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October 29, 2023

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Commanders game

Eagles NFL
102923JalenHurts Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts is good.

The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 7-1 against the Washington Commanders on Sunday in what turned out to be a pretty fun game. As always, win, lose, or tie, we hand out 10 awards.

1) The 'MVP Performance' Award 💫: Jalen Hurts

Playing on a bum knee, Hurts was a star. He completed 29 of 38 passes (76.3%) for 319 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs, for a passer rating of 135.7. On a day in which the defense allowed 472 yards, 26 first downs, and 31:29 in time of possession, Hurts had to be stellar in this game just to keep it close, and then eventually win it.

2) The 'We're Going Streaking' Award 🏃‍♂️💨: A.J. Brown

Brown had his sixth consecutive game with at least 125 receiving yards, an NFL record. To recap:

  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
  6. At Commanders: 8 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs

Add it all up and you get 49 catches for 831 yards and 5 TDs. That is just an insane stretch. But beyond the numbers, Brown is also doing it in style, as he made one of the highlight receptions of the season:

That is outstanding coverage by Benjamin St-Juste, the cornerback on the play. But when you put the ball in that spot and the receiver makes that kind of catch, you just can't defend that.

3) The '(Sort of) Perfection' Award 🅰️➕: Brown, and DeVonta Smith

Smith had a nice games as well, as he had 7 catches for 99 yards and a TD.

Brown's 8 catches came on 8 targets, and Smith's 7 catches came on 7 targets. In other words, when Hurts targeted Brown or Smith, he was 15 for 15 for 229 yards and 3 TDs. Is that good? That seems good.

Of course, one of those "catches," you know, wasn't a catch, which brings us to the next award...

4) The 'Thank You' Award 🙏: Ron Rivera

In the third quarter, facing a 4th and 4 from the Commanders' 46 yard line, a Hurts throw to Smith clearly hit the ground and should have been ruled incomplete. But the Eagles hurried to the line, and got the play off. 

It appeared after the play that the Commanders' bench saw that Smith's "catch" shouldn't have counted, as they emphatically signaled incomplete. However, for some insane reason they didn't challenge, and the play stood. Even if they didn't get video proof before the next snap, how do you not challenge that play in such a crucial spot?!? 

With all the plays that are challenged automatically, do teams even run out of challenges anymore? Like, when was the last time that happened? What are you saving them for?

Of course, Rivera also made the insane decision not to go for two and try to win a game in regulation against the Eagles Week 4. If not for Rivera's gaffes in this series, the Eagles probably aren't 7-1.

5) The 'Old Guy Can Still Play a Little' Award 👴: Julio Jones

On a trip into the red zone in the 4th quarter, the Eagles had a 2nd and Goal from the 8 with the score tied at 24. Hurts delivered a throw that was behind Jones, but Jones reached back, made a great catch, and held onto the ball after absorbing a huge hit.

Jones said after the game that he was the primary target on the play, which is interesting, in that the offensive staff drew up a play for him throughout the week and then went to it in a crucial moment.

Jones is 6'3, 220. Brown is 6'1, 226. Dallas Goedert is 6'5, 256. Oh, and while Smith is skinny, he has proven that he can consistently win on contested catches. With all that firepower in the red zone, maybe don't overthink it.

6) The 'Overthinking It' Award 🤔: Every Kenny Gainwell touch in the red zone

Just stop it already. Gainwell lost a fumble today on 1st and goal from the Commanders 3-yard line. Nick Sirianni defended Gainwell postgame: 

While I can certainly understand that Sirianni is always going to have his players' backs — as well he should — is it really "stupid" to begin to lose a little faith in him?

I guess my counter would be that Hurts was the MVP runner-up a year ago and Brown is an all-world receiver. Are we really comparing Kenny Gainwell to those guys? 

7) The 'Resiliency' Award : The Eagles' defense

As noted above, the Eagles gave up almost 500 yards to an offense that has been historically bad in some facets of offense this season, most notably protecting the quarterback. The Eagles failed to put pressure on Sam Howell, and Commanders receivers were often wide open down the field. For example:

The defense did eventually tighten up, as Reed Blankenship made the defensive play of the day when he picked off Howell.

"I was reading his eyes and I saw that he was looking backside pretty hard, and I though, 'We have to make a play,'" Blankenship said. "So I tried it and luckily it worked out pretty good." 

Blankenship was otherwise very critical of the day that he had.

"I didn't get a lot of my job done today," he said. "At the end of the day you have to go back and fix your mistakes, but a win is a win."

Asked what plays he was unhappy with, Blankenship said, "You can pull them all up. The touchdown I got scored on, wrong leverage, not playing with good eyes. I have to fix it when I get back."

Blankenship's day was sort of a microcosm of the defense's day. They were sloppy, but once the big play was made, they were able put the Commanders away, forcing turnovers on downs on the next two possessions.

Maybe "resiliency" is just another way of saying the defense stunk most of the day, but eventually got the job done? Potato, potahto.

8) The 'You Get Coffee' Award ☕: Haason Reddick, the closer

Against the Commanders Week 4, Reddick made a string of huge plays late in the game to help earn a win.

Against the Rams Week 5, he had back-to-back sacks to effectively put an end to the game. 

And Week 8 against the Commanders, he basically put an end to another game with a strip sack of Howell on 4th down.

Give that closer some coffee.

9) The 'Gauntlet' Award 😱: The Eagles' difficult schedule ahead

Yes, the Commanders tend to give the Eagles trouble, but, I mean, we can all agree that they stink, right? Well, they are the last bad opponent the Eagles will face for a while, as they will begin the hard part of their schedule beginning next Sunday. Here are their next six opponents, with their respective DVOA rankings in parentheses: 

• Week 9: Cowboys (10)
• Week 10: BYE
• Week 11: At Chiefs (3)
• Week 12: Bills (4)
• Week 13: 49ers (2)
• Week 14: At Cowboys (10)
• Week 15: At Seahawks (9)

The Eagles have done well to put seven games in the win column in advance of this stretch, but the next month and a half will tell us a lot about their chances of winning a Super Bowl this season.

10) The 'Deadline' Award 🤝: Howie Roseman

The Eagles have already added Kevin Byard, but the NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, and Howie Roseman is reportedly sniffing around additional players who may be available. Could he deal for a slot corner? Running back? More edge rusher depth? A linebacker? The Eagles are already good. I mean, they have they best record in the NFL. Expect Roseman to try to make them better for the home stretch.

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