By Dylan MacKinnon
It’s been a while since we could say this, but Eagles win. They top the Saints 24-21. They took a 17-0 lead into half, but it got a little dicey. Jake Elliott missed a gimme field goal at halftime. Then in the 2nd, the Saints offense starting to pick apart a Eagles defense that seemed to all be taking turns in the Blue Tent.
A fumble in the 4th quarter followed by a Saints TD put the Eagles an onside kick recovery away from serious danger. And then the onside attempt bounced off an Eagles player causing a scramble for the ball. But the Eagles did recover, and were able to kneel on the ball to seal their first win since they beat the Cowboys on November 1st.
Of course the big story will be that it was Jalen Hurts in his first ever start that helped the Eagles to that victory, while Carson Wentz stood on the sideline, adding even more fire to the already blazing QB controversy in this city.
Despite all this, they are still just 4-8-1, and still a ways out from being able to take back hold of the NFC East. Washington won again, while the Giants lost, putting them a half game behind the Giants, and a game and a half behind Washington. So how did they pull this off, let’s look at 5 numbers that tell that story.
Hurts QB Rating today was 83.6. Higher than any single game QB rating Wentz had, except for two games. He had 167 passing yards, completed 17 of 30 passes, and had 1 TD with no interceptions. Was he fantastic? No, but no one can argue his play this week wasn’t an improvement over the last 5 weeks. He also added a complete new dimension to the Eagles game with his legs. He had 109 yards on the ground on only 15 rushes. Hurts played above average vs a great Saints defense. Well enough to earn a starting spot the rest of the year? Many fans will say yes, but we will have to wait to see if Doug agrees. Would certainly be hard to go back after a good performance like this where Hurts leads the team to their first win in over a month.
Miles Sanders became the first RB to have 3 70+ yard rushes in a single season since 2012, when Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, and Chris Johnson all accomplished that feat. Miles is one of the most explosive players not just on this team, but in the NFL. And yet, he came into the game 28th in rushing attempts. He is top 5 in yard per attempt but not even top 20 in total attempts. He had only 11.2 attempts per game in the 5 games before this one.
Today they did run it more, presumably to help out the rookie QB Jalen Hurts. But that begs the question, if they understand a strong running game can make it easier for a QB, why did they not do this to help Carson Wentz and the struggling o line? The underuse of Miles Sanders this season is something that we have yet to get an explanation for. He still only ended up with 14 carries, though with the Hurts runs they ended up with 36 rushes to 30 passes. And they had two 100 yard rushers, which broke a 55 game streak for the Saints where they hadn’t allowed a 100 yard rusher, going back to 2017. Eagles are a very good running team, and should have been playing this way all year.
On the season, the Eagles have converted 37.04% of their 4th down tries. They also are 2nd in the NFL in 4th down attempts with 27, and yet they have only converted 10. They are 27th overall in conversion rate. Today they went 2 for 4 on 4th down tries. I am all for going for it on 4th down. Many times it is the right thing to do. But in this case, the Eagles clearly either do not have the talent or the right play calls to make it worthwhile. We have seen them attempt the Jalen Hurts read option a ton of times on 4th down, and I don’t think it has ever worked.
This is far from the Eagles biggest problem, but Jake Elliott is only converting 72.2% of his field goals, which puts him in the bottom 5 in the league. Today he missed a 22 yard field goal. For reference, an extra point is a 33 yard try. Jake has been a bottom 5 kicker ever since he signed his extension. He has also missed 2 extra points, despite taking only 17 attempts, which is the 3rd worst rate in the league. A kicker who can’t kick is pretty much the most useless player on a team.
For those hoping the Eagles lose to get better draft picks, after this week they are currently picking 9th. The Texans, Panthers, and Falcons jumped them. Had they lost, they would have jumped up to 4th overall. There are still 3 games left for the tankers to get their way. They possibly could still get to 4th overall if they lose out being only half a game ahead of the team picking 4th. You will want to root for the Panthers, Cowboys, Chargers, Texans, and Falcons to all get at least one more win.