December 11, 2022
The Eagles dominated the Giants from start to finish on Sunday, beating up New York in a 48-22 victory that honestly felt even worse than that score suggests. Philadelphia is playing like the best team in football, and their best play still appears to be in front of them.
Here's what I saw.
• The Eagles have four games left on the schedule, and they should be overwhelming favorites for at least three of them. They have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they should be expected to beat inferior teams, and the Dallas Cowboys stand out as the only real threat left on the schedule. It is a comforting feeling to go into these games not even really considering a loss for the Eagles — they've proven they can win blowouts, tight games, and matchups with challenges of all sorts. You never really know what can happen in the NFL, so they're not invincible by any means, but they've done everything in their power to prove they are the real deal. It is past time to believe them.
Saying that it starts with the QB minimizes the importance of so many critical pieces — the defense has been tremendous, the playmakers are awesome, etc. — but Hurts has ultimately made this whole thing go. He has been as comfortable in a big-play, downfield offense as he has been as the runner chewing up tough yards, using read options and impromptu runs to crush teams who overpursue their running backs or fail to bring Hurts down in the backfield. He gets them out to big leads, and then he's a huge piece of killing the game off, grinding the clock down with Miles Sanders and Co.
The impressive thing about this performance from the MVP candidate was that the Eagles botched multiple big-play opportunities and he still had a dominant day with a handful of huge plays. DeVonta Smith nearly came down with a second touchdown early in the second half, a throw that Hurts placed with needle-threading precision. A toe drag from Smith would have been the difference between a long incompletion and another big throw, but the Eagles were so far out in front that it basically didn't matter.
I'm not even sure we need to discuss skeptics or detractors at this point in the Hurts arc, because anyone who might be left on the truly negative side of things is either too stubborn to let go of old beliefs or basically trolling you, as if you aren't seeing what we've seen this season. Working hard does not always outweigh all the other factors of success in professional sports, but it is beyond clear that Hurts has given himself every chance to succeed with the unseen effort he has put in during the offseason and between each game. Combine that with improved weaponry, excellent offensive line play, and a staff that understands how to get the most out of his talent, and you have the perfect storm.
• And let's talk up that aforementioned weaponry a bit. It's a bit of a chicken or egg situation with regard to Hurts' season, because everybody is just feeding off of one another this year. Miles Sanders and A.J. Brown both went over 1,000 yards for the season during Sunday's win over the Giants, which underscores the balance the Eagles have had throughout the season. Rarely have you come away from a game thinking Sanders was the unquestioned star of the game, but he has been ultra-productive and a perfect partner for Hurts in the backfield, offering a nice blend of shiftiness and situational power when trusted to carry the rock.
Well, perhaps we can scratch that bit about starring after Sanders' performance on Sunday. He did not just hit the 1000-yard marker and then take the rest of the day off, with the Eagles riding him to put this game out of reach and buy everybody in the starting lineup some well-earned time on the sideline. We have barely had to consider Sanders' old habit of dancing too much in the backfield, the running back showing just enough patience to buy time for the big boys in the trenches. His 40-yard TD late in the game felt like the perfect reward for an excellent day, Sanders scampering for six after a day filled with quality runs and great pass protection when Hurts dropped back to throw.
Brown has had the starrier season, and you could certainly argue that bringing him on board was the catalyst for where Philadelphia is as a team. He can do just about everything, big enough to beat guys over the middle and fast enough to outrun them over the top. He has often combined those two skills to turn 50/50 balls into Eagles touchdowns, using chemistry with his quarterback and a perfect understanding of his own gifts to leave defenders guessing until the last possible moment.
We shouldn't ignore the unique talent on the offensive line, either, where Lane Johnson locks down an entire side of the line and Jason Kelce remains one of the most unique talents at center in league history. Hurts' touchdown run in the third quarter was due in part to a key block from Kelce, Hurts then bursting through the line for his 10th rushing TD of the season.
This has been a historic season for Hurts, who at the moment is threatening to be the first QB with 10+ rushing TDs and a passer rating over 100. It doesn't mean we have to lose sight of what his buddies are providing around him.
• The Giants should probably sign Boston Scott just to avoid him killing them twice a year. I'm not sure what they did to make him mad, but he always makes an impact when these two teams go at it. He picked up yet another score against the Giants late, the perfect cherry on top.
Boston Scott gets his 16th career TD & 9th against the Giants in 7 games pic.twitter.com/nU294hgIoJ— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) December 11, 2022
• Between this week's comprehensive performance and a strong win over the Titans a week prior, it looks like the Eagles are back on their ass-kicking campaign after some up-and-down play during the previous stretch. All the questions about whether their record was fraudulent appear to be fading into the rearview mirror, and we may well be able to say that they're playing their best football heading into the playoffs.
One great piece of news against the Giants — the Eagles played a clean game of football after the flag-filled affair they had against the Titans. Pre-snap penalties were basically nonexistent, which forced the Giants to play better football than them instead of allowing the inferior team free opportunities and second chances. As you saw on the field, the Giants had no chance to match their talent and execution, and that allowed Philly to coast to an easy win on the road.
• The additions the Eagles made in the middle of their defensive line (not to mention the return of Jordan Davis) seem to have made a huge difference for the Eagles in recent weeks. With more rotation options in the middle of the line, everybody looks a good deal fresher, which has allowed Fletcher Cox to experience a bit of a resurgence deep in this season. When you consider how people were talking about Cox early in the year, convinced he was just about done, that has been a great surprise as the Eagles come down the backstretch.
On the edge, Josh Sweat has been a cut above the rest over the past couple of weeks, which is no disrespect to the contributions of guys like Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham. Sweat has just been that good, and he turned in another big performance on Sunday against an excellent left tackle.
• Another thing you have to love about these Eagles — they played hard and played to make a statement long after this game had been put out of reach. Graham has been a hero of this franchise for years now, and with the Eagles already up 27 points in the final stages of the game, one of their elder statesmen came around the edge and forced another turnover, giving the Eagles another reason to celebrate as a group.
When a guy like Graham is still busting his ass deep in a blowout, it sets a standard everybody else on the team has to follow. And he is just one of many guys who continue to raise the bar for this group week after week, the Eagles setting the terms of engagement on both sides of the ball. Enjoy this season as much as you can. I know I don't need to tell Eagles fans this, but you don't get many years like this one.
• Let's drive that last point home again:
• It wasn't all pretty for the Eagles in the second half, with New York able to build some positive momentum on the offensive side of the ball. You could trace a lot of problems through K'Von Wallace's presence on the field — New York targeted him a decent amount once Reed Blankenship was knocked out of the game, and Wallace still looks a long way from being a positive contributor.
The other negative, if you want to go deeper in the weeds, was their inability to stop Jones from picking up yards with his legs in the second half. They were able to extend drives with a few timely scrambles from Jones, though obviously it did not end up being a big problem at the end of the day — Jones was sitting on 26 yards on four carries early in the fourth quarter. Not exactly prime Michael Vick numbers.
It's hard not to enjoy the 2022 Eagles even if you're watching from a (mostly) neutral perspective as I am. They take care of business week in and week out, they play and coach aggressively, and they never seem to let problems linger, making fixes and adjustments between games to move on from whatever plagued them a week or two prior. You really have to squint hard to get mad about this team.
• The Eagles let the Giants score in the final minute. Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!
• Injuries are by far the biggest story of the day for the Eagles, because the only way it appears this season could fall apart is if they run out of guys at important positions. Knocks to Reed Blankenship, Quez Watkins, and Arryn Siposs in the first half loomed over the final 30 minutes, with Blankenship and Siposs both ruled out fairly early in the second half. It's not out of the question that the Eagles could upgrade if they bring in another punter to replace Siposs — punting hasn't exactly been a strength this year — but being down another safety with CJ Gardner Johnson out is suboptimal, even if it's a short-term problem.
Getting through the end of the season without any major injuries is arguably the second major goal behind locking up home-field advantage for the duration of the NFC playoffs.
• I wonder if the Cowboys fans who mocked the Eagles' performance against the Texans will have anything to say after their pukefest in Dallas today.
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