November 14, 2021
The Philadelphia Eagles went into the thin air at Mile High Stadium and beat up on the Denver Broncos Sunday evening, to the tune of 30-13. As always, win, lose, or tie, we hand out 10 awards.
For the second time in three weeks, Slay returned a fumble for a touchdown. Against the Lions in Week 8, Avonte Maddox forced a fumble, and Slay completed the easy scoop and score. This time around, Slay picked up a fumble forced by Davion Taylor, fumbled it himself, almost fumbled it again, and then weaved his way through the Broncos' offense for the score. Look at the jets on Slay!
But also, look at this "olé" by Teddy Bridgewater, as if Slay is Earl Campbell or something.
Anyway, Taylor's strip turned a Broncos potential fourth down conversion into seven points the other way and broke the game open.
Smith is a legitimate star receiver in the making, and there's really no good excuse for not finding a way to get him 10 targets per game. In the first quarter, Jalen Hurts delivered an on-target throw to Smith, who was able to reel in the catch despite outstanding coverage by Patrick Surtain.
You really can't cover any better than this, and Smith still made the play:
Smith added a second TD in the second quarter, and finished with 4 catches for 66 yards and 2 TDs.
Let's go ahead and update the Jalen Hurts game-by-game stock up/stock down tally:
In the first half, Hurts was 15 of 20 for 176 yards, 2 TDs, and no INTs. He would have been 16 of 20 for 210 yards and 3 TDs if not for a dropped Quez Watkins TD at the end of the half on what was a perfect throw.
In the second half, the Eagles ran the ball a lot. Hurts only attempted three passes, one of which was picked (Hurts' hand was hit on the play, it appeared), and one was almost picked on a play in which he was late getting the ball out to an open DeVonta Smith on a Cover-2 beater.
It's what happened in the first half that was encouraging for Hurts. He made subtle moves in the pocket instead of bailing quickly, he was accurate with his throws, and Nick Sirianni said during his postgame interview that Hurts made some heady checks at the line of scrimmage.
That first half was easily his best of the season.
There's nothing complicated about the way Howard and Scott are running the ball. No dancing, no fluff. They just get it and go. Miles Sanders is a more talented player, but is his style of running a better fit for this offense right now?
Howard ran 12 times for 83 yards, while Boston Scott ran 11 times for 81 yards. The Eagles as a team racked up 214 rushing yards, and have averaged 209 rushing yards per game in the three games that Sanders has missed.
It'll be interesting to see what Sanders' role will be when he returns from injured reserve. He is eligible to return this week.
A look at the NFC wildcard race:
|Rams (5 seed)||7-2||-3|
|Saints (6 seed)||5-4||-0.5|
|Panthers (7 seed)||5-5||-|
If the season ended today (it doesn't), the Eagles would be the 10 seed, and out of the playoffs. However, they're only one game behind the 7 seed Panthers, a team they beat earlier this season, and 1.5 games behind the 6 seed Saints, their Week 11 opponent.
Which leads me to the next point...
The Eagles have a lot of bad teams on their schedule the rest of the way. The quarterbacks (as of now) that they are likely to face:
The only definitive "franchise quarterback" on that list is Prescott, and depending on whether or not the Cowboys are locked into the playoff seed by Week 18, they may not even see him.
After they return home from Denver, the Eagles will not board another flight for the rest of the 2021 regular season, a scheduling oddity, but a nice advantage. They should also benefit eventually from a super late Week 14 bye.
Of course, whether or not the Eagles making the playoffs is even a good thing for the team long-term is debatable. Your views may vary.
The Eagles' impressive win over the Broncos wasn't flawless, of course, and while Derek Barnett had the Eagles' only sack on the night, he also had two more bad penalties. "It's always him."
Sirianni's game plan and play calling against the Broncos was very good. My favorite call was with 15 seconds left in the first half. With the ball on Denver's 34 yard line, facing a 3rd and 10, Sirianni called a shot play. Hurts threw a dime to Watkins, who dropped it, as noted above, but it was the right time to get aggressive.
If the Eagles had converted a first down, or got some extra yards short of the sticks on third down, it would have given Jake Elliott a somewhat easier kick, but Sirianni made a call that almost gave the Eagles four extra points.
Also, the Eagles now seem to have... drumroll 🥁🥁🥁... an offensive identity! Kudos to Sirianni for adjusting his approach to the personnel he has to work with.
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