Just when you thought the Eagles were down and out, they managed to pull off a second half comeback to earn their second win of the season.
It was far from a perfect win — it got pretty ugly at some points — but the defense played their tails off and the offense responded by scoring late to ensure the victory.
Let’s get into some observations from this wild Week 5 game between the Eagles and Panthers.
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Gannon’s defense has their best performance of the year
Nobody needed this kind of performance more than Jonathan Gannon, who was under fire this week after his defense surrendered over 40 points in back-to-back games. His defense was the reason Philly won on Sunday.
Whenever you win the turnover battle and apply ample amounts of pressure on the opposing quarterback, you put yourself in a great position to win any ball game. And that’s exactly what Gannon’s defense did against Carolina. They ended up recording three interceptions and three sacks.
The defensive line, a unit that had underperformed for much of the year, came alive on Sunday. Javon Hargrave is continuing his All-Pro-type season, recording a sack and six pressures. Fletcher Cox and Josh Sweat got in on the action, notching one sack a piece. And even Derek Barnett made an impact, totaling six quarterback pressures on the day.
Because of the pressure up front, the backend of the Eagles was able to capitalize on some errant throws from Sam Darnold. Darius Slay, someone who received a lot of slack this week from the Eagles fanbase, had his best game in midnight green. He finished the day with two interceptions and allowed just 22 yards on six targets in coverage. That’s the first time an Eagles corner has had multiple interceptions in a game since Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did it against Cleveland on opening day of 2011. Steven Nelson got in on the action too with his game clinching INT at the end of the game.
Aside from the linebacker position (more on that later), this defense played lights out in Week 5. Kudos to Gannon for getting his guys ready to play. They do have the talent to continue this kind of play, now it’ll be up to Gannon to make sure they do that.
An up-and-down day from Hurts
Jalen Hurts deserves credit for the resiliency he showed in the second half of Sunday’s game. He looked bad for most of the afternoon, making the same mistakes were accustom to seeing. Poor accuracy, odd decisions, holding onto the ball too long, not seeing the whole field, you know the story by now. But to his credit, none of that mattered when push came to shove at the end of the game.
He finished the day with 198 passing yards, two rushing touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 59.4%, and a passer rating of 62.7. Pretty bad on paper, but the team rallied around him and he made plays when it mattered most. His bomb to Quez Watkins at the end of the third quarter was a game changer, the two-point conversion to extend the lead to three was huge, and his rushing first down on the final drive sealed the victory.
In our evaluations of Hurts, it’s important that we address some of the issues even when the team wins. But ultimately, winning is what matters most in this league and Hurts plays at his best when the game’s on the line.
DeVonta Smith continues to impress
This wasn’t DeVonta Smith’s best game as a rookie — he finished with seven receptions for 77 yards — but it’s the type of game that showed what the youngster is truly made of. After dropping one pass and fumbling it at an inopportune time, he continued to see targets and he continued to make plays. He didn’t hang his head, he didn’t compound his issues. He shrugged them off and looked ahead to the next play.
Not many rookies have that kind of makeup. Smith clearly does.
Even with some of his mistakes, Smith continues to prove that he’s the best pass catcher on the team. He saw the most targets of any receiver or tight end with eight and he hauled in both of his contested catches on the day. As I expected heading into the season, Smith’s weight is not getting in the way of his production. He fights for extra yards almost every time he touches the ball and he’s not getting bullied by any corner he faces.
The kid is a baller and you can’t help but be excited about his future here.
Davion Taylor needs to start
The linebackers continued to be an issue on Sunday, but the defensive line and secondary were good enough to mitigate any shortcomings there. But I did like what I saw out of second-year backer Davion Taylor.
He played a career-high 24 snaps on Sunday and recorded four tackles. Given the abysmal state of the Eagles linebacking room, there’s no reason to keep the training wheels on Taylor. He clearly has the most physical talent of any linebacker on the team, and he’s worlds ahead of where he was last year on the mental side of the game.
He just seems more comfortable out there, which is a great sign for a young player. Taylor knows where he has to be and he has enough talent to capitalize whenever he’s in position to make a play.
I’m hoping Gannon actually starts Taylor moving forward, but my guess is they’ll up his playing time gradually each week before straight up starting him.
Sirianni’s play calling was questionable
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse at this point, but the unbalanced nature of the Eagles play calling is becoming more and more frustrating. Getting the W will certainly quiet the criticism a bit this week, but Nick Sirianni still needs to be better with his play calling.
In the first half, the Eagles dropped back to pass 29 time and called just four designed running plays. Why? Why are you throwing the ball that much when the game is close and your quarterback is still a developing passer? The Panthers ranked 23rd in run defense heading into this contest, there was no reason to abandon the running game early on.
We all saw what happened when Sirianni finally decided to run it in the fourth quarter — when the panthers knew they were going to run it, mind you. The team had seven carries for 42 yards in the final 15 minutes or regulation.
In order for this offense to succeed consistently, the running game needs to more of a focal point. Not sure if/when Sirianni will finally make that commitment, but it needs to happen ASAP.