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October 02, 2022

Three pivotal plays in the Eagles' win over the Jaguars

Lincoln Financial Field has taken to blasting "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty over the last handful of seasons. Five years to the day that the legendary rocker passed, it was the Eagles who showcased they would not be backing down when hit with early adversity. 

Down in a 14-0 hole in the first quarter, the Birds rebounded and showcased to the returning Doug Pederson, the Jaguars and the whole football world that they are serious threats and can win in whatever scenario presents itself. In a dome, under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, on the road or in a windy downpour. It has not mattered for an Eagles team that is the class of the NFC so far in the 2022 season.

As I've done for every Birds game this season, here are the three most pivotal plays that shifted things in the Eagles' favor in their 29-21 win over Jacksonville:

Jaguars ball, 4th and 3, Philadelphia 34, 13:33 remaining in the second quarter, Jaguars 14, Eagles 0

Things were in "they always lose this game" territory. The Eagles had exploded to early leads the last two weeks before being held scoreless in the first quarter on Saturday. The weather, as rainy as I've ever seen an Eagles game, was looming over everything. Pederson was in his classic aggressive, go-for-it-on-fourth mindset. A slip-up from jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence and a relentless motor from Fletcher Cox, however, flipped the totality of the game:

Cox is in Ponce De Leon mode, as he's found the fountain of youth in his 11th NFL season. Maybe it's Cox's growing familiarity with defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon's scheme. Maybe he has an extra set of legs under him with a talented defensive tackle rotation that's keeping him fresh. Whatever it is, Cox is having his best campaign in years, getting back to "game-wrecker" status that he inhabited during his All-Pro peak. 

The crowd felt a little lifeless at the Linc. Fans had (deservingly) booed the team after a dreadful first quarter. Cox's chase down, however, got the Eagles faithful back into things and prepped them for the double-digit comeback to come. 

Eagles ball, 3rd and 16, Jacksonville 16, 10:04 remaining in the second quarter, Jaguars 14, Eagles 0

This is a multi-pronged pivotal play. A would-be touchdown toss from Jalen Hurts to A.J. Brown was called back on one of the softest offensive pass interference calls you'll ever see. It looked like the Birds got the wind knocked out of them, but their QB1 was ready to pick up the pieces.

A field goal wasn't going to cut it with a two-touchdown deficit. They needed six. Needed six. On a designed pass, Hurts dropped back, didn't see what he liked and took off, barreling his way down to the three-yard line to set up a rather manageable fourth and three. 

No quarterback in the NFL today is better equipped to pound the ball in these fourth-and-short situation than Hurts and he illustrated exactly why:

"They always lose this game" quickly turned into "I can't believe they're going to win this game."

Jaguars ball, 2nd and 10, Jacksonville 31, 12:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, Eagles 23, Jaguars 14

The Eagles smelled blood. After what has become their typical big second quarter swing, the Eagles brought a six-point lead into the second half. A Jake Elliott field goal made it a two score-game early in the fourth quarter and it was the defense that once more that started putting nails in the opposing team's coffin. Haason Reddick, with his most "From Here" moment yet, striped Lawrence and gave the Birds the ball back in scoring position: 

An ensuing Miles Sanders touchdown run, put the Birds up 29-14 with fewer than nine minutes remaining. 

There would be no homecoming revenge for Pederson. There would be no hysteric takes that the Eagles' early wins are fraudulent. There would just be an Eagles squad controlling the game on both sides of the ball while going 4-0 first the first time since 2004. 

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