In Roob’s Obs, Hurts responds, defense dominates, and more originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
They couldn’t have played any worse before halftime. And they couldn’t have played any better after halftime.
And here are the Eagles, 8-7 after a 2-5 start, and I don’t care who they played or who the quarterback was or what the schedule looks like. I just don’t care.
You play who’s on the schedule, and the Eagles are 6-2 since the Raiders loss, they’ve doubled last year’s win total and they’re legit one of the NFL’s hottest teams as we head down the stretch.
MORE: Jalen Hurts’ biggest flaw is a big problem despite win
Here’s our 10 Instant Observations from the Eagles’ third straight win, 34-3, over the Giants at the Linc:
1. I want to just take a step back and marvel at the job Nick Sirianni has done with this football team. In his first year on the job, with a young first-time quarterback, in the middle of a pandemic, with five ugly losses the first seven weeks of the season, and here are the Eagles with a winning record and in great position to reach the playoffs. Think about this: In NFL history, 294 teams have been 2-5. Sixteen of them have finished with a winning record. Nine of them have made the playoffs. What the Eagles are doing is truly remarkable, and Sirianni deserves a tremendous amount of credit for not only keeping the thing on the rails after all those terrible losses but turning the Eagles into a legit playoff contender. I don’t know who’s going to get Coach of the Year. There are some other good candidates. But you can certainly make a case for Sirianni. To get where the Eagles are now after where they were two months ago? It’s truly impressive.
2. I love the way the defense played. Loved it. I know they were going against a JV quarterback. Actually, two of them. But they balled out Sunday all over the field. Physical. Terrific coverage. Pressure. Big plays. Huge hits. Terrific tackling. Takeaways. A pick-6. The defense kept things under control in the first half until the offense finally woke up. It was clear the Giants – much like Washington last week with Antonio Gibson – wanted to run the ball to take pressure off an inexperienced QB. But this is the best run defense in the NFL over the last two months, and the Giants just never got anything going on the ground, (26 carries, 3.0 average). That forced the Giants to throw and that was a mismatch. I don’t care who the Eagles were playing. You can only play who’s on the schedule. And this defense over the last eight weeks has been as good as anybody in the league. They’ve allowed just 58 points the last four games and you can’t ask for anymore than that.
3. The slow starts the last two weeks against overmatched teams are a concern. You can’t get away with that stuff against good teams. Down 10-0 against Washington and 3-3 at halftime against the Giants, that’s not ideal. But you have to love the way this team keeps fighting and doesn’t let things snowball and doesn’t panic when things aren’t going well. You learn the most about a team when things aren’t going well. How do they respond? How do they react? And you have to love how this team handles adversity. As ugly as that first half was, you didn’t see anybody hanging their head, you didn’t see any frustration. And the Eagles erupted for 31 points after halftime, the 7th-most second-half points the Eagles have ever scored. This team just keeps battling for 60 minutes, and when you do that you’ve got a shot every week.
4. One thing we’ve learned about Jalen Hurts: He really has a terrific ability to shake off bad plays, bad drives, bad mistakes, bad games. First quarter, Hurst was 3-for-10 for 11 yards with a near-interception and a fumble. After that? He was 14-for-19 for 188 yards with two TDs, no INTs and a 139.8 passer rating. Just think what those numbers would look like without four drops. What’s most impressive is that Hurts, still not close to 100 percent with that ankle, made plays with his arm Sunday and not with his legs. He only ran twice for seven yards but after the slow start was accurate, decisive and productive. He looked like a quarterback. That’s back-to-back games where he’s been very good coming off that first Giants disaster. There’s a lot to like about how he’s playing right now.
5. Man, how freaking good is DeVonta Smith? Nice to see him involved in the offense in a big way after just seven catches for 77 yards the last three games. Smith was 5-for-80 with a TD and made a couple circus catches. His career-long 46-yarder was a thing of beauty. Smith was so aggressive coming back to the ball while leaping high over James Bradberry to snag Hurts’ bomb down the right sideline. And then his touchdown – once again he showed incredible ability to get both feet in bounds as he’s making a difficult catch, something college players don’t have to worry about. It looked like the Eagles really made it a priority to draw up some plays down the field for Smith, and it paid off. They’ve got to keep doing it.
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6. I thought the play of the game was Rodney McLeod’s interception on the second play of the second half. McLeod has played really well the last few weeks, and that was a point where the Eagles desperately needed a big play on either side of the ball to wake up. Nothing was going well. Six plays later, Boston Scott scored the game’s first touchdown and the floodgates were open. The Eagles wound up scoring 31 points in 17 minutes, and it all started with the trusty old veteran safety.
7. Four days after missing the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2014, Fletcher Cox had another big day. He’s playing the run really well right now and looks more active and more comfortable than he did earlier in the season. Cox had two tackles for loss – he only had five all year – and had a lot to do with the Eagles shutting down Saquon Barkley, who ran 15 times for just 32 yards. Cox may not be the player he once was, but after a sluggish start this year he’s been pretty good lately.
8. The Eagles have done better lately with committing penalties, but this was a big-time regression, especially early. Fletcher Cox jumped offsides on a Giants third down. Dallas Goedert killed a drive with an illegal block. Derek Barnett gave the Giants a first down when he jumped offsides. DeVonta Smith wiped out a first down with an illegal block. Javon Hargrave gave the Giants a first down – on a 3rd-and-12 – with a defensive holding infraction. Quez Watkins wiped out a Hurts TD pass to Goedert with a hold. And then in the fourth quarter, a late-hit personal foul on Marcus Epps gave the Giants a first down after the Eagles stopped them on fourth down inside the 50. In all, the Eagles committed 11 penalties for 79 yards. Gotta clean that up.
9. How about Alex Singleton? He was benched for Davion Taylor after the Raiders game but has been back in the lineup for five weeks and has played a lot better. Singleton had his usual 11 tackles Sunday but also a 29-yard pick-6 off Mike Glennon in the fourth quarter. He’s only the fifth linebacker in Eagles history with more than one career pick-6 as an Eagle, along with Joe Muha in the 1950s, Frank LeMaster in the 1970s, Seth Joyner in the 1980s and Jeremiah Trotter in the early 2000s. Pretty good company.
10. Encouraging that we’ve now seen flashes from Jalen Reagor two weeks in a row. He had a career-high 57 receiving yards last week against Washington Tuesday and gave the Eagles a real jolt Sunday with his season-long 39-yard punt return to set up Jake Elliott’s second field goal. He also had a nice 13-yard catch for a first down. I know it’s not a ton, but considering how the first few months of the season went for Reagor, anything he gives the Eagles is a plus.