With just six games to go, the Eagles find themselves right in the thick of the NFC playoff race. They’ve won three out of their last four and they’ve just won back-to-back games for the first time in 2021 after besting the Saints at home.
The team is finding their stride at the right time and they could realistically ride it all the way to the postseason. At 5-6, the Eagles control their own playoff destiny, and that’s all you can really ask for in any professional sport.
Let’s get into some of the major takeaways from the Eagles first home win of the season.
An absolute dominant rushing performance from the offense
242 rushing yards on 50 attempts (4.8 YPC) on a defense of the Saints’ caliber is truly remarkable. New Orleans was allowing just under 66 rushing yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry heading into this game. The Eagles have now firmly cemented themselves as the best rushing team in the league. And frankly, it’s not close.
It all starts with the big guys up front, who have just played outstandingly over the past few weeks. They are all run blockers at heart and they absolutely dominated the best run stopping defensive front in football. They were literally tossing grown men around on Sunday. It was a joy to watch.
With Miles Sanders back in the fold, the Eagles backfield is the most lethal it’s been all season. Sanders, Jordan Howard, and Boston Scott combined for 173 yards on 32 carries (5.4 YPC). And of course, Jalen Hurts adds an element to this rushing attack that makes it damn near impossible to stop. He found the end zone three times on Sunday, and his final one all but sealed the victory for the Eagles.
Nick Sirianni isn’t running some out of the box, complicated offensive scheme here. It’s smash mouth, my guys against your guys football. The Eagles are simply better up front than nearly every defensive front they’ll see this season. The backfield has a trio of backs that all do something exceptionally well. And to top things off, you have an elite running quarterback under center making the whole thing go.
If the Saints can’t stop the Eagles rushing attack, nobody can. Simple as that.
Darius Slay and T.J. Edwards lead a stellar defensive performance
Although Jonathan Gannon’s defense did allow three garbage time touchdowns in the fourth quarter, they were stellar throughout the first three quarters of the game. They caused three turnovers (two INTs and one fumble recovery) and held the Saints to under 50% on third down. Getting off the field and causing turnovers is the name of the game.
Slay may be on his way to an All-Pro selection at the end of the season. He’s played at an elite level over the past few weeks, finding the end zone three times in the past four games. Unreal. He joined Eric Allen as the only Eagles defenders to score at least three touchdowns in a season. It’s been over a decade since we’ve seen this kind of play at the cornerback position in Philadelphia and it’s such a luxury to have. It’s no coincidence that once Slay left the game New Orleans started to claw their way back.
As for Edwards, he continues to get better with each passing week. He once again led the defense in tackles with 10 and he snatched his first interception of the season. Gannon’s unit has really taken a big step forward since Edwards’ insertion into the lineup. If he continues playing this way, he’ll more than likely be the starting linebacker heading into next season.
Jalen Hurts continuing to prove he’s a capable game manager
While Hurts has elite upside with his running ability, he wasn’t asked to do a whole lot with his arm on Sunday. Which to be clear, is exactly how this offense should operate. He completed just over half of his passing attempts and he only managed 147 yards through the air.
But that’s fine. The game should never be placed on his shoulders. Hurts has continued to take care of the football and make smart plays. He doesn’t take too many risks, which is a clear sign of his maturation into the game manager this offense needs.
I’d like to see the amount of hits he takes decrease a little bit, but those are the only risky plays he’s been making in recent weeks.
As long as Hurts continues to provide the production on the ground while taking good care of the football, this offense will continue to run at an efficient pace. He’s becoming an integral part of this offense.
Eagles are 3-1 since Sirianni’s flower comments
Nick Sirianni deserves a lot of credit for how far this team has come over the past month or so. The Philly media was ready to run him out of town after he made his now infamous flower metaphor, but his team has clearly responded and they’re playing the best football we’ve seen in a couple of seasons.
At the end of the day, whatever we think of Sirianni doesn’t matter. If the players are still buying what he’s selling, he’s doing his job. That’s why we shouldn’t judge a head coach after eight games. Because even when the team was losing, the fight was still there. At no point has this team given up or thrown in the towel.
Whatever Sirianni is telling these guys behind closed doors is clearly working. And now he has his team right in the thick of things in the NFC playoff picture.
After securing this win over New Orleans, the Eagles are in prime position to make a playoff run. They have the easiest strength of schedule over the final month and a half of the season. They’ll play the Giants and Washington twice, along with the Jets and the Cowboys once. Combined, those teams have a .397 winning percentage.
As it stands, the Eagles are on the outside looking in. The Vikings and Saints currently hold the final two wildcard spots with 5-5 records, with the Niners and Eagles right on their tales at 5-5 and 5-6 respectively. New Orleans is in a tale spin right now, so they’ll likely fall out of that wildcard spot within the next few weeks.
The Eagles just need to continue playing the way they have been over the past month and they should make the postseason. The way they’re winning is sustainable and they have an easy schedule the rest of the way.
It feels good to be talking playoffs at this point in the season. And the best part, this isn’t just a pipe dream from the fanbase. They have a legitimate chance at reaching the postseason in 2021.