February 6, 2023

3 takeaways after Eagles step up in big win over Saints

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

An incredible start, 69,796 fans holding its breath and then an improbable hero, and it added up to a 40-29 Eagles win over the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field, three wins the last four weeks and a 5-6 record that doesn’t look too bad considering where this team was not too long ago.

Here’s three takeaways:

Where this team came from

To see where the Eagles are now after that stretch where they lost five-of-six games and were getting embarrassed just about every week? It’s remarkable.

To go from those brutal losses to the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Las Vegas Raiders to beating the Detroit Lions by 38, the Denver Broncos by 17, and the Saints by 11 speaks volumes about Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni’s ability to keep this team believing in itself through some pretty dark times.

This is why you don’t judge a coach after four games or six games or eight games. This is why you don’t decide the guy sucks a month into his coaching career. You could see even during the worst of the awful losses that this team was playing hard and that his message was still getting through, and as long as that’s the case, there’s hope.

Now the Eagles are 5-6 after a 2-5 start, and the schedule is very easy down the stretch. This team has turned a corner, and the playoffs are a realistic goal.

You don’t have to like Sirianni, but it’s obvious his players do and that’s all that matters. 

Big Play Slay

My goodness, how good has Darius Slay been? Slay just has that hyper-aggressive mentality where he’s looking to score every snap he’s on the field, and he’s now got three touchdown returns — 33, 83 and 51 yards — in the Eagles’ last four games, which is remarkable. On top of taking the opposing team’s best wide receiver out of the game.

No coincidence the Saints started coming back as soon as he left the game with an apparent concussion. The next man up is rookie fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson, who’s a nice prospect but there might not be a bigger gap between starter and backup on the team. 

And also, how about that pick six?

It wasn’t a masterpiece defensively, and you never want to give up 22 points in the fourth quarter to a backup quarterback, and things did get a little spicy there for a bit, but the most encouraging thing about the defense is that they’re making plays. They’re forcing turnovers, generating pressure, and getting stops at key moments.

The whole team got a little tight in the fourth quarter, the Saints kept getting great field position and were able to play loose with a big deficit and Trevor Siemian ran around and made some plays. But overall I’m encouraged with where this unit is now compared to a month ago.

They still need to turn that pressure into sacks. But for a defense without a lot of elite talent, they are getting better.

Good day for Hurts, Sanders’ return

Another good passing day for Jalen Hurts — 13-for-24 for 147 yards, no TDs, no INTs — but his ability to make plays with his legs is incredible. He became only the eighth NFL quarterback since 1978 with three rushing TDs in a game and the first Eagles QB ever (and the seventh Eagle ever).

He got bottled up a lot — and I do think 18 carries is way too many — but he is just such an explosive runner and has crazy cut-back ability that down at the goal-line he’s very difficult to stop.

He now has eight rushing TDs, tied for 14th-most in NFL history over a full season. We still need to see more growth in the passing game, but his legs are a huge weapon and he really knows how to use them.

He had a bad fumble deep in Saints territory that led to a touchdown and nearly fumbled again, but Miles Sanders ran the ball exceptionally well in his return after a four-game layoff Sunday, finishing 16-for-94 – the most yards by any running back against the Saints since Sanders had 115 last year.

The Eagles really needed Sanders too after Jordan Howard left the game with a knee injury (after a very tough 10-for-63 himself). Good to see Sanders back and looking as good as he ever has.

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