32-SECOND DRIVE AT THE HALF HELPS EAGLES KNOCK OFF RAMS
The Eagles again did not play their best game of the season on Sunday, but played well enough to knock off a talented Los Angeles Rams team 24-13 and improve to 5-0.
After the Cowboys (3-2) were drubbed by the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night, the Birds lead in the NFC East is now two full games.
Tight end Dallas Goedert led the Eagles with eight catches for 117 yards including a six-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts on the game’s opening drive.
The game-five totals more than doubled Goedert’s yardage totals for the season.
The former South Dakota State standout now has 21 receptions for 205 yards and one trip to the end zone after five games.
It appeared opposing teams were taking Goedert out of the offense over the first month of the season.
But the Eagles made sure their tight end was involved from the start. Goedert caught four passes for 45 yards in the opening drive.
"It was great to have some looks early, pop some pads, make some plays," Goedert said after the game. "I knew going in I might see the ball early and the defense reacted the way we thought it would. It was fun out there."
Hurts looked more like an MVP candidate Sunday going 25 of 38 for 303 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The fourth-year pro rushed 15 times for 72 yards and a “Tush Push” touchdown as time expired on the first half.
“I think everybody generally took advantage of their opportunities when their number was called,” Hurts said at his postgame press conference. “I think we can appreciate that as a team. We found a way to win today.”
The Eagles defense adjusted after the half. Keeping Los Angeles off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Rams All Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp – who was making his season debut after missing the first four games with an ankle injury - finished with eight catches for 118 yards.
But most of his production came in the first half when the Rams scored their only two touchdowns. Kupp was limited to 25 yards on two catches in the second half.
THE FINAL DRIVE OF THE FIRST HALF SEEMED TO RATTLE THE RAMS
The last drive of the first half was one for the ages.
The Rams had just finished off a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass from veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford to rookie sensation Makea Nacua to give the home team a 14-10 lead with 32-seconds left in the half.
Hurts and wide receiver A.J. Brown led a 75-yard drive that was highlighted with 38-yard one-handed, catch-and-run to Brown that had 15 yards tacked on after Rams cornerback Derion Kendrick used a horse collar grab to bring Brown to the ground.
From the LA 14-yard-line, and just seven seconds left, Hurts threw the ball to Brown in corner of the end zone. Kendrick was called for pass interference giving the Birds a first-and-goal from the one-yard line with two seconds left.
Hurts scored on the most effective and most controversial play this year in the NFL… the “Tush Push,” “Cheek Sneak,” or “Brotherly Shove.”
Whatever you want to call it, worked again giving the Eagles a 17-14 lead the visitors would never relinquish.
Stafford finished 21 of 37 for 222 yards and two TDs. He was not intercepted but was sacked four times, two by All Pro pass rushed Haason Reddick, who effectively ended the game with the second with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter.
The only scoring in the second half were two Jake Elliott field goals.
Hurts was asked about the 32-second drive and the two penalties called on the Rams.
“You always want to be aggressive,” Hurts said. “The moment you stop playing the game the way you want to play the game and being aggressive, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s just a matter of execution and trust. We did a job in that play. It helped us with that penalty they gave us. And they gave us another one in the red zone…one the one. It was a great operation at that point.
“We have to better in the red zone, in general. But I think we’re taking steps in a positive direction.”
Hurts talked about Eagles most improved stat of the season. The Birds converted 13 of 18 third down conversions (72.2 percent).
“You look at how well we played on third down; I haven’t seen the numbers yet,” Hurts said. “We seemed to be pretty efficient. Whether that’s off schedule plays or on schedule plays…it’s just about converting. It’s the same thing about winning, to be frank with you.
Hurts said the message was the same…continue to improve and grow,
“The growth mindset is s real thing here,” the 25-year-old said. “That starts from the top down. Every individual on this team has that, every individual on this team is truly hungry too…and be their best self and be the best they can be for the team for the sake of everyone around them. That’s the constant maturation process there. We have to be able to win and grow. “
SIRIANNI TALKED ABOUT THE 32-SECOND DRIVE
Head coach Nick Sirianni was asked talk about now that he’s had a little bit of time to reflect on how well his coaches players performed in that 32-second drive and about WR A.J. Brown and not his toughness during that drive and the fact that he didn't react to the penalties when he got hacked two times, that he drew penalties and stayed calm,
“Man, it's really hard to score a touchdown there from that,” the third-year coach said. “You're trying to get yourself into field goal range and see what happens, right. And so, we were able to get ourselves into field goal range by just a phenomenal play by Jalen and A.J. on that slant, and then obviously they made a mistake with the horse collar there. That put us in position to be able to play for a touchdown once we got into that position.
“And then again, another good play by Jalen and A.J. to get us to the one, and we went into the quarterback sneak after that and scored a touchdown.
“I think, yeah, I think A.J. did a nice job of keeping his composure. Sometimes when you get pulled down like that or interfered with, and you want that touchdown, your emotions can take over. He did a good job of keeping his composure, playing the next play and being completely under control. We needed both those plays that A.J. made to get to us that point.
“And so, I can't say enough about how well the players executed that drive. A little unconventional, right. I think that drive started with 32 seconds, and we got the first down play was a nine-yard gain and then we had an incomplete pass off of a scramble, and then we had -- I think that was the next one, we hit the big one to A.J.
“Even though I didn't have a lot of time to watch that tape, I do remember the sequence of the plays. Then it went to the fade in the end zone and then to the quarterback sneak. So that was something else, how the players executed that drive."
Sirianni gave props to Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson on the drive that the 32-second drive also totally changed the momentum in the Eagles direction.
“Brian did a nice job of calling that,” Sirianni said, sporting a Phillies cap for the press conference. “We tried to put ourselves as coaches in those positions as frequently as we possibly can.
“That was unique. That's a unique scenario that we were in yesterday and we did -- Brian did a good job calling it. Even better job by the players executing it. And that was a big momentum swing, right.
“They had all the momentum after the touchdown to number 17 (Nacua) over there. They had all the momentum.
“And then we were able to flip that momentum because that was an emotional minute and a half. It was emotional being on the field and it was emotional as a fan. That was an emotional minute and a half of football; there were some really big momentum changes. We were able to get momentum going into halftime and keep that momentum for the most part for the rest of the game.” *
Some stats from www.pro-football-reference.com.
Email Al Thompson at email@example.com