(Photography credit: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/philadelphia-eagles-quarterback-jalen-hurts-passes-during-a-news-photo/1236571324?adppopup=true)
In perhaps their most complete win of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles swarmed the Denver Broncos 30-13 on Sunday in an impressive victory at Mile High Stadium. Jalen Hurts sizzled and the Eagles defense came up with big stops and timely turnovers, as Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni continued to show growth as both a play-caller and a leader.
The Eagles offense wasted no time against the Broncos. Hurts and company took the opening drive down the field in a series that appeared almost effortless. They settled for a field goal, but the offense was far from finished. Later in the first quarter Hurts threw a deep ball to rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith for a touchdown. Smith twisted, turned, readjusted, and hauled in a beautiful circus catch that will surely grace the next Eagles hype video. Smith continues to show tremendous promise and durability. It’s difficult to think of another current NFL rookie who has made more of an immediate impact on his team than Smith has for the Eagles.
Jalen Hurts had possibly his best game as an Eagle. His runs were bold and punishing and his passes were smart, aggressive, and accurate. Hurts' favorite targets, DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, have certainly helped the young quarterback's progress, but so too, has Nick Sirianni’s newfound commitment to the run. (Unfortunately, Goedert left the game early with what appeared to be a possible concussion.)
Running backs Jordan Howard and Boston Scott shredded Denver’s defensive line all afternoon. On numerous plays both backs did not receive contact until deep into the Broncos’ secondary. Credit must be given to the Eagles offensive line. Their run-blocking created huge holes and their pass protection was serviceable. Hurts dazzled, but he didn’t need to carry the entire offense on his back. Now that the Eagles have shown that they have a balanced running attack, the need to constantly depend on Hurts lessens. Hurts can now play within himself and not force plays or scramble to make something happen behind a collapsing pocket.
The Eagles are officially a team with a dangerous offense.
And their defense? Not so much.
While the Birds’ defense was solid today, there’s still a feeling that a team better than the Broncos would have little trouble piling up points against the Eagles. “Bend don’t break” defenses have a curious way of both bending and breaking. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon must do a better job elevating his defense to match the fire of the Eagles suddenly high-flying offense.
Cornerback Darius Slay pitched in with a brillant 82-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. Slay dashed, weaved, and dipped, in a memorable return that seemed to break the Broncos’ spirit. The Eagles defense needs more players like Slay- players who are unafraid to gamble and conduct their business with swagger. Whether Gannon can mold more players in this form remains to be seen, but at the halfway point of the season the Eagles defense trails behind its offense in overall effectiveness.
It appears that the Eagles are finally finding their groove. Unfortunately, finding your groove this late in the season can bury your playoff chances.
One wonders if the Eagles would have had a better start to their season if they had played more of their starters during the preseason. The Eagles early-season slide could have possibly been halted if Sirianni had worked out many of his play-calling issues during the preseason. Hurts, too, might have been more accurate if he had more live-game experience.
Practice only works if you actually practice with the players you plan to start.
Today’s win in Denver puts other NFL teams on notice that the Eagles have a significantly potent offense.
The only question is: will playoff-bound teams look back to care?