EAGLES DEFENSE RUINS THE RETURN OF DOUG PEDERSON
Eagles safety K'Von Wallace on his comment last week that the Eagles D-Line was made up of hunters who are "Up front to eat." Did they live up to his evaluation against Jacksonville?
“Did they eat?” It was a feast! Like it was Thanksgiving or something! Oh my Lord!
If there was any doubt the 2022 version of the Philadelphia Eagles is the real thing, those doubts were eased quite a bit after the Birds stormed back from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to defeat the up-and-coming Jacksonville Jaguars 29-21 at windy, soggy Lincoln Financial Field.
The victory improved the Eagles record to 4-0 and while continuing to turn heads in every corner of NFL Nation.
It also ruined the return of former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who led the Birds to the only Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Pederson was asked what it was like to be back in Philadelphia:
“It was great. It was a great crowd," he said. "A great welcome. It was good.”
Pederson was a busy man before and after the say hello and shaking hands with his former players and coaches as well as team officials and media members. Was anyone that he didn’t get a chance to talk to before the game?
“It was my normal routine, just seeing guys," Pederson said. "At the end of the day I have a job to do and get the Jags ready to play. It was good to see a lot of people. When you spend as much time here as we did, do the things we did, it was good to see a lot of people.”
Pederson was asked if being in the stadium brought back any memories:
“Once the game started, no," he said. "It’s just a fact that you’re looking with a little different perspective on the other sideline. Obviously I spent a lot of time in that stadium. The fans were great today as expected. Just unfortunate for us.”
Eagles prized offseason acquisition, pass rusher Haason Reddick had a coming out party with an All Pro stat that included two sacks, a tackle for loss, four tackles (all solo), a quarterback hit, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
The former Temple standout talked about the grit the team showed in coming back the way they did.
“It just shows who we are,” Reddick said. “They got up on us early. Nobody waivered, though. Nobody flinched. ‘Everybody, let’s go.’ Let’s keep going. We’ve got them, and that’s exactly what we did. We kept our heads down and continued to work. Played ourselves back into the game, took the lead and got the ‘W’ today.”
Jacksonville (2-2) took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Jalen Hurts, on the Eagles first drive, threw into coverage on a second-and-seven at their own 36–yard line. The result was a tipped ball, meant for wide receiver Zach Pascal ended up a Jaguars 59-yard pick-six for Jaguars free safety Andre Cisco.
The Eagles next drive stalled at their 47-yard line.
Jaguars second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence looked everything like the a No. 1 overall pick in 2021 as he drove Jacksonville 80 yards on eight plays, ending with a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jamal Agnew to go up 14-0.
The Eagles though, through a determined ground game and a more focused Hurts, scored 20 consecutive points to take a 20-14 at the half.
The Birds scored on a Hurts three-yard run, a 10-yard run by Miles Sanders and a 10-yard run by Kenneth Gainwell.
Under extreme weather conditions, Jake Elliott missed the extra point on Gainwell’s touchdown.
Continuing a bad trend from over the last two games, the Eagles did not score in the third quarter.
But the Eagles defense, which is becoming more and more physical every week, wasn’t having it.
The Eagles were holding on to a 20-14 lead with 9:42 left in the third when Lawrence appeared to be leading Jacksonville on what looked like a go-ahead score.
On a second and seven at the Eagles 16-yard line, veteran cornerback James Bradberry, in his first season as an Eagle, intercepted Lawrence at the seven-yard line and returned it five yards to the Birds 12-yard line with 4:17 left in the third.
It took until the 13:45 mark of the fourth quarter, but the Birds drove 78-yards on 11 plays to go up 23-14 when Elliott connected on a 28-yard field goal.
Elliott had hit a 43-yarder with two seconds left in the third, but a roughing the kicker penalty was called on cornerback Tyson Campbell. Nick Sirianni decided to take the points off the board in an effort to score a touchdown, but the drive stalled at the Jaguars ten-yard line.
THE JAGS HAD NO ANSWER FOR THE EAGLES IN THE TRENCHES
The Eagles defense was relentless throughout the entire game and especially at crunch time.
On the Jaguars next drive, Reddick sacked Lawrence, causing a fumble that he recovered at the Jags 24-yard line.
Led by their offensive line that had lost two starters – left tackle Jordan Mailata (shoulder) and Isaac Seumalo (ankle) – to injury during the game, pounded out a six-play drive the culminated with a Sanders five –yard touchdown, his second of the game, and give the Birds a 29-14 lead they would not relinquish.
The Jags final touchdown came with 7:26 left in the fourth when Lawrence led Jacksonville on a six-play 68-yard drive, highlighted by a 45-yard completion from Lawrence to Christian Kirk. The drive ended with an eight-yard TD pass from Lawrence to Agnew, his second of the game.
The Eagles front seven pounded Lawrence all afternoon in the wind and rain.
The 6-foot-6, 220 pounder out of Clemson, was 11 of 23 for 174 yards, two touchdown passes, and an interception.
The 22-year-old signal called was sacked four times for 26-yards in losses and lost four fumbles.
Last week, Eagles safety K’Von Wallace told Footballstories he looked at the Bird defensive line as a group that “goes up there to hunt and eat.”
After the game, Wallace was asked if this was the result he meant to happen.
“Did they eat?” Wallace said with a laugh. “It was a feast! Like it was Thanksgiving or something! Oh my Lord! They were on a hunt, they did that ‘Mission Impossible! They were everywhere! But that’s the capability of this defense.”
The Eagles defense performed well despite losing Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay early in the game to a forearm injury. He did not return to the game.
Slay was seen at his locker after the game with a wrap on his arm, but no news on his status was disclosed after the game.
Jack Driscoll played in place of Mailata and Sua Opeta came in for Seumalo.
HURTS LEADS TEAM DESPITE NOT-SO GREAT STATS
Hurts’ role as a leader was never better than it was Sunday at the Linc. The conditions were tough. 30-mile-an-hour winds all afternoon under a steady rain.
And he still completed 64 percent of his passes (Lawrence completed 47.8 percent)
The 24-year-old was 16 of 25 for 204 yards, no touchdown passes and one interception. Hurts was sacked twice for 13 yards of losses.
Hurts admitted after the game that Eagles needed to start scoring points in the second half.
Sunday, the Eagles defense caused so many Jacksonville turnovers, it almost made it impossible for the offense not to put up points.
“That makes me think about how we’ve played in the second half in the first quarter of this season,” Hurts said. “And my answer to the lack of points in the second half has always been we just have to execute.
“We just have to do our job, control what we can, execute and do our job. That’s the mentality that we have as a football team regardless of the circumstance…down 14-0, you control what you can, do your job, execute, dominate your box individually and you tend to do good things.
“I think today this team didn’t flinch. We found a way, we didn’t flinch; we persevered. We were unwavering with how we played; nothing was able to deny us.
“I’m so proud of how this team played, how we handled the conditions outside – you have crosswinds going 20-30 miles per hour – it’s in the 50s and it’s raining sideways. We were pretty efficient in everything that we did. That’s a great team win.”
OFFENSIVE LINE PUTS ON A DISPLAY OF DEPTH
Despite losing 40 percent of its starters, the O-line still helped Miles Sanders and company rush for 210 yards as a team on 50 carries (4.2 yards per carry).
Sanders led the way with 134 yards on 27 carries and two scores. Hurts finished with 38 yards on 16 carries.
The Birds were without the services of Boston Scott who was injured and was not active.
A.J. Brown led the receivers with 95 yards on five receptions, tight end Dallas Goedert caught five passes for 72 yards and DeVonta Smith had three catches for 17 yards.
Driscoll says he gets practice reps at both tackle spots as well as right guard. He said getting reps against players like Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham helps a lot.
The O-line room will probably have as many players get injured as any on the team during the season. Driscoll talked about the process of staying ready to roll.
“With Andre (Dillard) going out early in the year, I’ve been trying to get as many reps as I can in practice,” said Driscoll, now in his third season with the Eagles. “It’s different when you get thrown into a game, but coach Stout (OL coach Jeff Stoutland) does a great job of getting me ready. I work with guys…Jordan (Mailata) show me things I need to improve on…so it’s been good. Whatever position the team needs, I just go in and do my best.
“Anything can happen at any place,” Driscoll continued. “In a way, it was better it happened early, rather than just sitting around for a half and then go in.”
Left guard Landon Dickerson talked about the expectations this group has regardless if the player is a starter or backup.
“I was really happy,” Dickerson said. “We have a standard we expect every guy to play to. Like Driscoll coming in the game, Sua coming in the game. I think they did a phenomenal job being able to come in and continue to play at that level.”
Last year the Eagles ran the ball and no one could stop them. The Birds were No. 1 in rushing and are the No. 1 team in rushing after Week four.
With the poor weather conditions, being able to run the ball at will gave the Eagles a big advantage. Jacksonville rushed for just 71 yards on 19 carries as a team.
Dickerson was asked how important it was to keep the aspect of the Eagles offense.
“I think it means a lot,” said Dickerson, who injuries throughout his college career at Florida State and Alabama caused him to drift to the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. “I think the guys we have in that room are phenomenal in what they do. I mean (Jason) Kelce, Lane (Johnson), Isaac (Seumalo), Jordan (Mailata)…it’s great to play with these guys. They play at such a high level. Everything about them. They do great things…not just them, but the guys who come in and play (as backups).
“They’ve done a phenomenal job of just being about to execute whatever needs to be done, whatever coach wants to do. We have expectations we are going to execute no matter what the game plan is.”
Great news for Eagles fans, not so good for the rest of the league. *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org