The Philadelphia Eagles sit atop the NFL with an 8-1 record, but the fan base isn’t satisfied. They’ve seen prolific passing performances from Jalen Hurts. They’ve seen key swing plays from defensive players like Josh Sweat and Reed Blankenship.

They’re also the most passionate and demanding fan base in professional sports, and anything short of a Super Bowl standard means serious skepticism.

NFL Swing Plays

The “game of inches” cliche applied to Philadelphia’s Week 9 victory against the Dallas Cowboys as much as any NFL game you’ll see. Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense repeatedly left points on the field.

It was the type of ugly performance that characterized the first half of the 2023 NFL season.

The Eagles have been careless in some aspects of the game, but they’ve avoided fatal mistakes affecting the standings remarkably better than the rest of the league. Turnovers have been a serious problem. Jalen Hurts threw more interceptions through seven games than during the entire 2022 season.

However, the Eagles are still 17th in the NFL with a -2 turnover differential. They’re 18th in giveaways at the virtual midpoint of the season with plenty of room for improvement.

Nick Sirianni Has Eagles Atop the NFL

The scrutiny of the Eagles and their 8-1 record has merit. It doesn’t account for their ability to make game-changing plays with wins and losses on the line, however.

Nick Sirianni is 31-12 in his third season as an NFL head coach. He consistently emphasizes attention to detail and fundamental football in areas of the game that require no talent.

First glance suggests the Eagles haven’t played clean games. An accurate measure of the rest of the league and closer examination says otherwise. Two replay reviews, a Josh Sweat sack, and game-breaking efforts from Reed Blankenship made the difference in the first half of the season.

The game-changing plays helped cover the reality that Jalen Hurts handed one game away. Sirianni attempts to calculate every possible situation that can occur in an NFL game, whether it be a catch on the sidelines or avoiding a replay review. The scrutiny has shown in the standings because his competition simply doesn’t master the smallest details in the same way as the Eagles.

Sirianni coaches a winning team among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl. Their strengths in game-changing play should inspire confidence in their ability to repeat as conference champions and avenge the loss in Super Bowl LVII.

5 Critical Plays That Defined the First Half of the 2023 Season

  • Week 1: Eagles 25, New England Patriots 20

    The Eagles led 25-14 with under four minutes to play in Foxborough in Week 1. They should’ve put the game away, but a late touchdown and an untimely Jalen Hurts fumble kept the Patriots alive. Mac Jones had a chance to make the Eagles pay with a game-winning drive.

    The Patriots faced a fourth-and-11 from the Philadelphia 20-yard line with 29 seconds remaining. Jones hit Kayshon Boutte on the sideline to beat fill-in cornerback Josh Jobe for a critical first down, or so it seemed.

    A replay review showed that the rookie playing his first NFL game failed to drag his feet correctly to secure the catch. The Eagles took possession and escaped Foxborough with a 1-0 record.

  • Week 4: Eagles 34, Washington Commanders 31

    The Washington Commanders had a chance to put the Eagles away in regulation. They stormed down the field trailing by seven to score on the final play of regulation. Ron Rivera conservatively chose to give the struggling Philadelphia defense a break instead of attempting a two-point conversion. An extra point sent the game to overtime.

    Washington won the coin toss and took the ball to begin overtime. Sam Howell hit Terry McLaurin on a third-and-5 to move the ball into Philadelphia territory. However, McLaurin didn’t get his second foot in bounds. He stepped on the forearm of Reed Blankenship and slid out of bounds for a failed third-down conversion.

    The Eagles took the ball back and won on a field goal by Jake Elliott. For the second time in four games, a replay review overturned a key conversion that could’ve sunk the Eagles.

  • Week 6: New York Jets 20, Eagles 14

    The New York Jets struggled to move the ball all afternoon against a team they hadn’t beaten in their franchise history. The Eagles held the ball at the two-minute warning with a chance to put the Jets away. Jalen Hurts committed a costly turnover that blew a chance to put his opponent away for the second time in six games.

    Tony Adams intercepted a careless Hurts pass and returned it to the Philadelphia eight-yard line.

    The Jets scored and shut down the Eagles on the final drive.

  • Week 7: Eagles 38, Washington Commanders 31

    It had only been four weeks since Washington gave the Eagles a scare in Philadelphia. However, Sam Howell torched the Eagles secondary once again for a career day. Hurts matched the dynamic performance to tie the score 24-24 in the fourth quarter.

    Howell made the mistake that flipped the game with eight minutes remaining. Reed Blankenship picked off the second-year signal caller and returned the ball inside the Washington 10-year line.

    The Eagles scored in two plays to take a lead they never gave back.

  • Week 9: Eagles 28, Dallas Cowboys 23

    The Eagles asked for the Cowboys to steal a game at Lincoln Financial Field with an attempted self-destruct in the final minutes. First, A.J. Brown mistakenly ran into D’Andre Swift to force a critical fumble with 1:07 remaining. The Eagles didn’t accept a fortunate recovery to finish the game.

    They committed three penalties for a total of 56 yards to hand Dallas a first-and-goal from the six-yard line with 27 seconds left. Josh Sweat didn’t plan on allowing a game-winning touchdown. A false start penalty backed up the Cowboys, and Sweat sacked Dak Prescott for an 11-yard loss to force the Cowboys outside the red zone.

    The costly sack took Dallas out of range for what looked like it would be an easy score against a porous secondary. The 8-1 Eagles took a commanding lead in the NFC East.

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