Roob’s Observations: Eagles have huge character win against Dolphins originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Once again, they had let a two-touchdown lead disappear. The franchise quarterback had just thrown a pick-6, his second damaging turnover of the game. The crowd at the Linc was getting skittish.
It seemed like it was all falling apart.
But this is the Nick Sirianni Eagles and they don’t fall apart.
Jalen Hurts got it together like he always does and put together late 75- and 83-yard TD drives, and the Eagles rolled past the Dolphins 31-17 at the Linc and on national TV Sunday night in a battle of high-flying 5-1 teams.
That record-setting Dolphins offense? They scored 10 points.
Big win. Huge win. Character win.
The Eagles are now 6-1 and still share the best record in the NFL.
Here’s tonight’s 10 Observations:
1. First, he called it on 4th-and-1 with 10 minutes left on the Eagles’ own 26-yard-line. Then he did it again on 4th-and-1 from the 37 with 8:10 left. Whatever the analytics say, it takes some serious guts to go for it on 4th down that deep inside your own territory, and you’ve got to give Nick Sirianni some serious credit for having so much trust in his offense to call those plays. We all know the combination of Jalen Hurts and this offensive line is virtually unstoppable on those keepers, but your own 26? Your own 37? If you fail, you’re giving one of the highest-powered offenses statistically in NFL history a short field. But Sirianni didn’t hesitate. And on the second one, it seemed like nobody on the offense even looked at the sideline. They just lined up and rammed it down the Dolphins’ throats. Brilliant offense takes a lot of different forms. Big plays, electrifying touchdowns, long runs. But the two biggest plays of all Sunday night with the whole world watching went a total of about 150 inches. And because of that, the Eagles are 6-1 and coming off one of their most impressive regular-season wins under Sirianni.
2. We talked about it during the week and I’m going to talk about it now, but one of Jalen Hurts’ best qualities – maybe his best – is his ability to shrug off adversity – turnovers, bad plays, losses – and figure things out. That pick-6 late in the third quarter was a terrible play, but what happens next? Hurts puts it behind him and drives the Eagles 75 yards in eight plays for a TD. Hurts had a 12-yard scramble for a first down and was 5-for-6 for 60 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown pass to A.J. Brown. Are the turnovers a concern? Sure. He’s already got 10 this year in seven games after committing just seven all last year. But every quarterback – every player, in any sport – is going to face adversity and Hurts’ ability to bounce back from it makes him dangerous no matter how bad things get, no matter ugly the game seems to be going, no matter how he’s playing. Hurts has now won five of six starts the week after a loss, and he hasn’t lost back-to-back games in more than two years. Hurts overcame a couple bad turnovers Sunday and made so many big plays down the stretch, finishing 23-for-31 (74 percent) for 279 yards with two passing TDs, one rushing TD and a 109.5 passer rating. It hasn’t always been pretty this year, but one thing we know is that Hurts will never stop battling, no matter what just happened.
3. Everybody said the best receiver in the NFL was going to be playing at the Linc Sunday night, and he was, and it wasn’t Tyreek Hill. OK, Hill is still having a better statistical season than A.J. Brown, and he’s a tremendous player, but what Brown is doing even the brilliant Hill has never done. Brown’s last five games: 131 yards, 175 yards, 127 yards, 131 yards, 137 yards. Are you kidding me? There were years the Eagles didn’t have one guy with 125 yards the entire season. Brown Sunday tied an NFL record with his fifth straight game with at least 125 yards, and he did it on national TV against one of the NFL’s best teams and he did when the Eagles needed it the most. Forget wide receivers. There are very few Eagles who have performed at this level this many weeks in a row. Quick in 1983. Reggie in 1987. Shady in 2013. Yes, Carson in 2017. The Eagles’ patchwork secondary did a really nice job on Hill, limiting him to 11 catches but for only 88 yards. After halftime, he was just 3-for-23. The Dolphins’ secondary? No chance against A.J. He’s just on another level right now. A level we’ve only seen a few times in Eagles history.
4. The Eagles’ defense has really been battling this year despite being undermanned every week, and it’s a credit to Sean Desai and his staff that they’ve kept the Eagles in every game despite relying on so many rookies, undrafted players, practice squad call-ups and street pickups. The one thing they haven’t done is create turnovers. Tough way to win. When Darius Slay picked off Tua Tagovailoa early in the fourth quarter Sunday night, the Eagles had gone 161 consecutive plays over parts of five games since their last takeaway – Jalen Carter’s forced fumble on Rachaad White in the third quarter of the Tampa game. That’s what made Slay’s INT so huge. As well as the defense has been playing, you don’t beat a high-flying record-setting offense like the Dolphins if you don’t take the ball away. Slay was covering Jaylen Waddle when he broke off his man and scooted in front of Raheem Mostert at the Eagles’ 1-yard-line and picked up his 28th career interception. His INT and 16-yard return got the Eagles started on a 78-yard TD drive that gave them a 14-point lead. Ballgame. This defense has been very good without takeaways. With them, they’re going to be outstanding.
5. The Dolphins came in averaging 37 points and 499 yards per game, among the highest marks in NFL history through six games. How did it go for them? They scored 17 but only 10 against the Eagles’ defense, and that includes an 11-yard field goal drive. They netted 244 total yards – less than half their season average. They managed just 12 first downs. They were 4-for-11 on third down. They had just 45 rushing yards. They allowed three sacks – as many as they had allowed in their three previous games combined. Eli Ricks. Josiah Scott. Sydney Brown. Zach Cunningham. Terrell Edmunds. Nolan Smith. This was a Sean Desai masterpiece.
6. Once again, D.K. McDonald and all the secondary coaches deserve so much credit for keeping this secondary playing at a high level – an incredibly high level Sunday night – despite injury after injury. It’s really remarkable that they just shut down a passing offense that’s been on historic pace, and they did it with one guy they just signed off the Steelers’ practice squad, one undrafted rookie free agent playing in his second career game, a safety who had played 16 career snaps before Sunday night and another safety who lost a starting job in training camp. James Bradberry and Darius Slay did their thing, and they were exceptional, Terrell Edmunds played as well as we’ve seen him play, and guys like Eli Ricks, Josiah Scott and Sydney Brown didn’t back down from the moment. The play Ricks made on Tyreek Hill on the Dolphins critical 4th down late in the fourth quarter was magnificent. That’s an undrafted rookie who had played 26 career defensive snaps before Sunday covering a receiver on pace for over 2,300 yards this year. This was without Reed Blankenship, without Bradley Robey, without Justin Evans, without Avonte Maddox. Incredible performance by the d-backs and the guy who got them prepared for this.