The Eagles left no doubt on Sunday that as the season enters its stretch run, they are all business. Starting fast and keeping their foot on the gas pedal, the Eagles walloped the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field 40-29 with a devastating three-phase attack for a two-game winning streak that raised their record to 5-6.
Offensively, the Eagles ran for 242 yards, their fourth consecutive game with 175-plus yards, their longest such streak since the 1950 Eagles did it in five straight games. Quarterback Jalen Hurts ran for three touchdowns, a first for an Eagles quarterback, and capped off the win late in the fourth quarter with a dazzling 24-yard run for a score. Defensively, Philadelphia limited New Orleans to 323 total net yards and had three takeaways – a T.J. Edwards interception that the offense turned into seven points to take an early lead, a Darius Slay interception and 51-yard return for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 27-7 advantage after two quarters, and a third-quarter Fletcher Cox forced fumble that Edwards recovered in New Orleans territory and led to Jake Elliott's fourth field goal of the afternoon.
Let's take a deeper dive into the offensive, defensive, and special teams domination because it was, for all 60 minutes, as complete a performance as the Eagles have put together this season.
The subplot of the game to watch was an Eagles running game that entered the game leading the NFC in rushing, one that averaged 208.7 yards per game in the previous three games, going against a New Orleans defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL in run defense through 10 weeks, allowing only 72.9 yards per game.
It was no contest.
The Eagles played bully ball led by an offensive line that blew a very good New Orleans front seven off the line of scrimmage.
"It's great playcalling. Coach (Nick) Sirianni has really committed to running the ball and it makes the rest of the game easier," right guard Jack Driscoll said. "It's an attitude when you run the ball in the NFL. You're kind of saying, 'Hey, we're going to put down their throat and we're going to run the ball. You've seen in the last few weeks it's really taking off and you're seeing what kind of team we're becoming. We're all excited about it.
"They were the best run defense in the NFL. That gives us confidence going forward. We know we can run the ball on anyone. We just have to bring it. Coach Stout (Jeff Stoutland) is the best offensive line coach in the NFL. He puts us in the position. He works us hard all week to make sure that we know what to expect in the game and we just go out and execute."
After taking a 7-0 lead following Edwards' interception that set up the offense inside Saints territory, the Eagles got the ball back at their 42-yard and Miles Sanders ripped off a 25-yard run to ignite the ground game. Quarterback Jalen Hurts then carried on three consecutive plays, gaining 28 total yards, including a 20-yarder. Sanders picked up 4 yards to reach the 1-yard line. After a false start penalty moved the ball back to the 6, Hurts carried twice, the second time a sprint to the right pylon from 3 yards out for a touchdown and, after Elliott's PAT, a 14-0 advantage.
By the time the first half was over, the Eagles had accumulated 152 yards on the ground and iced the game in the fourth quarter. The final rushing numbers: A remarkable 50 rushing attempts for 242 yards against a defense that had permitted an average of only 54 yards in the previous three games it played. Sanders led the way with 94 yards on 16 carries in his first game back from the Injured Reserve list, Jordan Howard had a punishing 10 carries and 63 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury, Boston Scott added 16 yards on six carries, and the devastating X-factor, Hurts, ran for 69 yards on 16 attempts.
"It was really all of us, starting with the O-line," Sanders said. "Jordan had his little run, mixing Boston in there, and then I had some good touches. You can't stop all of us. And then 1 (Hurts) out there who can use his legs too, so I think all around we all played a part and the O-line did a great job. We knew they were the No. 1-rushing defense, but we also knew that they never played a team with a running quarterback this year. They really didn't have any answers."
While the rushing attack deservedly won the headlines, Hurts was efficient in the passing game, connecting with tight end Dallas Goedert for 62 yards on five catches and wide receiver DeVonta Smith for 61 yards on four receptions. The Eagles converted five of their first six third downs, converted 8 of 12 in the first half, and finished with 12 conversions on 21 third downs in the outstanding offensive afternoon.
They've talked about being a "takeaway machine" on defense and that's exactly what the Eagles are doing. Three takeaways on Sunday led to 17 points and Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon set the tone early when he sent cornerback Avonte Maddox on a blitz to hurry quarterback Trevor Siemian and end a possession. The defense played downhill for most of the day and those takeaways and the pressure overpowered the Saints.
"It was a good call by JG," said Maddox, who inked a three-year contract extension on Saturday. "We had been practicing that all week in dime with me and (Marcus) Epps coming off the end. They were in a bunch (formation) and I wanted to make sure I got my angle right, so I played it off a little bit. I timed it up perfect and I disrupted the pass and it was pretty cool.
"Our first meeting every week, we talk about taking the ball away. JG emphasizes that in our meetings and Coach Sirianni comes in and talks about 'the ball. The ball.' The ball is everything and we want to make sure that we take the ball away and give as many opportunities to our offense to score points."
Edwards dropped in coverage for his interception and made a leaping grab of a pass intended for tight end Adam Trautman. The takeaway set the Eagles up at the New Orleans 39-yard line in the first quarter and Edwards said it was just a matter of reading Siemian and making a play.
A really, really big play.
"It was honestly reading the quarterback's eyes and I saw the over out coming behind me. You know, just making a play on the football, but the rush was getting there so we knew we had to get it out quick. So yeah, just made the play, so everything was locked up and he had no other choice but to try to fit it in. We finally got one and it felt good."
Slay stepped in front of a Siemian pass intended for wide receiver Deonte Harris in the waning seconds of the first half, breaking perfectly on the throw to the sidelines and making a clean interception. It was no contest from there as Slay raced down the sidelines in front of the New Orleans bench 51 yards for the score to give the Eagles a 27-7 lead at the half. Slay was not available to the media after the game as he exited the game in the second half to be evaluated for a head injury. It was Slay's third defensive score in the past four weeks.
"I mean, it's Slay. He made a really good break on the ball. I think everyone really stopped running as soon as he caught it," Edwards said. "We knew he wasn't getting caught. It was just a really good play by him. Again, he's a guy who's been doing that for a long time and he's coming up big for us right now."
Back at home, check out the best photos from Week 11.
Elliott is now 18-for-20 on field goal attempts and he's 3-for-3 from 50-plus yards away. He scored 16 points on Sunday to move into third place on the franchise's all-time scoring list, and he's calm as can be about it.
"Obviously things are clicking. (Long snapper) Rick (Lovato) is doing a great job, (Eagles punter/holder) Arryn (Siposs) is doing a great job, and I'm just really comfortable," Elliott said. "It's fun every day going out with (Special Teams Coordinator Michael) Clay, going out with (Special Teams Quality Control Coach) Tyler (Brown) and the guys, and we really enjoy what we're doing. I'm just trying to strike the ball clean week in and week out, and trying to perfect the craft. I'm trying to have good foot to ball, good rotation, all of the nerdy stuff about kickers."
Siposs averaged 44.2 yards on five punts and pinned New Orleans on its 10-yard line on one kick. The Saints are one of the league's best special teams units and the Eagles more than held their own in the coverage and return games, too. Jalen Reagor averaged 10.8 yards on four punt returns, including a 13-yarder.
All in all, it was a successful day in all three phases of the game and that's why the Eagles are riding a two-game winning streak and feeling like those early-season ups and downs were worth it to get to this point. The confidence level is sky-high with an NFC East game at the Giants ahead on Sunday.
"We just have to continue to grind," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "We just have to continue to play team football. Offense, defense, and special teams – I think everybody did a good job. We complemented each other and if we keep that up I think we have a good chance. Right now it's just focusing on a big game coming up – a division game – basically, I think the rest of the games are divisional (all except Week 13 at Jets). We just have to continue to focus on what's important and just take it one game at a time."