December 04, 2022
The Eagles picked up arguably their most impressive win of the season to move to 11-1, handing a 35-10 drubbing to the Titans as they continue to build their credentials as a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
Here's what I saw.
• If AJ Brown wanted to send a message to his old team about the mistake they made last offseason, he made it loud and clear in his first game against the Titans since they traded him away. Multiple touchdowns, including one that came after a penalty wiped out another touchdown on the previous play, and another weekly reminder that he and Hurts will take their chances in every single one-on-one matchup they can get.
The highlight of the afternoon for the entire team was Hurts' deep shot to Brown for his second touchdown, a play that got more impressive on replay each time you saw a different angle.
There are two things that stand out here.
Both parts of that process are a reflection of elite individual efforts, even if highlighting either one on social media led to people yelling that it was actually the other guy who was more impressive. This play happens because of the trust and chemistry between two guys playing as well as any QB/WR combo in the league. And this is exactly why you go out and get a guy like Brown regardless of what the acquisition cost is. Having a talent like that on the outside helps your quarterback's confidence grow exponentially, and we've seen that happen with Hurts, who plays and throws with no fear when looking for Brown.
Few debut Eagles seasons have compared to this one for Brown, whose arrival has changed the complexion of the offense.
• If not for the big-time playmaking from the Hurts/Brown combo, Philadelphia's defensive front would have been the story of the day. There were well-founded concerns about their ability to slow down Derrick Henry, a bruising runner who has proven capable of turning good defenses into mincemeat. The Eagles not only slowed him down, they damn near stopped him, which significantly compromised Tennessee's gameplan. You're not going to have a lot of success with play-action if the opponent has stopped basically every run play you ran throughout the game.
By stopping the Titans on early downs, the Eagles put Ryan Tannehill in a spot the Titans don't want him in, constantly playing out of third-and-long situations where he had to beat them with his arm. Once Treylon Burks went down with an injury, the degree of difficulty only increased for the Titans in the passing game, and it was hittin' season for Philadelphia's pass rushers from that point forward.
Pick a guy on the line, and it's more than likely they at least combined for a big hit in the backfield at some point during Sunday's game. Haason Reddick, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, and Josh Sweat all got in on at least one sack, with Tannehill forced to simply duck for cover at points throughout the second half of this game.
A dominant effort from those guys.
• Last season, I thought (and wrote) that there were a ton of reasons to doubt Philadelphia's credentials as a real-deal threat in the playoffs. They beat up on a bunch of teams with iffy-to-bad quarterbacks in their second-half surge, winning with a pretty consistent style that you weren't sure would sustain if they went down to a good team early. There have been questions about whether their soft schedule has overstated their talent this season. At what point will people just accept this is a very good football team?
While I always believe in the, "You can only play who's on the schedule" line of thinking, nothing about the Eagles' trajectory suggests they're a fraud team piling up results against a series of trash opponents. They're not winning because of gimmicks or unsustainable play from guys we're expecting to regress. They're playing comprehensive, balanced football and beating teams by attacking their weaknesses week after week. They don't try to play some ultra-specific brand of "Eagles football" on offense, they look at what's in front of them every week and attack weaknesses.
Hurts is a big part of the reason they can do that. Teams that are better equipped to shut down the pass attack have to live with the possibility of Hurts and Miles Sanders crushing them underneath, the Eagles unleashing the QB as a runner to eat up yards underneath. The Titans offered the opposite challenge, a run-stopping group with weaknesses in the secondary, and Hurts put on a show through the air, challenging the Titans to stop them and rarely coming out on the losing side of that battle.
Your quarterback is the single-biggest driver of how you can structure your team and your offense, and it's a credit to Hurts' improvement and the decision-making of the coaching staff that they can shape shift every week and continue to rack up points. Every week, it seems like the Eagles' QB is challenging or breaking some sort of franchise record at the position. After 150+ rushing yards last week, Hurts came back this week and put up nearly 400 passing yards. We can acknowledge some qualifiers like Titans injuries and so forth, but beating up on a tough team like the Titans is not something you take lightly. People spoke of this game as a true test for the Eagles and Hurts absolutely destroyed them for four straight quarters.
Whether he ends up winning an MVP trophy this season or not, he has gone far beyond any expectation for who he could be this season. The primary debates about Hurts in the offseason were about being confident in him simply as a starter. Now, the only questions left are about what he has to offer in big-time games during the playoffs. Given the trajectory, doubt him at your own peril.
• Piggybacking off of that last section, the offensive line deserves their credit in this game in spite of the 6000 pre-snap penalties they took in this game. Hurts' deep shots to Brown and Smith never materialize if Mailata, Johnson, Kelce, and the gang don't hold off the pass rush, and it was rare to see Hurts even have to step up in the pocket on Sunday. If they had not botched the snap count as often as they did, we might have been talking about one of the best offensive performances in team history — that's how good they were otherwise, and they still ended up turning this game into a laugher in spite of the self-inflicted wounds.
• Brown will get the headlines as a result of the obvious revenge angle, but the Eagles had two 100+ yard receivers in the same game for the first time since Nick Foles had his seven-touchdown performance against the Raiders. DeVonta Smith didn't have a personal vendetta on the brain, he just went out and tore the Titans up anyway.
It's a deadly one-two punch for the Birds and the start of what many hope will be a dominant long-term partnership. Keeping both guys down at once has proven to be just about impossible for opposing defenses.
• Three good returns for Britain Covey in one game, might want to put a few more Super Bowl bet slips in.
• The Titans got their asses kicked so badly that we got nearly 10 minutes of Gardner Minshew at QB in the fourth quarter.
• I think there were an inexcusable amount of penalties on the Eagles in this game, but I don't think that's mutually exclusive with criticizing the officials for a poorly-called game. They got a lot of things wrong, they were way too noticeable, and by the time the fourth quarter hit, most people had turned their attention from Philly's self-inflicted errors toward the zebras all but shouting LOOK AT ME with whistles and flags on every other play.
The best officials blend into the game. This group did the exact opposite.
• There was a dirty, dirty play by Andrew Adams late in the third quarter, rolling with Browns ankle over and over again in a play that easily could have had ugly results for Philly. Brown was visibly irritated, and it was hard to blame him for it.
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