (@DrDutchTweets) November 27, 2023
I DON’T KNOWS
Brown in three games since his record-breaking six-game stretch of at least 125 receiving yards: 22 targets, 13 receptions, 111 yards (8.5 average), 2 TDs.
Teams have naturally dedicated more resources to trying to stop Brown in an effort to make someone else on the Eagles beat them. And it’s undoubtedly been easier for them to do that with Dallas Goedert missing due to injury.
Brown’s production will inevitably bounce back. For now, though, he’s in a dry spell for his standards.
The TD catch against Washington was a nice moment. Besides that, though, he hasn’t really brought much to the table ... other than good vibes in the locker room. Is he truly justifying a roster spot?