By Dylan MacKinnon
It was easily the Eagles’ best game of the year. They crushed the Lions by a score of 44-6. And the Lions’ one score came in garbage time when the Eagles had pulled many of their starters. They controlled the game from beginning to end. Granted it was versus the winless Lions, but with how this season has gone, we have to take what we get. The Eagles have for at least one week addressed the biggest issue on both sides of the ball. On offense, they rushed the ball, and on defense, they actually played aggressive Football. And the results were immediately apparent on the field. Here are the 5 numbers that tell the story of this game.
For the first time since 2013, the Eagles had less than 20 passing attempts in a game. The last time they did that, was in a win over the Packers where Nick Foles attempted only 18 passes, though he had 3 passing TDS in those few attempts. Eagles fans have become accustomed to their coaches never running the ball. Andy Reid was pass-heavy, Doug Pederson was pass-heavy, and Nick Sirianni up till this week was very pass-heavy. But today they leaned heavily on the run. The Eagles attempted only 16 passes, compared to the Eagles 46 rush attempts. And it worked. The Eagles’ offense moved the ball all game and they eclipsed 200 rushing yards before the 4th quarter. It is also the first time since 2013 they had 4 rushing TDS, and the first time since 2013 they beat the Lions.
Jalen Hurts got hit 0 times today, at least on passing attempts. Granted he had only 14 passing attempts. But that is the idea here. You had a struggling QB and a struggling O-line. Ask any o lineman and most will tell you they prefer run blocking. Letting the big guys be able to attack the defenders by running the ball helped an o line in flux finally get comfortable. It was the first time all year they gave up no sacks. The first time since week 1 they did not allow multiple sacks. And that is because of more than just a lack of chances to give up sacks. They were giving up a sack every 17 snaps coming into this game. Today in 16 passing downs they gave up 0, and no QB hits.
The Eagles committed only two penalties today. That now makes 4 straight weeks of 6 or fewer penalties, a huge improvement from averaging nearly 11 penalties a game in the first 4 weeks. Despite their poor play recently (before this game), the Eagles have silently fixed what was maybe their biggest problem earlier in the season. They are still the most penalized team in the league, but that says more about the first 4 weeks than it does their recent games. Nick Sirianni deserves blame for many things. But he also deserves some credit for fixing the penalty problem.
The Eagles meanwhile had 12 QB hits in the game, and 6 sacks. It was the first time they had 5+ sacks all season, and the first time they hit the Qb at least 10 times. Coming into the game they had only 34 QB hits. Meaning in this one game they accrued over a third of the total QB Hits they had across 7 games beforehand. The D line and pass rush was supposed to be the strength of this team. Until now, we had not seen that. Granted that is less their fault, and more the fault of the scheme. Jonathan Gannon used fewer blitzes than any team coming into this week. And even worse, he would sometimes use the D lineman as spies on the RB or QB, so at times there were only 3 pass rushers on a given play.
This week, he dialed up a few blitzes, and let the d lineman attack the QB. Big surprise, being even slightly aggressive paid dividends. Maybe Gannon should keep that up. Let his pass rushers actually rush the passer. Just an idea.
Hurts completed only one attempt over the middle of the field. Were this a one-game anomaly, we could write it off as being because of the lack of passes. But it is not. Because that one completion is only his 8th total, in 8 games. And in every other week, he does not have the excuse of not attempting many passes. It has become a disturbing trend that he will not throw over the middle of the field. In only one game did he attempt more than one throw over the middle, and that was vs the Chiefs where he attempted 3, one of which went for a TD. They got away with it today because it is the Lions. But he will not succeed as an NFL Qb if he keeps ignoring an entire portion of the field.