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October 08, 2023

Final observations: Eagles 23, Rams 14

Jalen Hurts displayed some wheels, Jalen Carter and Haason Reddick swarmed Matthew Stafford, and the Eagles went to 5-0 with a win over the Rams.

The Eagles have shown they can win in a variety of ways during this young season, pulling off a 23-14 win in Los Angeles against the Rams. As I do after every game, I'm sharing my takes over the final two quarters. My first-half observations can be found here too.

Let's get after it...

The Highs

• The Baby Rhino! On his second sack of the day, rookie sensation Jalen Carter tossed Matthew Stafford to the ground with absolute force on the first drive of the half:

Make that 3.5 sacks through five career games for Carter. For comparison's sake, Fletcher Cox had 5.5 sacks in 15 games as a rookie, then three sacks in his second season and four sacks in his third year. Jerome Brown had four sacks in 12 games as a rookie in a strike-shortened 1987 season.

The dude has the goods and will be an elite player in this league for years to come.

• Did you hear starting right guard Sua Opeta's name called much today? No? That means he did his job filling in for Cam Jurgens. That included a daunting matchup against the greatest defensive tackle of all time in Aaron Donald, too. A degree from Jeff Stoutland University is the most valuable one on the NFL job market.

• A.J. Brown is a YAC machine.

• Hurts made his first play this season where I thought he looked like a true MVP candidate. Facing a third and 10 at the Eagles' own 38 late in the third quarter, Hurts didn't like what he saw when dropping back, scrambled, fought through some L.A. defenders and ripped off a 17-yard gain:

I discussed it in my first-half observations, but Hurts looked better as a runner in Week 5 than he has at any point previously this season. That continued on in the second half, as Hurts finished with 72 rushing yards, his highest total since Week 14 of 2022 (77).

• I gushed about Cooper Kupp's performance in the first half, but the Birds played valiantly against him in the final two quarters. Kupp didn't get his first completion of the half until early in the fourth, just a five-yard gain with the newly acquired Bradley Roby in coverage. On the ensuing play, Stafford targeted Kupp with Roby in coverage again, but it was an errant throw. That's a gigantic win, containing Kupp as best as possible with a banged-up slot corner rotation. 

• Dallas Goedert: A total beast as a blocker in the run game.

• Milton Williams had a great pass rush rep, breaking through the A-gap with both him and Zach Cunningham bursting after Stafford with under four minutes remaining in the game, forcing an incompletion and a third down. On the very next play, Haason Reddick chased down Stafford for his second sack of the season. To cap things off, Reddick grinded out another sack, going wide and flying into Stafford even after tripping a bit:

Reddick is really finding his stride after struggling early on the heels of offseason thumb surgery. The Eagles were down Fletcher Cox, but Reddick and Carter massively stepped up. Credit to defensive coordinator Sean Desai for this win. 

The Lows

• On a play where the Rams were giving up with a cowardly draw on third and 26, Cunningham was called for a suspect face mask penalty on L.A. running back Kyren Williams. The Eagles were lucky to force a punt two sets of downs later, but that could've been a momentum-shifter for the Rams thanks to the zebras. Crisis averted!

• On a severely underthrown toss to the end zone from Hurts, he was intercepted by Rams defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon at the goal line. That just can't happen. The Eagles had the chance to take a double-digit road lead against a veteran squad that's gone the distance before and it slipped through their hands (momentarily...). Brown looked as if he was coming back to the ball, so I can't entirely speak to what was supposed to happen. I don't have Brian Johnson's play call in my ear. Given the coverage, that one had to go to the back corner of the end zone though.

A 1-on-1 ball sent Brown's way for a potential touchdown is a great call. The execution, however, was not there.

• After bobbling and dropping an interception that admittedly would've been a tough grab, Nicholas Morrow failed to fall on a fumble on the ensuing Rams drive. It came on a third down stop, but a nice boot from Rams punter Ethan Evans wiped away roughly 35 yards of field position. Morrow has played relatively well filling in with the Birds' makeshift linebacker crew as an unheralded guy and did have a monster three-sack game against Washington, but Sunday was not his finest outing.

• Nick Sirianni/Johnson played things a bit conservatively relative to the style displayed throughout Sirianni's first two years in Philly. A nine-point road win is more than acceptable, certainly, but Eagles fans should want this team to go all out. That'll be needed with tough tests against Kansas City, Buffalo, San Francisco and Dallas to come. 

The Whoas

• I could not be more sick of the "sackity sack" NFL on FOX commercial. It's inching closer to the Burger King Whopper jingle for me in terms of pure torture.

• How unhappy are the FOX executives marketing next week's "big" Eagles game against the Jets in the Meadowlands with Aaron Rodgers out? A promo shot of Hurts alongside Zach Wilson is not what they had envisioned when the schedule was originally rolled out.

• When a penalty was called against the Rams late in the fourth quarter, there was a gigantic cheer from the crowd as if the game was being played in South Philadelphia. Los Angeles sports fans are embarrassing. Look, if I grew up in L.A., I'd probably go to the beach all weekend, hit the indie movie scene and just generally live a positive life too, but this all pales in comparison to the juggernaut that is Philly's passion for sports. The shots of the Birds fans populating SoFi Stadium were electric. 

• The last time the Eagles were 5-0 and the Phillies were simultaneously in the postseason was, of course, in 2022. How about before that though? 1981. The Eagles began the season 6-0. The defending World Series champion Phillies faced the Expos in the NLDS in early October, losing in five games. The Eagles would go on to lose in the Wild Card round that postseason. Before the last 12 months, the most recent time both the Phillies and Eagles made the championship was 1980 with the Fightins bringing home their first World Series title and the Birds falling to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV.

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