EAGLES SECOND HALF 'PUSH' LEADS TO 31-17 WIN OVER THE MIAMI DOLPHINS
The game against the Miami Dolphins started with the Eagles offense stuck in the same funk it was mired in last week against the New York Jets…every aspect of their game plan was a struggle.
It ended with two in-your-face, impose-our-will drives that not only led to the Birds 31-17 win, if the 2023 Eagles end up doing something special this February, these two drives will be looked at by many as the turning point of the season.
After giving a gut-punch pick-six that allowed the Dolphins to tie the score 17-17 with 4:02 left in the third quarter, quarterback Jalen Hurts and his monstrous offensive line simply took over the game.
After the pick six, scored by linebacker Jerome Baker after a deflection by cornerback Kader Kohou, Hurts led the Eagles on a 75-yard, eight-play drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown.
The Birds took back the lead, 24-17 with 20 seconds left in the third quarter..
The Eagles defense, which had held Tua Tagovailoa to just ten points at that point, were back on their heals a bit on the next drive as the former Alabama star drove the Dolphins to the Eagles 24-yard line.
On third-and-eight, Eagles cornerback Darius Slay intercepted Tagovailoa’s pass intended for running back Raheem Mostert inside the five-yard line and returned it to the Birds 17.
Hurts took over, but the offense struggled. On fourth and one at their own 26-yard line, head coach Nick Sirianni sent out the punting unit.
Then he changed his mind. What happened after was stuff of legend.
The Birds executed the “Brotherly Shove” with perfection. Hurts led the Birds on a 13-play 83-yard drive that included another “tush push” at their own 37.
It seemed like the drive was more like a slow-moving glacier… by adding humans to the definition, one could say the Eagles offense on that drive - at least the first half of the drive was a "large, perennial accumulation of humans that originates on land and moves down slope under the influence of its own weight and gravity.”
That’s what it looked like until it was first-and-10 at midfield when Hurts dropped back and through into double coverage downfield to hit a blanketed Brown who – with Kohou and Andrew Van Ginkel all over him – guided the ball into his hands for a game-clinching 42-yard completion at the Miami eight-yard line.
Two plays later Kenneth Gainwell cartwheeled into the end zone from the three, making the score 31-17.
Slay said he had no doubt that when he saw the offense come back on the field at their own 26-yard line on fourth down, they were going to make it...and drive the rest field to the end zone.
“No doubt in my mind…we’re 100 percent with that, we this @#$%,” Slay said at his locker after the game. “We’ve got the best O-line, we got a quarterback that can squat a zebra! You know what I’m saying?
“He (Hurts) does it all! We believe and trust in the O-line with (Jason) Kelce leading the way. When I saw them go out there, I put my helmet down. We know we good!”
Slay was equally impressed with Brown, who finished with 137 yards on ten catches.
“Oh my God!” Slay yelled, recalling the catch. “He had over 130 (yards)? You don’t play with that man…that man goin’ crazy! That was a big-time catch. He’s a big-time player. He made a big time play at a big time moment.”
“He’s a dawg,” Slay continued. “That’s a dawg…a ‘d-a-w-g’ …he’s a whole other animal.”
Eagles right guard Sua Opeta, who has been starting in place of injured Cam Jurgens, said the offensive linemen look at the “Brother Shove” as automatic.
“I feel like we’re at a point with that play (when it’s called…where we’re like “OK,” Opeta said. “In our mind it’s like we’re so confident that we feel like…there’s no question in my mind when we hear that…we’re just ready to run that.”
Lane Johnson said the Eagles have the size, coaching and faith in them from Sirianni that makes the play virtually unstoppable.
“The past two-three years we’ve had lots of opportunities to run it,” Johnson said at his locker after the game. “You look around the room; we’ve got a lot of mass up front. On that last drive, coach put a lot of faith in us…cause he was about to punt it. We came back and we ran it...two times on that drive. That was huge.”
Johnson was asked if head coach Nick Sirianni needed to be persuaded to go for it on that critical fourth-down play at the Eagles 26-yard line and Birds were leading by just seven points with 10:01 left in the quarter. Johnson said they were off the field, then were quickly told they were going for it.
“I really don’t know,” Johnson said. “As soon as I sat down…I think it was a pretty quick decision. It says a lot about his confidence in us and about him…way to grind.”
EAGLES STRUGGLED AT FIRST
The Eagles offense is still finding it way through what seems like and self-induced abyss. But the Birds (6-1) are still finding ways to win games.
It was a tale of two halves.
The Eagles lost the coin flip and had the ball first.
Hurts and his offensive line looked sharp and unstoppable until the drive entered the red zone.
First and goal from the Dolphins eight yard line ended up fourth and goal from the six.
The Birds led 3-0 at the 7:57 mark after a Jake Elliott 24-yard field goal.
Miami’s first drive, with consecutive impact plays from Haason Reddick and CB James Bradberry, forced the visitors to punt from their own 38-yard line.
Good start right?
On the third play of the Eagles ensuing drive, Hurts was sacked by linebacker Bradley Chubb causing the franchise quarterback to fumble the ball deep in their own territory.
Tua Tagovailoa had a first down at the Eagles 23-yard line.
But the Birds defense came up huge, Slay and Reddick causing all kinds of chaos in the Miami back field. Miami had a touchdown pass Tyreek Hill called back on an offensive holding call.
The Dolphins had to settle for a 40-yard Jason Sanders field goal.
EAGLES OFFENSE COMES TO LIFE IN SECOND QUARTER
In their first drive of the second quarter, the Eagles drove 61 yards on nine plays ending with a 19-yard catch-and-run to Dallas Goedert to make the score 10-7.
The Eagles defense stood up and forced a Miami three-and-out.
On the second touchdown, Hurts went full Patrick Mahomes on the play that put the ball on the one foot-line.
It was fourth and three from the Dolphins 33-yard-line. Hurts went back to pass, under pressure, he rolled to his right. A.J. Brown executed the scramble drill to perfection making himself available at the Dolphins 15-yard line.
Hurts simply lofted a pass to a wide-open Brown who caught the ball but was pulled down inside one.
Another “tush push” with Hurts and he Eagles led 17-3.
But the Birds let Miami (5-2) back in the game as time expired in the half.
Tagovailoa drove 72 yards on eight plays, highlighted by three passes to Hill including a brilliant 27-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to cut the lead to 17-10 with 39 seconds left until intermission.
Both teams had drives that stalled to start the third quarter, but the Dolphins drive that ended at the Birds 21-yard line may get talked about Miami fans a observers for a long time by Dolphins fans and observers.
It was fourth and three from the Eagles 21, instead of kicking a field goal to shave the Eagles lead to four, head coach Mike McDaniel decided to go for it.
Tagovailoa was incomplete in a intended for Cedrick Wilson Jr.
That as it turned out was the last we would see anything of impact from the Miami offense.
BY THE NUMBERS
Hurts finished 23 of 31 for 279 yards, two touchdown passes and an interception. He was sacked three times for 23 yards in losses. Hurts rushed 11 times (four-for-four on the “Brotherly shove”) and a touchdown.
D’Andre Swift’s 22-yard run with 2:36 left in the game (that was over) helped his overall rushing numbers for the night as the Philly native finished with 62 yards on 15 carries. Swift caught three passes for 13 yards.
Goedert caught five passes for 77 yards and his TD. He is also in the back for every “Tush push.” There has to be a stat for that at some point, right?
Tagovailoa was 23 of 32 for 216 yards, a touchdown pass, an interception and a QB rating of 87.5. He was sacked three times. Acting as a passer for one play, Cedrick Wilson was sacked by Sweat.
The Dolphins rushed 12 times as a team for 45 yards.
Josh Sweat notched two sacks. Rookie Nolan Smith, Jr. recorded his first sack of the season.
Safety Terrell Edmunds led the Eagles with nine total tackles.
Reddick recorded two tackles for loss.
DOLPHINS TALK AFTER THE GAME
Tagovailoa was asked about what he learned from playing against the Eagles
“Well, we learned that the little things matter and they turn into big things as they continue to build up. This is a good test early in the season. People can say the penalties this, the penalties that. Like for us as a team we aren’t throwing that out as an excuse. They went out there.
They did what they had to do to win that game. We didn’t do enough to win that game so it is what it is. We’ll go into tomorrow and learn from that. We’ll get ready for New England.”
Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel talked about losing players on the offensive line and how it affects his play calling.
Miami was already missing stating center Connor Williams; then left tackle Isaiah Wynn was lost in the first quarter for the game from a groin injury
“Yeah, it’s definitely part of the job,” McDaniel said. “It’s not the first nor will it be the last, it can add a layer to your decision-making for sure. That is something I see as 100 percent my job. That’s something that’s not going to go away, and it can’t ever be an excuse. We have to be prepared if there’s any shifting and shoveling and it just wasn’t good enough tonight.”
Email Al Thompson at email@example.com