Hurts, Ground Game Prove Too Much For Packers

Eric Hartline, USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles entered tonight’s primetime game coming off back-to-back poor performances. Although they only lost one of those games, they have not played to the level that they can and that should leave a bad taste in their mouths. As a result, the expectation was that they’d come out to play against the Packers.

That was mostly the case in the first half. Two interceptions mixed in with huge gashes coming in the screen and run game left the Eagles with a mediocre defensive showing. That should have been more than enough for the offense to overcome as they were lights out to start the game. In fact, besides two botched quarterback sneaks in a row, which one could argue shouldn’t have happened because of a poor spot that ignored forward progress, the only fatal flaw was, once again, AJ Brown, who is being paid millions to apparently come up small in the biggest moments.

On a pass for no gain, Brown took it upon himself to give up yet another fumble (the third turnover he is responsible for in as many weeks) and turned what should have been a chip-shot field goal for the Birds into a 63-yard return the other way (a lengthy return he did nothing to stop) which directly resulted in a 10-point swing against the Eagles; way to go AJ, keep it up!

Beyond that, the Eagles offense seemed to be clicking elsewhere and put up 27 points in the first half, including a missed point after attempt.

Special teams remained an issue as the team not only missed a point after try, but allowed multiple large kick returns of over 35 yards to leave the defense with an already short field even if they should have been in good position to start the drive.

Despite all of that, the defense was able to make some stops (particularly in the second half) and, with the help of other receivers in DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins and the ground game of Miles Sanders to back him up, Hurts and the offense kept chugging along and left little hope for the Packers to get back in the game.

The Packers hopes seemed all but dashed once Aaron Rodgers left with an oblique injury and Jordan Love, a 2020 first-round pick who has just 71 passing attempts in three years, became the Packers’ signal caller.

While the Packers put in a quarterback with next to no NFL experience, Marcus Epps almost immediately blew coverage on Watson so bad that a high school quarterback could have thrown an easy touchdown pass there and the defense found a way to get a Packers team that should have been already beaten back into the game.

The leg of Jake Elliott came up huge just before the two-minute warning, however, to make it a two-score game with a 54-yard field goal.

It was the special teams turn to once again make the game interesting at that point, allowing another huge return (this time for a game-high 53 yards) to setup the Packers with a short field and the need to go just 38 yards for a touchdown in their two-minute drill.

After almost a minute of time ticked off the clock and the Eagles defense made a stand, the Packers had to settle for a field goal and complete an onside kick. Jack Stoll recovered the kick. With the offensive line clearing the way, Miles Sanders was able to get the first down that ensured the Eagles a win over Green Bay and their 10th win of the season.

Offensive MVP: Jalen Hurts

Who else but Jalen Hurts? 157 rushing yards to break Micheal Vick’s single-game record with the franchise and an over 50% completion percentage (which should have been higher because there were several drops) to add 153 yards and two touchdowns put the Eagles well ahead in this one so they could go to the ground game. Another big thing to mention is that Hurts targeted Smith, Watkins and Brown fairly evenly in this one and that’s good to see happening.

Defensive MVP: Reed Blankenship

If you asked fans what this team would look like without Chauncey Gardner-Johnson manning the safety spot before tonight, you’d get overwhelmingly negative feedback. The team’s third safety (K’Von Wallace) has been brutal this year and going deeper into the depth chart seemed like a killer, even from someone like myself who has been a huge Reed Blankenship proponent.

Blankenship came in and proved us all wrong. Blankenship showed his heavy hitting with six tackles, but also showed something we did not get to see with him playing deep in the run-heavy preseason: an interception. Blankenship made an incredible read and break on Aaron Rodgers to get the turnover and prevent another red zone trip by the Packers offense. For an undrafted free agent playing his first real snaps, Blankenship showed a ton to like and that bodes well for what he could become with more experience. There’s serious concern about the Eagles winning this game without the play of Blankenship tonight.

Game Notes

  • Miles Sanders really needs a shout out of his own. Had Jalen Hurts not set a franchise record, Sanders would have been the favorite for offensive MVP in this game. Sanders had two rushing touchdowns in this one and 143 rushing yards on 21 carries to help shorten this game and maintain time of possession for the offense. He also added three catches for 17 yards.
  • One has to wonder that, if Reed Blankenship has been with the team all year and we see K’Von Wallace play terribly at the safety spot regularly, why Wallace has been thrown out there routinely and Blankenship has been riding the bench while the Eagles secondary takes a beating as a result. There’s certainly some room for improvement/concern (he took a terrible route on the blown Epps coverage in the fourth quarter), but that’s not something that’s likely to improve on the bench and it clearly isn’t improving for Wallace.
  • Jordan Mailata once again struggles several times at left tackle to protect Jalen Hurts. He seems to have lost the ferocity he once had and seemingly gives up on plays way too soon. He has the talent, but that’s too many broken plays coming from that end of the line that needs to be cleaned up.
  • Something has to be done about AJ Brown. His play for three straight weeks has been unacceptable. You can’t have a guy billed as a top 10 receiver and making the big bucks be responsible for turnovers and ending drives week after week with nothing changing. That certainly won’t fly among Philadelphia fans when he’s giving interviews smiling and saying it doesn’t bother him after the games.
  • Missed tackles continue to be a concern for this team. Outside of TJ Edwards, it doesn’t seem like anyone can be trusted to actually make the tackle and not just hit someone and bounce right off.
  • This was more of an issue last week, but it became more of an issue as the game progressed again this week: Jalen Hurts has to try to give up the ball more to his running back. He was so extremely effective in the first quarter (103 yards) that the Packers defense started keying on him, but he continued to keep the ball – often for only one or two yards where he took hard hits. This was because the defenders started following him and his running back would leak out uncontested for several yards. It’s great that Hurts has that running ability, but the team would be better off not adding additional hits to Hurts’ body when he has an outlet available (for a handoff or short pass) that’d gain more yardage. He should absolutely continue to run, but he has to do a better job protecting himself and getting rid of the ball when the defenses have multiple defenders just following him.

Injury Notes

  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson appeared to make a side-to-side hit in the first quarter where Christian Watson’s hip collided with Gardner-Johnson’s ribcage. CGJ fell to the ground, couldn’t stand straight and had to be carted off the field. He did not return. At this point, it looks likely that he suffered bruised or fractured ribs which could be a 3-8 week absence and a likely placement on IR if that’s the case. Update: It is being reported that Gardner-Johnson suffered a lacerated kidney.
  • Landon Dickerson left this game and Andre Dillard, who had never played guard for any significant amount of snaps before, came in as his replacement at left guard.
  • DeVonta Smith was banged up a few times, but did not seem to miss any snaps as a result of those injuries.
  • Reed Blankenship left the game in the final two minutes of the game with an apparent nose bleed. A concussion could be a concern, but other than that he would seem unlikely to miss time.

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles – November 27, 2022

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