This team sure doesn’t make things easy. They built a 16-0 lead in New England last week and had to hang on the final seconds to get the win. And they built a 27-7 lead Thursday night at the Linc against the Vikings before once again hanging to win on the final minutes.
It’s not ideal. You’d like to see them turn these big early leads into big wins. You wouldn’t mind a blowout or two. But 2-0 is 2-0 and if this team ever puts it all together, they’re going to be really dangerous. Heck, they already are dangerous and they haven’t even played well yet.
Here’s our Instant Observations off the Eagles’ 34-28 win over the Vikings in the home opener at the Linc.
1. The Eagles haven’t played a complete game yet where all phases came together, they dominated on both sides of the ball and they recorded one of the blowouts that became commonplace last year. Yet here they are 2-0 for only the seventh time since 1994 (but the second year in a row). They’ll eventually get all their injured guys back on defense and they’ll eventually find their rhythm on offense. But the sign of a strong coach and a resilient team is winning when things aren’t ideal, and the Eagles have done that now twice in a row. There are definitely encouraging signs. Their ability to run the ball at will and control the clock. A couple big strikes down the field to DeVonta Smith. Forcing four turnovers. Stuffing the run. They clearly have a lot to figure out, but it’s a heck of a lot easier figuring things out when you’re 2-0 than when you’re 0-2.
2. This patchwork defense deserves so much credit for not buckling against a pretty high-powered passing attack despite losing player after player after player. The defense went into the game without James Bradberry, Nakobe Dean and Reed Blankenship then lost Avonte Maddox in the second quarter. That left them with three guys on defense who either had no career defensive snaps (Sydney Brown, Mario Goodrich), one who had never started a game (Josh Jobe), one who the Eagles just released 2 ½ weeks ago (Nicholas Morrow), one who wasn’t even with a team the first two weeks of training camp (Zack Cunningham), one who couldn’t win a starting job in camp (Terrell Edmunds) and one who probably shouldn’t have won a starting job in camp (Justin Evans). As well as two others playing in their second career game (Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith). It wasn’t always pretty, but they forced four turnovers leading to 10 points, never allowed the Vikings to get their running game going (9 carries for 28 yards) and did enough to win the game and considering who was missing and the lack of experience the Eagles had in the back seven, that’s quite an accomplishment. That speaks very highly of Sean Desai and his ability to get everybody on the roster ready.
3. I love how D’Andre Swift and the o-line just took over the game when the passing game was sputtering and the defense was on its heels. Swift was a beast in what was essentially his Eagles debut, with 28 carries for 175 yards and a touchdown, plus that monster 43-yard gain in the closing minutes to set up his breathe-easier touchdown. It was Swift’s work on that 16-play second-quarter drive that really jump started the offense when the passing game was a mess, Hurts looked shaky and the offense was sputtering. So Nick Sirianni and Brian Johnson just decided to hammer the ground attack until the Vikings stopped it, and they never did. The Eagles finished with an 19-minute time-of-possession edge thanks to 47 rushing attempts for 259 yards and three rushing TDs – two by Hurts and the clincher by Swift. Honestly, I was starting to wonder about Johnson’s ability to get the offense playing with any sort of identity, but on a day when the Eagles had just 171 net passing yards and Hurts got sacked four times, it was the running game that saved the day. And let’s not forget the work that Boston Scott did, with 5-for-40 before he was forced out of the game. This was the Eagles’ 2nd-most rushing yards since 2015 and 15th-most in the last 40 years. At some point, the Eagles are going to have to get the passing game going. But they’ve found their way to 2-0 without it.
4. Speaking of Swift, I was super impressed with the way he ran and it’s hard to imagine this is a guy the Eagles only gave one carry last week – well into the fourth quarter. Swift ran with tremendous vision and power, reading the holes, hitting them decisively and then powering his way for extra yards after contact. Swift finished with 170 rushing yards on 25 carries in what was essentially his Eagles debut. The Eagles piled up 252 total rushing yards and with the passing game sputtering much of the night they needed every one of them. Swift and that big o-line were the key to all of it. Watching Swift Thursday night, it’s hard to imagine this is a guy who didn’t get a carry until the middle of the fourth quarter last week and had just one the entire game. Swift played like a superstar Thursday night. Without his production, the Eagles don’t win this game.
5. There were moments the Eagles got some very good pressure Thursday night, but just like Sunday in New England they were facing a battered offensive line riddled with subs and they really weren’t able to finish as much as you’d like. I thought this was going to be a six- or seven-sack night – I thought that Sunday too. But it just hasn’t happened. The Eagles had two sacks against the Patriots and two against the Vikings, and the defensive front is the one area that doesn’t have any injuries and doesn’t have any excuses. This is a front that averaged over 4 sacks per game last year and they have four through two games. This team is only going to be as good as its front four, and so far they’ve been OK but not great. With an offense that’s out of sync and an injury-riddled back seven, the Eagles need more from the best unit on the field.
6. I still don’t think Jalen Hurts looks quite right, and those two big throws to DeVonta Smith sure looked like the Jalen of old – 54 yards (though a little underthrown) and then 63 for a TD – but other than that he threw 21 times for 76 yards, was sacked four times for 22 yards, averaged under 3.3 yards per carry (not counting the two one-yard TDs) and for the second week just never got into any sort of rhythm. Other than the two deep balls to Smith, the passing game generated 54 net passing yards. To get to 2-0 with Hurts looking pedestrian is impressive. But for this team to accomplish anything this year, it’s no secret Hurts has to be special and so far he hasn’t. Hurts hasn’t been awful. But he hasn’t been the Jalen Hurts we’ve all expected this year, and It’s up to Nick Sirianni, Brian Johnson, Alex Tanney and Hurts himself to figure out why the consistency is missing and how to get it back.
7. From three minutes left in the third quarter until four minutes into the third quarter, the Eagles had two completed passes and scored 24 points.
8. Welcome back to the Jake Elliott Appreciation Society. Elliott’s 61-yarder at the end of the second quarter was huge, giving the Eagles a six-point halftime lead and capping a brief six-play, 37-yard drive after Justin Jefferson fumbled out of the end zone. Credit to Nick Sirianni and Brian Johnson for being aggressive in that situation – 1st-and-10 on their own 20 with 34 seconds left – and not just taking a knee and being content to go into the locker room up three. Elliott did miss a 55-yard kick earlier in the game, but he’s now made kicks of 56 yards or more in back-to-back games. He has as many field goals in a five-day period as every Eagles kicker not named Jake Elliott combined in franchise history. He’s only the fifth kicker in NFL history to make multiple 61-yard field goals at any point in their career – and he’s never missed from 61 and out. What a weapon.