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October 22, 2023

First half observations: Eagles 17, Dolphins 10

Here's what we saw from the first half of play between the Eagles and Dolphins.

It really couldn't have been a better first half for the Eagles, as they look nothing like the team that was embarrassed by the Jets last week. A 17-10 halftime lead is a pretty great start against the best offense in football, and the Linc was giving Citizens Bank Park a run for its money as it was rocking Sunday night.

Here's what we saw in the first half of the Week 7 tilt in South Philly:

The good

• Let's get right into the play that they'll be talking about. After being knocked out of the game for a few plays and spending a bunch of time in the blue medical tent, A.J. Brown returned and found a way to get open for a desperately scrambling Jalen Hurts on 4th and 4 in the second quarter. Brown snagged a Hurts pass and scampered to the 1-yard line to set up a QB sneak — giving the Eagles a very solid 17-3 lead near the end of the first half. 

The Nick Sirianni Eagles have been aggressive and successful on fourth downs, and this has to be the kind of thing that drives defenses crazy. 

• The Miami offense has already proven to be one of the most elite units in the history of the sport. So it was abundantly obvious what the Eagles' strategy was to contain it — keep it off the field. The Eagles ran the ball deliberately during their opening drive, chewing up more than seven minutes on 12 plays en route to a field goal and early lead. They out-possessed the Dolphins 19:56-to-10:04 in the first 30 minutes.

• I really love DeVonta Smith's blocking technique on a big Dallas Goedert reception early in the first. He basically got between his man and Goedert and boxed him out like he was going for a rebound. 

• Philly's big tight end had a monster half, catching four passes for 67 yards. He scored the first touchdown of the game on a quirky TE screen with great blocking and a little shiftiness, finding paydirt 19 yards later. The drive — by the way — was set up by a 40-yard Boston Scott kick return. The special teams are much better this season and it's shown every game.

• Forcing a punt is no easy feat against these Dolphins. Jake Bailey's first-quarter boot was just the 15th of the entire season for Miami (and his second boot of the game in the second quarter). For what it's worth, the Eagles have the second-fewest total punts this season behind only the Fins. The Philly defense did not look at all overmatched in the first 30 minutes.

• The Eagles converted a "tush push" in the second quarter that was called back for offsetting penalties. They did the exact same thing seconds later and converted again. This thing is unstoppable. 

The bad

• Jalen Hurts fell victim to a coverage sack gone bad in the first, spending too much time in the pocket searching for an outlet before getting stripped of the ball and giving Tua Tagovailoa a chance at the 23-yard line. That was Hurts' 10th turnover of the year — but the defense bailed him out big time as they held Miami to a game-tying field goal to end the first at 3-all.

• The Eagles entered Sunday night's contest ranked 23rd of 32 NFL teams in red zone touchdown percentage. Their red zone issues have been nagging and costly, and the Birds blew yet another four-point play with the following ugliness:

Eventually, the question has to be posed about Brian Johnson and the play-calling. Last season with Shane Steichen (who was hired away to coach the Colts), the Eagles were 3rd in red zone scoring and this season they're in the bottom 10. Maybe Johnson was simply a really good QB coach and isn't a playcaller? Is the Peter Principle in play here?

They did take care of business in red zone visit No. 2 — but the play calling there was also a little suspect. 

• Tyreek Hill is faster than a speeding bullet. My god, look at this breakaway speed. You can't even really fault the Eagles' secondary here:

The Dolphins get the ball to start the second half — this thing could get close fast.

The Kelly Green

• The Eagles organization did a really good job with the return of the beloved Kelly Green. And it wasn't just the uniforms. The end zone art and midfield logo were both of the throwback variety, and the banners around the lower bowl were also giving early 1990s vibes.

In addition, the Philadelphia fans brought their A-game. I would surmise that a gigantic percentage of the fans in attendance — maybe 70% — were wearing Kelly Green gear instead of the typical midnight green. It almost was jarring to see the few fans wearing the Eagles' regular colors Sunday night. That's quite the show of love and support for a slight color change. And a lot of coin for fans to drop to be on trend. Kudos to them as the fans in this city continue to be the best in the world.

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