December 14, 2020
What should have been a sigh of relief for the Eagles turned into a strange disconnect.
The 300-pound weight lifted off Doug Pederson's shoulders when worst (in the NFC East) beat first (in the NFC) in the form of a 24-21 Eagles win over the New Orleans Saints Sunday quickly morphed into a different kind of pressure for the coach when, instead of enjoying his first triumph in over a month, Pederson seemed to soft-peddle the impact of the quarterback change that provided it.
"This win today is not about one guy," Pederson assessed when discussing Jalen Hurts' play, which included 167 yards passing and a touchdown and another 106 on the ground. "This win is about this team and how resilient this team is."
Some of that is obviously coach speak, and QB is undoubtedly the one position that will always get more credit than deserved after a win — and far more of the blame for the outcome after a setback.
That's baked in for anyone who understands this sport, but downplaying the significance of a 22-year-old kid winning his first professional start against a 10-2 football team doesn't seem like the time and place to emphasize it.
In the Bayou, they're probably taking to the airwaves to discuss why in the world didn't Sean Payton move away from Taysom Hill when the formula for victory with that type of run-heavy signal-caller was turned on its head after falling behind 17-0.
When it comes to the Eagles, however, it's fair to ask what in the world is going on with this organization when they can't embrace a lifeline?
Is anyone on the same page?
Hurts was far from perfect on Sunday. He nearly threw a pick-six to Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and did fumble late, which gave NOLA hope after the door was seemingly shut. But overall, his performance was a ray of sunshine in what has been a dark winter.
Miles Sanders, who helped fuel the win with two touchdown runs, including an 82-yarder, sounded like Pederson should have.
“[The offense] was pretty dynamic and simple because Jalen was in there,” said Sanders. “It’s tough to stop when you have a quarterback that can run efficiently like that. … It’s hard to stop a read-option or whatever it is, play fake, when you have a guy like Jalen out there to extend a play with his legs. If it’s not there, take off and get a first down. That’s pretty hard to stop. We just have to keep this thing rolling,
"I’m excited, I’m excited.”
The rumbling you felt from South Philadelphia on Sunday wasn't registering on any Geiger counter, it was the 246 rushing yards and two-100 yard rushers (Sanders and Hurts himself) against a defense that hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 11 of 2017, 55 games ago.
The concern over how the $128 million Faberge Egg — the one in Jeffrey Lurie's vision of what the team is supposed to be — would handle this took precedent, as it seemingly always does.
Every positive thought regarding Hurts was couched with qualifiers and Pederson laughably even refused to name Hurts the starter in Arizona next week as if Wentz following up this performance will even be discussed.
Screw the kid-gloves routine, Hurts is now the only one in the organization giving Wentz what he really needs, the realization that someone has taken control of his offense with all its much-discussed deficiencies and moved the football in spite of all of them all.
And if Wentz wants the offense back in 2021, he needs to find a way to prove he can pilot it in a similar fashion.
In the non-Bizarro World, any mentor purportedly coaching for his job in the midst of a dismal season would be clinging onto the spark Hurts has provided. Instead, in the weird protect Carson-at-all-costs environment that pervades the Eagles organization, it was rationalizing the success of a young man who was supposed to just be the pause button before the hard reset in the offseason.
Someone in power needs to recognize there is no harm in one kick in the butt after a thousand pats on the back.
Sanders, who has had his own struggles this season, even gave Hurts credit for his big play.
"Opened up a lot of stuff. From the first play to the last," Sanders admitted. "They had to respect him and his legs and he’s been doing a great job just reading it. Reading the [defensive end]. Reading his keys to either pull it or take it.”
Pederson, conversely, channeled his inner-Hillary Clinton.
"It took everybody in uniform to win this game, not just one guy. And I'm going to repeat myself again that it takes a village to get this stuff done," he said.
Fair enough, but this village was led by Hurts. The other one was decommissioned for being unsustainable.
John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey and also contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for SI.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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