EAGLES DEFENSE, 'SLIM REAPER' SLAY COMMANDERS AT FEDEX FIELD
Tens of thousands Eagles fans make the trip to Landover; their team did not disappoint
LANDOVER: Eagles legendary defensive back Herm Edwards, who went on to coach in the NFL for many years, was once asked what he believed was the secret intangible to a winning season.
Paraphrasing here, he said, “When a team get that ‘it’ factor…and once you get ‘it’…you never want to let ‘it’ go.”
Right now, after the Eagles (3-0) dispatched the Washington Commanders 24-8 at FedEx Field, the Birds have “it.”
The Birds defense has been monstrous over the last two games, holding the opponent’s offense to one touchdown.
Sunday, the Eagles sacked former Birds quarterback Carson Wentz nine times in the win, six coming in the furious first half.
The offense has had “it” in the first half of each of their first three games.
The Birds have scored 24 points by intermission in each of their first three games of the young season.
The Birds have scored just 14 points in the second half of the three games played to date.
“We’re not losing our intensity,” said Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who addressed the ominous stat before he was asked the question. “Everybody has the right type of focus going into the second half, we just have to execute. There were a handful of plays in the second half where it can go the entire other way if you just hit it.”
Hurts brought up missing passes to wide receiver A.J. Brown and tight end Dallas Goedert in the second half. He also said he and his teammate can handle pressure in the second half better.
“Those are the things we can control,” Hurst said. “And that was my message to the team. We go out there, and you look yourself in the mirror as a man and say, “Am I controlling the things that I can control? If you can do that, that’s how you get better.”
EAGLES OFFENSE WAS LIKE A HURRICANE THE SECOND QUARTER
Inspired by a defense that sacked Wentz four times in the first quarter; Hurts led the Eagles offense in dazzling fashion in the second quarter, scoring 24 points.
After the Birds took a 3-0 lead on a 32-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, the Eagles defense handed the ball right back to Hurts with a strip sack by Brandon Graham, recovered by Javon Hargrave.
Two plays later Hurts hit Goedert with a screen pass that went 23 yards and a touchdown.
The Commanders failed to move the ball it its next possession.
On the Eagles next drive, Hurts hit Brown with a nine-yard strike to go up 17-0. It was Brown’s first touchdown as an Eagle.
Brown was asked about the Eagles and all their many weapons, can anyone have a big day each week?
“I definitely feel that way,” said Brown, who snagged five catches (10 targets) for 85 yards and the score. “Like I said, we have a lot of weapons on offense, but you never know who’s going to have the best game that day, to be honest. Like today, DeVonta (Smith) came prepare today, and hats off to all our guys.”
SMITH WORE THE BATMAN CAPE WELL
Smith had a career day, catching eight passes (12 targets) for 169 yards and a two-yard touchdown catch that will be etched into his career highlight reel forever.
The catch before that was even more unbelievable.
With 37 seconds left in the half, Hurts took the snap and heaved a 44-yard missile from befind the Washington 45 yard line.
With cornerback Kendall Fullar draped all over him and safety Bobby McCain closing in fast, Smith climbed and invisible ladder and snatched the ball as only the gifted can, and landed hard at the one-yard line.
Timeouts were called by both teams with 26 seconds left in the half. It was the Eagles final timeout.
Hurts threw two incomplete passes taking up six seconds.
On third down, Hurts loses a yard on a keeper and the clock was running.
With no timeouts and the clock about to expire, Hurts manages to call a play and hit Smith with a perfect pass to a spot only his receiver can reach…and reach he did-defender again all over him- hauling in a halftime walk-off touchdown that would finish the scoring for the Birds that day.
Smith, who admitted he had the wind knocked out of him on the first circus catch, talked about getting to those opportunities.
“As a receiver, that is what it comes down to…50/50 balls, you gotta win it,” said Smith, who ended the day with career highs of eight receptions (12 targets) for 169 yards and the TD. “I mean the trust that Jalen has in our receivers; it’s our ball or nobody’s ball. Just being there with him, just being able to make sure that if we don’t come down with it, nobody comes down with it.”
When asked about the circus catches Smith made, Hurts went a little locker room.
Darius Slay has started to create Batman-like nicknames, Brown even bought a cheap, kids Batman cape for the sideline when his teammates score a touchdown. Smith was seen wearing it on the sideline after his touchdown.
Hurts joined the party.
“That’s who he is, he’s a great player,” Hurts said. “An all-around player…he’s the ‘slim reaper.' By the eyes he might be a little sly, but he plays like a big boy…he’s a grown man.”
Hurts said the scramble drill as time was running at the half was something he and his teammates have worked on…just in case.
“One thing I talked about all week is being on the same page with the coaches,” Hurts said. “Making sure everybody’s on the same page, seeing the game the same way, So, when there is a situation where communication is maybe not the best, maybe I’m not getting the play in because of how loud it is, or whatever. They (coaches, teammates) expect me to make it work. That was one of those plays.
“Not having any timeouts, I thought that was a really big-time play by him to go up there and snatch the ball out of the air, high point the ball and get us points before halftime.”
Hurts was 22 of 35 for 340 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions for fumbles. He was sacked three times. QB rating of 123.5.
Eagles rushed for 72 yards as a team, Miles Sanders rushed 15 times for 46 yards.
Rookie tight end Grant Calcaterra caught one pass for 40 yards early in the second half.
DEFENSE PUT UP SERIOUS STATS AGAINST A FORMER TEAMMATE
Many still playing key roles on the Eagles defense know that if it were not for Wentz, none of them would have that Super Bowl ring.
But this is pro football and they have a job to do.
Here is a rundown of the defensive stats:
Quarterback sacks: T.J. Edwards had one, Brandon Graham 2.5 (fumble recovery), Haason Reddick 1.5 (forced fumble), Fletcher Cox 1.5, Javon Hargrave 1 (and a forced fumble).
Carson Wentz had a day to forget. He was 25 of 43 211 yards, nine sacks for 58 yards in losses. 71.0 was the QB rating. Wentz fumbled twice, lost one.
Edwards led the Eagles in tackles again with 10 total (nine solo). Two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.
Graham had five QB hurries.
“Hats off to them,” Wentz said after the game. “That is a good defense. That’s a good team. They got after us and I did not play up to my standards, especially early.”
Hurts on the tens of thousands of Eagles fans who populated FedEx Field Sunday and made lots of noise:
“I want to give a special shout out to all the Eagles fans,” Hurts said. “And everybody who came out to FedEx Field. It definitely felt like a home game. Just how loud it was an how much green and black was in the stadium. It was very impressive and was a sight to see.” *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org