Signs of growth and progress. Signs that the Eagles are moving in the right direction. That’s what we say Sunday afternoon as the Eagles destroyed the Denver Broncos 30-13 at Empower Field at Mile High.
And the schedule only gets easier from here as the Eagles improve to 4-6 and 4-2 on the road.
Here’s three takeaways:
A good football team
The Eagles were a good football team Sunday.
I don’t want to get carried away here, but you get the sense the Eagles have made their way through h-e double hockey stick — ugly blowout losses to the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Las Vegas Raiders — and come out the other side.
This is the third week in a row they’ve played 60 minutes very hard, very competitive, very respectable minutes of football, and they’ve got two road wins and a last-second loss to show for it.
You’re seeing a team that’s growing up, that’s finding itself, that never stopped believing in its coaches, that never stopped believing in itself. They’ve equaled last year’s win total and there’s a bunch of winnable games on the horizon.
The QB and the birthday boy
Sunday was an unusual game for Jalen Hurts. He was brilliant in the first half, and then only threw three passes in the second half, one of them an interception. Which is fine.
If you can keep moving the sticks running the ball, why not?
It was a bad decision on the interception, but overall he was very good, and his accuracy and ability to put the ball exactly where he wanted to is really encouraging.
Hurts finished 16-for-23 (a season-high 70%) for 178 yards with two touchdowns and the one INT — his first in four games.
We’re all looking for growth, and we got it Sunday on the road against a top-five defense. And his best throw of the season — the Quez Watkins drop — should have been a 34-yard touchdown. Hurts used the entire field, he spread the ball around, he made plays with his legs, he got the ball in the end zone, and he threw with terrific anticipation. He did everything you want your quarterback to do.
He just played with tremendous poise and intelligence. He was really stinking good Sunday.
But none of that happens if if Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni doesn’t give him a chance to be really good. The game plan was a perfect mixture of runs and passes early, and then grind it out on the ground late.
It was perfect.
The Eagles kept the Broncos on their toes with a balanced attack in the first half and then just kept running it the rest of the game.
Sirianni has really grown as a play caller, and the first half — 20 runs and 20 passes — was his best yet. We were all afraid he’d stop dialing up a heavy dose of running plays, but it’s clear now he understands that’s what works best for this team.
DeVonta Smith didn’t have huge numbers Sunday, but man was he impressive. He was 4-for-66 in the first half and that’s where he finished.
He’s so smooth and so clutch and you can just see the chemistry between him and Hurts growing every week.
That first touchdown was a work of art as he jumped up and made an unbelievable grab.
Smith is a skinny dude, but he’s aggressive and physical to the ball and it’s great to see that he’s worked through his relatively minor but still concerning problem with drops. Smith is just going to keep getting better. He was amazing on Sunday, which was also his 23rd birthday.
This is three straight games the Eagles have rushed for 175 or more yards, and that’s something they had only done eight times in franchise history — only three times since 1950.
It took a while for this team to find an offensive identity, but they sure have one now.
The Eagles haven’t had a 100-yard rusher during this stretch, and once again it was a team effort with Jordan Howard (12-for-83), Boston Scott (11-for-81) and Jalen Hurts (11-for-56 before kneel downs) all helping the Eagles pile up 214 rushing yards.
Bad news, the Eagles lost a huge piece of their offense Sunday. Tight end Dallas Goedert went out of the game in the first quarter after being evaluated for a concussion at Empower Field at Mile High.
Goedert took a head shot at the end of a 24-yard play by Denver safety Justin Simmons. Goedert took a hard head shot from Simmons and then it looked like his head might have slammed into the ground. It looked like an illegal hit from Simmons but no penalty was called.
After the play, Goedert was slow to get up and went immediately to the sideline and then into the blue medical tent. He then went into the locker room.
The Eagles have really been trying to get Goedert involved in recent weeks. And in this game, the Eagles have been using quite a bit of 12 personnel with two tight ends.
Without Goedert, the Eagles have Jack Stoll and Tyree Jackson as their tight ends.
The Eagles played some remarkable defense in (and just outside) the red zone. They didn’t tackle particularly well between the 20s and gave up a few plays, but they made huge tackle after huge tackle on critical snaps when the Broncos got near the end zone.
The Broncos had drives to the three, four, 10, and 10-yard-lines that recored just six points. And then another one down to the 23 that turned into an Eagles touchdown on the Darius Slay return.
So after the first quarter, the Eagles actually outscored the Broncos 7-6 on five drives when the Broncos were inside the Eagles’ 25-yard-line. Bend-but-don’t-break only works if you’re exceptional in the red zone, and the Eagles sure were Sunday. Jonathan Gannon needed a game like this and he and his players delivered in a big way.
It’s no accident that the Eagles have turned a bit of a corner defensively the last few weeks since T.J. Edwards has replaced Alex Singleton as the primary middle linebacker.
Singleton played great last year but has been struggling this year, and the change has given the defense more physicality and a real thumper in the middle.
It’s great to see Davion Taylor out there running around. For a dude who hasn’t played a whole lot at this level, he’s very active and that forced fumble that resulted in the Slay TD was a heck of a play.
He got his hand in there in the middle of a lot of traffic on that fourth-and-one and stripped the ball from Melvin Gordon.
The Eagles only had one sack (Derek Barnett), but I thought they did a better job than they have lately getting pressure on the quarterback. Even Fletcher Cox showed up and made a few plays. I’d still like to see them finish some of those hurries and turn them into sacks, but Bridgewater didn’t have a ton of time in the pocket and only completed two passes for more than 15 yards.