Eagles notes: Jalen Hurts answers the call, manages the game’s versatility, and more

Well, you can all breathe again.


The Eagles once again nearly blew up a big lead, but a brutal fourth-quarter drive and some timely defense added a 26-17 win over the hated Cowboys at Link.

MORE: The Eagles’ Overreact: Why That’s a Good Win, Not a Huge Win

The Eagles go into farewell week 6-0, with one win short of the best start in franchise history—the 7-0 start for the 2004 team. They remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL. They remain number one in the NFC East. They remain the best team in football.

Lots of deep breaths.

1. The biggest benefit of this game is how tough Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has shown by making a comeback in this football game when he was in terrible pain after sustaining a hand injury in the third quarter. Not many players return to the game. Suffering an injury like that, you’re in the locker room or on the sidelines. Not only was Gardner Johnson back in the game, he made another huge play with his second game interception and third in the past two weeks, and it was a miracle dive as he had to get his hands – including that injured hand – under the soccer ball to secure INT and lock up the win with 5 left: 16. What a daring performance for a guy who wasn’t even here after training camp. For me, this play represents that team. It is not about yourself. It’s about the team. And nobody showed more on that Sunday night than Gardner Johnson.

2. This Cowboys defense was the biggest challenge Galen Hurts faced in his young career, wow, did he ever answer. That’s really a big defense that came to Link on Sunday. Hertz was in command from start to finish despite being under siege for most of the second half. He made all the throws, made the right decision every moment, never made any big mistakes again, and really took exactly what was given to him. He didn’t impose anything and saw the pitch incredibly well. He is very calm when there is chaos around him, and his colleagues feed on this. He’s playing the game at such a high mental level right now, and he has the physical ability to carry out what he wants to do. Hurts finished 15-for-25 for 155 yards with two passing TDs, never had a turn again and a 104.6 pass rating—the highest so far this year against the Cowboys. Hurts has now won nine in a row for the regular season, and that’s probably the most impressive.

3. The 75-yard, 13-game landing lead that gave the Eagles some breathing room in the middle of the fourth quarter was an absolute masterpiece. The 20-point lead dwindled to three, the Cowboys had just put on two long TD drives, the Eagles hit six yards in the first two innings of the second half, and the crowd at Link was choppy, Lynne Johnson and Don Dickerson alike. Well, go to the score. And they did. I really liked the driving concept, which was to run, sprint, and run more with all three backs and with Hurts – 10 of the first 11 drive passes were run – and then hit them with two passes, 22 yards from Hurts to Brown and 7 yards TD to Smith allowing Everyone start breathing a little. There was a lot of action against the Eagles on that ride, but the o-line opened up some nice holes for the rider’s back, and Hurts made two big throws at the end. The largest driving year.

4. I love the way Shen Steichen mixed his appearances. Boston Scott got his first carry, then Miles Sanders got one, then Kenny Jenwell got two in a row, including a big nine yards. These three guys then took turns throughout the match, and they all made plays. And if we don’t know who’s going to get the ball next, the Cowboys surely don’t. All three running backs feature different sizes, shapes, and skill sets, and each method can be unpredictable and make you more difficult to defend. Sanders ran hard and finished 18 for 71 with a touchdown, Gainwell was 5 for 25, and Scott added 16 yards on six gigs. She adds up to 136 yards in 39 carries against a very strong defense. The Eagles have three talented backs, and Stitchen made sure they all contributed.

5. The one thing that really allowed the Cowboys back into the game was the Eagles’ inability to slow down the Cowboys’ running game. The Cowboys, like the opening game Lions, continued to run the ball, even after they trailed by a couple touchdowns. And the eagles could not stop them. This has been surprisingly poor defense all year long – they got into the game and allowed 5.0 yards per carry – top 25 in the league – and the Cowboys took advantage of that. They knew they couldn’t throw consistently against that pass defense, not with Cooper Rush. Their only chance was to keep running, and it almost worked. The Cowboys averaged 5.2 yards on 26 gigs, and they made Ezekiel Elliott look like 2016 again. There is no excuse for the Eagles to be that bad against running. Not with this defensive front.

6. One thing this game did was remind everyone how amazing Lyn Johnson was because as soon as he left with a concussion in the second quarter, the Eagles really started struggling to attack. Jack Driscoll is a very versatile and effortless guy, but he’s no Lynne Johnson, and we saw that on Sunday night. With Johnson out, the Eagles had trouble protecting Hertz. Fortunately, the Eagles are saying goodbye next weekend and you think he’ll be back for the Steelers in a couple of weeks. But with him, there is no way the cowboys will return in this game.

7. Special teams are still this team’s Achilles heel, allowing Kafontay Turpin to return from 60 yards that set up the Cowboys’ goal at halftime. So far this year, a field goal for the Eagles has been banned, they allowed the fake ball to be hit first on the 4th and 6th, committed a personal foul on a field goal and now allowed the kick to return for 60 yards. Just unforgivable things. On top of shaky return games. So far, these misses haven’t cost the Eagles a win, but that’s bad. If Michael Clay can’t fix it, Sirianni needs to find a special teams coach who can.

8. The one thing the Eagles did well that served them well was not allowing big matches. They allowed four games from 25 yards in the opening game in Detroit and only allowed five games in five games since – none on Sunday night. They actually allowed three 30-yard games all year. This doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does make it difficult for teams to score against you.

9. I can’t overstate just how huge the Eagles’ win over Dallas was. Just to find a way. It doesn’t matter how it happened. I know Sirianni doesn’t want to talk about it, and I understand that. He always wants his buddies to focus on the next actor, the next practice, and all that. But the Eagles have lost seven of their nine to Dallas, seven of the last 10 at Link and 22 of the last 35 in total to their biggest opponent, and they’ve swept them twice in the last 17 years. So this is huge. Just to get over the mental hump. Just to prove they can do it. Just to let the Cowboys know they don’t have an Eagles number. You can’t be the best team in football if you aren’t the best team in your league, and the Eagles showed Sunday night that they are still the best team in football.

10. Suddenly, the Eagles not only had the best record in the NFL, but they’re about to really put the clamps down in the race for the #1 seed in the NFC. Because they’re sitting here at 6-0 and only three other teams in the conference have winning records. And the eagles beat two of them. The Giants, the Vikings 5-1, the Cowboys 4-2, and the Eagles already have head-to-head victories over Minnesota and Dallas. Which makes the Giants the only team present in even a single match of the Eagles. They keep finding ways to win matches and have a legitimate defense and solid running game, but if they are the Eagles’ biggest competitors in the NFC, I love the Eagles’ chances of gaining an advantage on their home ground. Even more surprising is that the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants are combined 13-1 against teams other than each other. The Eagles and Giants don’t play until Week 14 at Link and then the final day of the season at MetLife. I still think the Cowboys are the second best team in the conference, but those Giants games are looming large now.

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