After a disappointing Week 12 loss in MetLife to the Giants, Nick Sirianni and the Eagles rebounded with a dominating win over the Jets, but this time with a different signal caller. Jalen Hurts was ruled out with an ankle injury, giving Gardner Minshew his first career start in Philly, and Minshew stepped up to the plate. With four games left on the season, the Eagles are half a game out of the last wildcard spot, and they have a key Week 14 matchup against Washington that could decide who gets that last wildcard spot. Anyway, let's look at both the good and bad from the Eagles 33-18 win in MetLife over Sirianni’s fellow rookie head coach, Robert Saleh.
Even without Jalen Hurts to take the pressure off the running backs, the Eagles ran the ball all over the field, but most of that was due to yards after contact. According to PFF, the Eagles offensive line wasn't dominant in the run game, as 97 of Sanders 121 yards came after contact. Sanders averaged 4 yards after contact per carry, showing his elusiveness in the open field. Gainwell also tallied 12 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, along with hauling in all 5 of his targets for 33 yards. For the first time in in a long time, Sanders and Gainwell showed how they can complement each other in the running and receiving game.
Nick Sirianni has had his fair amount of growing pains early in the year, but he is quickly showing why he is one of the best young coaches in the league. After modeling an offense around Hurts' unique rushing ability and savviness in open space, Sirianni comes out and calls a near-perfect game with a much different guy under center. Early in the game we saw Sirianni scheme up easy throws allowing Minshew to settle into the game. Sirianni also took advantage of the edge rushers early in the game by forcing them to stay disciplined. When teams play a mobile QB like Hurts, the edge rushers are forced to set the edge and they can't just chip away at the quarterback. However, with Minshew in at QB, the edge rushers want to get home quickly, so Sirianni used some quick hitting screens to Gainwell, Sanders, and Goedert early in the game which forced the edge rushers from just chipping away at the quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball, Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave combined for 10 pressures and 2 sacks, but the majority of their production came in the second half when the Eagles forced the Jets to be a one-dimensional team. In the second half, Zach Wilson was 11/24 for 118 yards, 0 touchdowns, and an interception. Wilson also had a 43.4 passer rating and only averaged 4.9 yards per attempt in the second half, and he had a disastrous 20.1 passer rating when under pressure for the game, as the Eagles defensive line took over.
To start the game, the Eagles special teams allowed a 79-yard kick return which set the Jets up to take an early 6-0 lead, but they unsurprisingly missed the PAT, creating a trend of fluky special teams play throughout the game. The Eagles kick coverage also allowed 60 yards on the other two returnable kicks before Jake Elliot started kicking through the back of the end zone. Jalen Reagor returned 2 kicks for 26 yards and made a terrible decision letting the ball bounce at the 1-yard line, forcing him to pick up the ball, giving the Eagles terrible field position. On Reagor's lone punt return, he muffed the punt but turned it into a 20-yard return, showing glimpses of a special play a few years back in MetLife. Jake Elliot was spectacular, hitting all 7 of his field goals and PAT's, but the rest of the special teams struggled.
The Eagle’s defense was phenomenal in the second half, but that was due to Nick Sirianni’s play calling and the offense's ability to run the ball and force the Jets to play in panic mode and abandon the run game. In the first half, Zach Wilson was 12/14 for 108 yards and two touchdowns, along with a rushing touchdown, and his only two incompletions were both drops. On designed run plays, the Jets had 14 carries for 70 yards, which is an average of 5 yards per-carry. When New York had the threat of running the football, the Eagles defense struggled to get to Zach Wilson as he was getting the ball out extremely quickly.
The Eagles offense looks near unstoppable, but they continue to fail to find production from wideouts. The Jets doubled DeVonta Smith for much of the game, as he only had 2 catches for 15 yards on 4 targets. Reagor only totaled 1 target, which he hauled in for 7 yards. Watkins however had 3 catches on 3 targets for 60 yards, including a clutch 28-yard catch on third and long. Overall, the wideouts only had a total of 5 catches for 82 yards, but other players stepped up throughout the course of the game. Philly will need DeVonta Smith to step it up and have big games against divisional opponents if the birds expect to make a late season playoff push.