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October 23, 2023

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Dolphins game

A.J. Brown is on a heater, Jalen Hurts is a warrior, Darius Slay makes the big play, and more from the Eagles' 31-17 win over the Dolphins.

The Philadelphia Eagles won a statement game 31-17 against the Miami Dolphins in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football. As always, win, lose, or tie, we hand out 10 awards.

1) The 'Massive Upgrade' Award 📈: Sean Desai

Heading into this matchup, the Dolphins were widely regarded as the most explosive offense in the NFL. Here's what they have done against each of their opponents this season:

 OpponentOffensive points Yards First downs Yards/play 
Chargers 36 536 30 8.2 
Patriots 24 389 22 6.4 
Broncos 70 726 30 10.2 
Bills 20 393 20 6.8 
Giants 31 524 22 9.7 
Panthers 42 424 23 6.5 
Eagles 10 244 12 5.1 

One of those doesn't look like the others, and the Eagles did it minus both starting safeties and their slot corner.

The Dolphins' offense is particularly challenging because they have extraordinarily fast skill position players to go along with a quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa who gets the ball out faster than anyone in the NFL.

Sean Desai's gameplan was to make Tagovailoa think for an extra beat or two before he could get rid of the ball, so that the Eagles' pass rushers would have a chance to exploit mismatches against the Dolphins' offensive line.

"We mixed and disguised coverages, made him be perfect every time," Darius Slay said.

"We were trying to take away his first read, stuff like that, disguising," said Josh Sweat. "We knew he was going to get it out fast, but once we got up a couple scores we knew we would have a shot to get him to hold onto the ball."

We all realize that if Jonathan Gannon were still the Eagles' defensive coordinator, he would have deployed some super conservative, predictable soft shell defense that Tagovailoa would have carved up all night, right? 

Desai has proven early on that he is not going to run a passive defense that good quarterbacks can annihilate at will.

2) The 'Heater' Award 🔥: A.J. Brown

Brown had 10 catches for 137 yards and a TD. Meh. Here are his last five games:

  1. At Buccaneers: 9 catches, 131 yards
  2. Commanders: 9 catches, 175 yards, 2 TDs
  3. At Rams: 6 catches, 127 yards
  4. At Jets: 7 catches, 131 yards
  5. Dolphins: 10 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD

Add it all up, and you get 41 catches for 701 yards and 3 TDs. This was his biggest play of the night:

I wouldn't say that catch sealed the game necessarily, but I'm pretty sure it raised the Eagles' win probability significantly. 

3) The 'Warrior' Award 🪖: Jalen Hurts

Hurts had good numbers. He was 23 of 31 for 279 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT, plus a rushing TD. On the downside, he had a bad fumble on a pass play during which he held onto the ball for what felt like an eternity. But ultimately, he made a bunch of clutch plays when the offense needed him to, and he played through an unspecified lower-body injury that was clearly affecting him. 

"That man is built for this," Jordan Mailata said of Hurts. "He's built for this. Just his whole mentality, it's what makes him him. He believes in himself and we believe in him. He's the epitome of a leader. He embodies that so much. What else can you say about the bloke?"

Mailata added, "He's a warrior."

Eagles game ball: Hurts holds strong, Slay makes the big play

4) The 'Big Play' Award 💥: Darius Slay

With the Dolphins threatening to tie the game in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa identified speedy running back Raheem Mostert with a mismatch against linebacker Zach Cunningham. He lofted a pass to Mostert, but left it short. Slay was covering Jaylen Waddle on the play, but he had eyes on the quarterback, and when he realized the ball wasn't going to Waddle, he left his man and made a play on the football.

Slay had given up a few plays earlier in the game, but he more than made up it with his game-changing pick.

5) The 'Big Boy Pants' Award 👖: The Eagles' offensive line

It feels like an abnormal number of Eagles wins are sealed by some long-ass fourth quarter drive during which the offensive line imposes its will and takes over the game. Against the Dolphins, the offense engineered a 13-play, 83-yard TD drive that was highlighted by a pair of Brotherly Shoves in the Eagles' own end. 

On one of the Brotherly Shoves, the Eagles had more than a yard to go, and they were at their own 26 yard line.

"Nick Sirianni has some cojones on him, mate," Mailata said.

That is certainly true, but it's also easy to have cojones when you know your offensive line is almost certainly going to pick it up the first down.

6) The 'Domination' Award 💪: The Eagles' defensive line

The Dolphins entered this matchup with the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL in like every statistical category:

 Dolphins rushing attackStat NFL Rank 
 Yards per game181.8 
 Yards per attempt6.5 
Rushing TDs 15 
 Rushes of 20+ yards12 
 Rushes of 40+ yards
 Rushing fumbles

On Sunday night, they had 45 rushing yards.

What makes the Eagles' run defense so good? I asked Lane Johnson, who faces them every day in practice.

"Well, uh, I don't know if you've seen how big Jordan Davis is, but he takes up about f***ing three gaps."

The D-line also got consistent pressure on Tagovailoa all night, even if he was getting the ball out early. They did eventually sack him four times, two of which came via Josh Sweat.

Final observations: Eagles 31, Dolphins 17

7) The Luck Award: Tyreek Hill, James Bradberry, and the officials

We should mention that the Eagles did benefit from the following dropped TD by Tyreek Hill:

And then James Bradberry got away with a pretty clear pass interference, or fasemask, or illegal contact, or whatever, take your pick.

Of course, the luck evened out some when Hurts was pick-sixed on the ensuing weird deflection. 

It's probably also worth noting that the Eagles had zero accepted penalties called on them. They no doubt got the better end of the officiating Sunday night.

8) The 'Efficiency' Award: Dallas Goedert

5 targets, 5 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD. 

His spike needs some work, but he had a great night otherwise.

9) The 'Nitpick' Award ⛏️: The turnover battle

The Eagles haven't won the turnover battle since Week 2. I suppose there's an argument to be made that it's impressive that they're winning games anyway and when the turnovers eventually swing the other way they'll be all the more difficult to beat.

But also, you know, they're not winning the turnover battle.

10) The 'Breathing Room' Award 😤: The Eagles, in the NFC East

With their win, the Eagles extended their lead in the NFC East to 1.5 games over the Cowboys, who had their bye this week. 

Next up: The Washington Commanders, who lost to the sorry-ass Giants on Sunday.

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