The Eagles are Fun Again – Ten Takeaways from Birds 40, Saints 29

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles did it. They won a home game.

It was never in doubt… or was it? They took their foot off the gas pedal and scared the bejesus out of us in the fourth quarter, but re-applied foot-on-pedal to ice the game and avoid catastrophe.

It was an absolute chickenshit series of events that cemented the win. The Saints, down in the red zone, decided to run a receiver screen on 3rd down, which you thought would be setting them up for a fourth down attempt. But for some incredibly goofy reason, they decided to settle for a field goal instead, cutting the lead from 14 to 11 with just seven minutes remaining. They decided to make a two score game… a two score game.

The Eagles got the ball back, and then JJAW (of all people) moved the sticks on the ensuing drive, and that was All She Wrote, as the criminally-underrated hair metal band Firehouse once sang.

It’s wonderful to send home the smug and arrogant Sean Payton with a loss. “Hold this L,” is what the Zoomer generation would say. He’s such an overrated coach. He had Drew Brees for 15 years and won a grand total of one Super Bowl. And he was mean to Jamie Apody for no reason, so he can get bent. Take a hike, pal.

1) Jalen Hurts as Lamar Jackson

Three quarterback rushing touchdowns. First time in Eagles franchise history.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

The Eagles are the Ravens, or at least that’s the blueprint. Jalen Hurts is not going to throw his way to a comeback win, or crest 300 yards with three scores in the NFC Divisional Round, but they can win with him if they run the ball, play with a lead, and replicate what Baltimore is doing.

The question is whether or not Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie believe in that philosophy moving forward. Can you run in a passing league? Would they try it?

If the answer is yes, then you stick with Hurts, draft for defense, and continue down this path instead of reaching for Kenny fucking Pickett or trading for a veteran.  Nick Sirianni has shown he’s capable of molding the offense to his personnel, instead of going vice versa with the square peg/round hole approach, so it’s very interesting to think about how the Eagles will proceed here. Hurts feels like a winner, but will Howie and “Mr. Lurie” continue with him?

2) A 3.5-headed monster

Earlier this week, I called for the three-headed monster of Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, and Miles Sanders. Scott ran the ball six times, so it was sort of a three-headed monster. With some some fantastic additional running from the quarterback, does that count as another head? Is it a four-headed monster, or perhaps a 3.5-headed monster instead?

It’s a question for the philosophers.

Regardless, the Saints came into this one with the best rushing defense in the NFL. Just 3.1 yards per carry allowed. The Eagles ran for 75 yards in first quarter and 242 in the game, an average of 4.8 yards on 50 total carries.  They’ve clearly carved out an identity as a running team, though Sanders coughed the ball up in a horrendous area and had a second fumble negated due to a forward progress whistle. He continues to have some issues in the ball security department, though it was good to see him get back on the field.

3) Timely pressure

Good Jonathan Gannon game. The defense snoozed through the second half, but whatever.

The positive is this:

They blitzed early. Third down during the first series. Third down right before halftime, the Alex Singleton play. There was mixing and matching and a variety of quarterback pressuring, which shows that Gannon is capable of throwing different looks at offenses. He’s just been hesitant to do so.

One guy who had a monster game was T.J. Edwards, who supplanted Eric Wilson in the starting lineup. Said Nick Sirianni on his linebacker:

He’s really playing well. I think our defense as a whole is playing well. I don’t want to single anybody out because I think they’re all playing well. Starts up front. T.J. brings a physicality that really is contagious. And he continues to come after the ball.

You saw the one play on the swing pass out there where the guy felt T.J. coming. And then he ended up getting — I think he dropped the ball. But T.J. just has that physicality and he’s just really playing good football right now.

And he’s a good communicator with the defense and talking to everybody. And so, he’s playing really good football. And sure, those guys from Wisconsin, that played as a Badger, my experience with those guys is they’re tough and they’re nasty and they can play physical ball.

I’m sure glad he’s playing the role he’s playing right now.

T.J. Edwards: 10 tackles, one for loss, two PBUs, and an interception. He had a great game.

4) Big Play Slay

Darius Slay looks like a completely different player this season. The pick-six was his third touchdown of the season, which means he now has more scores this year than:

Jared Cook, Mark Ingram, Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, Darren Waller, Evan Engram, Courtland Sutton, Javonte Williams, Mike Davis, J.D. McKissic, Austin Hooper, D.J. Chark, and Jarvis Landry

He’s in the concussion protocol and hopefully alright. Number two is having himself a Pro Bowl year.

5) Zebra watch

The Birds ended up not needing it, but it looked like Dallas Goedert found the end zone on the 2nd drive, on the play where he fell on top of Kwon Alexander. I thought the Birds should have thrown the challenge flag, but they decided to just get up to the line and pound it in instead.

There was another similar sequence in the first half, where Sirianni did throw the challenge flag on the play where Hurts just barely got inside the pylon:

The other thing I thought that should have been flagged was Trevor Siemian spiking that failed screen into the ground. The QB has to at least sell that a bit, yeah? He didn’t on that play. He just threw it right into the grass. I feel like officials are super-lax with those types of sequences when they could throw a flag for intentional grounding on broken screens.

6) Mistakes and breaks

As the season has progressed, this list continues to get shorter:

Mistakes:

  • wonky decision by Jalen Reagor to field a punt at the three-yard line
  • false start on the Jordan Howard wildcat play
  • Miles Sanders fumble
  • DeVonta Smith OPI, illegal pick play, to negate that touchdown catch (also ineligible downfield receiver on same play)
  • couple of drops from the recently-paid Goedert
  • 15 yard roughing the passer penalty on Javon Hargrave
  • Sanders gotta STAY INBOUNDS THERE AT THE END

No issues with Nick Sirianni trying to get Sanders going again after the first fumble. Doug Pederson did that with Jay Ajayi when he fumbled in the divisional round against the Falcons, and he had 98 all-purpose yards in that game. Gotta try to keep these guys’ confidence up if the game situation warrants it.

Also – Reagor stinks. Does he do anything well at this point? They spent a first-round draft pick on a guy who has now become a below-average returner.

Breaks:

  • that deflected Hurts pass falling without being picked off
  • Saints holding on a punt
  • Saints holding wiping out a touchdown
  • forward progress negating Sanders’ second fumble
  • Mark Ingram fumble
  • Saints missing an extra point
  • chickenshit NOLA field goal decision

Cannot stand Sean Payton. Bob was right. He is a jerk. 

7) Ancillary wins and losses

Strong wins across the board:

  • won time of possession 37:01 to 22:59
  • +2  turnover margin
  • 12-21 on third down (57.1%)
  • 0-0 on fourth down
  • Saints went 6-13 on third down (46.1%)
  • lost nine yards on three sacks
  • 2-4 success rate in the red zone
  • Saints 3-4 in red zone
  • 6 penalties for 49 yards
  • 21 first downs, 18 for NOLA
  • ran 77 total plays, NOLA 62

37:01 is the Birds’ best time of possession number this entire season. They were the #2 team in the league in TOP the year they won the Super Bowl. They continue to control the clock, win the turnover battle, and have cut down on the penalties.

8) Nick’s best call?

I’m always a fan of the no-brainer QB sneak. We had a few of those in this game.

I also liked the Jordan Howard wildcat look, even though they screwed it up with a false start. Good wrinkle there. And good decision to throw the challenge flag at the end of that same drive, to get the Hurts running touchdown.

More than anything, I feel like there hasn’t been a funky game management decision from Sirianni in a while, right? No hot topic of the week, no big questionable choice that dominates social media or sports talk radio. He’s come a long way in a short amount of time.

9) Nick’s worst call?

There weren’t many, but I’m not sure about that opening drive 3rd down call, the split backs into orbit motion and a shotgun hand off for Jordan Howard. You’d probably just want an extra blocker in there and some downhill running. Nobody is really scared of Reagor being involved there. They kind of sold the run there and New Orleans was waiting for it:

Sirianni had another good game. Very little worth criticizing him for in this game. Maybe from a macro standpoint you want them to be more aggressive killing off the game, but whatever. They were running and eating clock and the defense downshifted into second gear. It happens.

10) Excellence in broadcasting

We had Adam Amin and Mark Schlereth for this one. Amin gets bonus points for correctly using the term “zone read” instead of “RPO.”

I had friends over for this game, so I honestly didn’t hear much of the commentary and instead had three toddlers running around and yelling, providing the audio backdrop for this afternoon contest.

However, the best portion of the broadcast was this:

She’s from Delco. Mary Kate her name is.

Good morning. The Eagles are fun again.

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