What Changed

Posted: December 14th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on What Changed

The Eagles looked like a completely different team on Sunday. The team that leads the league in sacks taken didn’t give up any sacks. The offense that struggled to move the ball or score points against anyone, piled up 413 yards and 24 points against the league’s top defense. The defense that was 29th in takeaways came up with a pair of crucial turnovers, with both leading to points.

So what happened?┬áThis isn’t about just one thing.

Jalen Hurts

Hurts did not have a great game. He didn’t do anything magical. Hurts avoided mistakes, made plays with his legs and hit some key throws. It is amazing what a difference that kind of stuff makes. It also tells you how much Carson Wentz struggled this year that we’re so excited by how Hurts played. The offense was stagnant with Wentz in recent weeks. To put things in perspective, the Eagles ran 30 plays for 74 yards in the first half of the Seattle game. That defense is 27th in the league. On Sunday, Hurts led the offense to more than 300 yards in the first half while going against the #1 defense.

For a player making his first start, Hurts played well. He was smart and calm. He never panicked and always looked under control. I was impressed by his accuracy. There were multiple plays where he hit guys in stride and they were able to add RAC yards. That has been missing for most of the year.

Scheme/Play-calling

The offense was different on Sunday. The coaches didn’t have a veteran pocket-passer on the field so they had to be more creative. They moved Hurts around and added designed QB runs. They gave Hurts a gameplan that fit his skills and experience. They also gave him a plan that could work against that defense. You always need context when looking at what the coaches did.

You can argue that Wentz would have benefited from a similar offense. We know he’s good at throwing on the move. I don’t know if the coaches are hesitant to do that or if Wentz doesn’t like it.

The Saints blitzed aggressively in the second half and that gave the Eagles problems. You can bet the Cardinals will build their gameplan on blitzing so the Eagles coaches will have to tweak things.

I think one of the keys to the offense is that Hurts kept the chains moving. The Eagles only had 3 punts. There is a chicken or the egg thing in regard to calling plays. You want to get creative, but if you keep going 3 & out, it is tough to do that. There is no rhythm and the coaches probably stick to base plays more trying to get players to execute.

Hurts running ability really was an X-factor. When things did break down, he was able to turn a bad situation into a gain, sometimes even a first down. Keeping drives alive gave the coaches a chance to be creative. It also kept the defense on the sideline. The Eagles ran more plays and won the TOP battle, something that has mattered with Pederson as coach.

Running the ball

Some people think there was more of an emphasis on the run game. Yes and no. The Eagles did run the ball 36 times for 240 yards, but RBs only had 17 carries. Pederson didn’t go with a “3 yards & a cloud of dust” offense. He wasn’t running Sanders and Scott all day to protect his rookie QB. Again, there is a need for context. The Saints had one of the best run defenses in the league. Feeding RBs over and over would have led to punting a lot. Instead, the coaches got creative with the run. They did use RBs, but also designed draws and outside runs for Hurts. There was a 19-yard end around by Jalen Reagor.

Against a different defense, the Eagles might have fed the ball to RBs more. Arizona is a mediocre run D so things could change next week.

The OL

The Eagles had their 12th combination in 13 games. For my money, this was the best lineup they’ve had all year.

Mailata – Seumalo – Kelce – Herbig – Driscoll

I think it also helped that all five of them were healthy going into the game. We didn’t see Jason Peters hobbling around on the field. We didn’t have Lane Johnson coming off for a few plays. The line played well. They have plenty to fix, but hopefully this five will be starting next week.

Playmakers

The supporting cast did their part in this game. Reagor had a 19-yard run. He also caught a short pass and turned that into a 39-yard gain. Alshon Jeffery made his first real play of 2020, catching a TD pass. Miles Sanders delivered an 82-yard TD run. I also thought he and Hurts had good chemistry in the passing game. That had been lacking with Wentz. Dallas Goedert had a 19-yard catch and run. Zach Ertz made an impressive catch along the sideline, but it was ruled an incompletion. Still, great effort. Hurts gave his guys a chance to make plays and they did.

Defense

One of the challenges for Wentz this year was always having bad field position. He didn’t benefit from a long return or blocked punt. And the defense struggled to come up with takeaways to help the offense out. On Sunday, the Eagles came up with a pair of takeaways. That led to 10 points. When a drive starts at midfield or in plus territory, it makes a huge difference. Hurts can say thank you to the Eagles D for the help they gave him.

The DL was terrific. Javon Hargrave played his best game of the year. He had 2 sacks and recovered a fumble. Josh Sweat had 2 sacks and a FF. The entire DL got pressure on Taysom Hill. On one play they hit him as he threw. The ball went high and LB Duke Riley made an impressive INT.

*****

This game didn’t give us any definitive answers. This was one game.

Let’s see how things go for the next couple of weeks. Then we’ll have some context for judging what we’ve seen this year. For one week, Hurts made a real difference and we got to enjoy a football game.

_


Comments are closed.