It wasn’t quite how Nick Sirianni drew it up, but we could probably apply that statement to every game this season. The Philadelphia Eagles walked into this matchup on the heels of a huge win over the Kansas City Chiefs. They come out of this afternoon’s clash with Buffalo victorious once more, moving to 10-1 on the season.
Not the start we wanted
In what feels like a predictable trend, things started out sluggishly on offense. 3 passing plays in a row kicked things off, and 3 incompletions followed. The designs were all long-developing, which is beyond risky when you remember that the Bills ranked 2nd in sacks coming into this game, and Lane Johnson was out with a groin injury.
Discipline was another issue. The Eagles sustained 4 consecutive penalties in a drive late in the first quarter, but were somehow outdone by the Bills who recorded the most first quarter penalties of any team this year.
There wasn’t much to choose between the two teams early and that would remain the case despite all the twists and turns that followed.
Time to make the adjustments
As halftime approached, it was clear that offensive coordinator Brian Johnson would be under the microscope. QB Jalen Hurts has completed 4/11 passes for 33 yards and an interception, and was pressured on 57% of his dropbacks. Clearly, the offense missed Lane Johnson, but they were also missing any kind of heart and soul to lean on. The run-game was inconsistent, and the passing plays were flat-out confusing at the best of times.
The Eagles walked out of the tunnel down 17-7. This is an important score because for those paying attention at home, Jalen Hurts now holds the NFL record for consecutive wins when his team is trailing by 10+ points. That number stood today at 7, and would eventually rise to 8 after the offense received a jolt of electricity at halftime.
D’Andre Swift burst out of the gate with intent, as did his fellow running backs. This finally opened things up for Jalen Hurts to confidently sling it to his receivers. DeVonta Smith was the first beneficiary of this, hauling in a HUGE 34-yard pass as the 3rd quarter started to close. He then caught another pass to put the cherry on the cake and record his second touchdown in 3 weeks.
Turning up the temperature
On defense, things also picked up. Tyler Bass missed a Buffalo Field Goal, and James Bradberry would make up for the secondary’s earlier woes with a huge interception to start the fourth quarter. Now trailing by just 3 points, the Eagles started to rally.
Olamide Zaccheaus was the star of the next offensive drive, hauling in an outrageous touchdown catch that saw him adapt massively for Jalen Hurts, who put it right where only he could grab it. That was his second touchdown of the year, but by far the most important as the Eagles took the lead for the first time all game.
Hurts completed all 6 passes that drive in what was clearly a sign of things to come.
The Bills responded by running the ball with malicious intent. The aim was to run down the clock as much as possible and leave the Eagles with next to no time to respond. Gabe Davis delivered a punch to the stomach, bullying Christian Elliss on a touchdown grab and giving the Eagles offense an almighty task of clawing their way back up the field and scoring a field goal to tie, or a touchdown to win.
Two poor penalties from Jason Kelce and a sloppy offensive drive later, Jake Elliott cemented himself as arguably the greatest Eagles kicker of all time by nailing yet another monster field goal. This time, a 59-yard stinger to save the game.
He is HIM
Was there ever going to be another outcome after that moment? The Eagles defense did what it had to do (despite coming close to giving it away), and gave Jalen Hurts and the offense a chance to prove whyAP Photo/Matt Slocum they are the best in the league.
After marching down the field, Jalen Hurts took it upon himself to rush the ball into the endzone from 12-yards out in defiant fashion to extend that fabled streak to 8, and give the Eagles their 10th win of the year.
The Eagles are now halfway through ‘the gauntlet’ and have knocked off the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Bills. If they’re not the best team in Football, I don’t know who is.
Next up, they’ll face their likely opponents in the NFC Championship Game, the San Francisco 49ers.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum