Eagles vs. Washington: 14 winners, 4 losers, 2 IDKs
The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Washington Football Team on Tuesday night. In honor of this unnecessarily postponed game, I’m here to provide an unnecessarily postponed postgame column. Even though we’re just a couple days away from the Eagles playing in Week 16. OK, enough preamble. Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
WILD CARD FEVER
We already wrote about the Eagles’ playoff outlook in more detail. The short of it is in they’re in a decent spot. It’ll be tough for them to miss it if they win out. Going 2-1 could be good enough unless the Minnesota Vikings and/or New Orleans Saints win out. The feeling here is things will shake out where the Birds make the postseason.
Hard not to give the head coach credit when you look at these numbers:
#Eagles Offensive Rankings Since Week 8:
Points/Game . . . 29.3 (2nd)
Yards/Game . . . 388.0 (2nd)
Rush Yards/Game . . . 214.4 (1st)
3rd-Down Efficiency . . . 51.6% (1st)
Scoring Efficiency . . . 52.9% (1st)
Explosive Plays . . . 80 (1st)#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/AwVkozDvFg
— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) December 22, 2021
Such a wild turnaround. It once looked like Sirianni was in over his head and the Eagles had no offensive identity. Now they’re one of the best offenses in the entire NFL.
We can always wonder what took so long for Sirianni to change the approach but, ultimately, he deserves credit for adjusting.
Sirianni’s play-calling was especially on-point against Washington. As highlighted by BGN’s Jonny Page, the Eagles showed some interesting looks. I really liked the 3rd-and-2 design where both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders were lined up in the backfield with Quez Watkins running in orbit motion. Sanders ended up being uncovered and Hurts hit him for a 16-yard catch-and-run. The inclusion of Darius Slay on offense was also fun and seemed to be effective considering Sanders had a lot of space for a 7-yard carry on that play.
I wouldn’t say it was an A+ game for Sirianni since he did have some questionable game management decisions. Punting on 4th-and-4 from WFT’s 41-yard line was a bad look, especially after Arryn Siposs’s punt went for a touchback to result in a net difference of just 21 yards. Kicking a field goal with the ball at the 2-yard line was too conservative. I would’ve opted to accept the offside penalty on Jake Elliott’s last field goal to set up 4th-and-1 instead of settling for the points.
Bringing up these moments might seem nitpicking. And, to some extent, it is. The Eagles won and Sirianni had a good game. That’s the bottom line. But the reality is the margin for error was bigger with the Birds playing a team with a depleted roster and starting a fourth-string quarterback. Sirianni’s decision-making is going to need to be more aggressive and sharp against higher quality opponents.
On the whole, Sirianni is clearly trending in the right direction.
By the numbers: 20/26, 296 yards (11.4 average), 1 TD, 1 INT, 110.4 passer rating. Eight rushes for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
Not too shabby.
Hurts’ completion percentage could’ve been even higher if he didn’t have to deal with three drops, including one that resulted in a very fluky interception that wasn’t his fault.
Of course, Hurts also could’ve been picked off on his underthrown deep pass to Dallas Goedert. The picture above this article shows how the ball was in the defender’s hands before the tight end was ultimately able to out-muscle the opposition. Hurts also had a really bad fumble that doesn’t impact his passing stats.
On that note, much was made about the broadcast showing Sirianni getting on Hurts for that mistake. After the game, both talked that moment.
Sure, Jalen and I — Jalen’s dad coached him hard and my dad coached me hard, so I think Jalen responds to tough coaching. He likes tough coaching, and I wasn’t going to back down on him. I thought he was careless with the football, and I let him know that and we are just honest with each other. Sometimes it comes off as we’re just talking through it and sometimes I’ve got to deliver the message a little bit different. But what a great job by him having that mentality just to — he had two turnovers early and the first one is not his fault. He played a great football game today. One of the best football games I’ve seen him play and so what an unbelievable job by him of — what did he say? Flush it, don’t look at it, flush it, and then move on. So awesome job by him and when you have a good relationship with your quarterback, you’re able to have those tough conversations like that. We moved on and he played a great game from there on out.
“I’ve been telling him all year that I’m a coaches’ kid. Basically all the coaches’ kids out there know what that means. It means they’ve been coached. They’ve heard everything. In high school I lived with the guy that was chewing me out. I made it clear to Coach all year, ‘You know, you can get on me a little bit.’ So after the fumble, he came up to me and said what he had to say. Then later on in the game he comes back and jokes with me and says, ‘I guess I’m just going to start coaching you like your dad coached you.’ So it was a funny moment. Whatever he said worked.”
There’s certainly something to be said for Hurts being able to take the tough love. That much is something that Carson Wentz struggled with and, while not the only reason, likely contributed to the Eagles moving on from him.
Sirianni’s behavior shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. He can be a fiery guy. We saw as much in training camp when he really got on Jalen Reagor’s case for some practice struggles. The next day, however, Sirianni was the first person to run up to Reagor after a good catch. So, there seems to be a healthy balance of criticism and support.
But, anyway, back to Hurts. This was a “stock up” game for him. Among his best moments, the back-shoulder touchdown throw to Greg Ward really stood out.
Former BGN Radio hosts Michael Kist and Benjamin Solak used to say “Build the plane out of Jeff Stoutland!” equating the Eagles OL coach to an ever-reliable and indestructible “black box.”
For as much credit as Sirianni deserves, Stoutland should be right there up with him. He is the Eagles’ run game coordinator, after all, and the Birds have been flat out DOMINANT on the ground. That the Eagles are the first NFL team to record 175+ rushing yards in seven consecutive games (a franchise record) since the 1985 Chicago Bears is pretty darn impressive.
The Eagles’ offensive line is regularly kicking ass out there. And this isn’t like how it was in 2013 when the starters stayed healthy for the entire year. The Birds started third-string options at both left guard (Sua Opeta) and right guard (Nate Herbig) on Tuesday night. Stout consistently gets the most out of his guys.
Since the 1970 @NFL merger, only five OL coaches have coached Pro Bowlers in 9+ straight seasons with the same team:
— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) December 23, 2021
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
The Eagles’ offensive line is their identity. They’ve majorly leaned on that strength.
The Eagles had their way with Washington’s defense, logging 11.4 yards per pass attempt and 5.8 yards per rush attempt.
The Eagles have rushed for 1,569 yards before contact this season.
Meaning, their O-line has created more yardage than 16 teams have gained overall.
That is preposterous.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) December 23, 2021
Kelce deserves some extra attention. The way he got downfield to block for Miles Sanders’ big run was just something you don’t see from other centers. He’s just such a special player and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame one day. His fifth Pro Bowl selection should help with that. He should also be getting his fourth first-team All-Pro recognition.
It previously looked like Kelce might retire after this year, for real this time. But will that definitely be the case? He’s thriving despite turning 34 years old last month.
Sanders admitted he left some meat on the bone during his biggest run of the night.
Still, he finished with 131 yards on 18 carries for a 7.3 average. It was the highest rushing total of his career, surpassing his previous mark of 122 yards (December 2019). It was also the highest rushing total of any Eagles running back since LeGarrette Blount had 136 against the Chargers in 2017.
Sanders became the first Eagles running back with consecutive 100+ rushing yard games since LeSean McCoy last did it in 2014.
Howard had a nice showing with 69 yards on 15 carries for a 4.6 average. It was good to see he was able to…