The Philadelphia Eagles offense was very impressive on Sunday in Denver against the Broncos in multiple facets. The run game was once again a focal point. The offensive line was very good in both pass protection as well as at the point of attack on the ground. The passing game was sound and quarterback Jalen Hurts looked as good as he's ever looked in an Eagles uniform. The game plan was nearly flawless. It all led to a big victory with a lot to take away.
Let's start with Hurts, who was outstanding in this game for a number of reasons. I thought Hurts looked decisive as a passer more often than not. He was accurate. He continued to be a playmaker with his arm and with his legs as well. There's a trio of plays from the first half, all against single-high man coverage (Cover 1), where you see a lot of those qualities on display. Hurts was 7-for-9 for 198 yards and a touchdown against Cover 1 man coverage on Sunday, and here were a couple of my favorite dropbacks.
Against man coverage, I would expect Hurts to do what he did on that first play where he takes off for 31 yards. With his athleticism, he's always a threat to take off and make those plays. What I liked most, however, were those two big-time throws. First, on the play to Dallas Goedert, look at how Hurts sidesteps the rush with his eyes downfield and delivers an accurate ball to his tight end on third-and-long while moving to his left. That was big-time!! No matter how experienced of a quarterback you are – that's the way it should look. That was as good as it gets from a quarterback in the NFL right there.
Another aspect of quarterbacking against man coverage? Understanding where your matchups are, and trusting your guys to go make a play. That's what Hurts did on that touchdown to DeVonta Smith on the out-and-up route. Fellow rookie Patrick Surtain II covered that route about as well as a defender could. He was right there with Smith stride for stride. But Hurts trusted Smith to go up and get this ball, and his receiver came through for him.
Two of those three clips were against pressure, a five-man blitz with man coverage behind it and a single-high safety. But how did Hurts perform against Cover 0 (six-man blitz with man coverage across the board and no safety in the middle of the field)? Let's take a look.
On the first third down of the game in the red zone, the Broncos sent a Cover 0 blitz at Hurts. Against Cover 0, the free rusher is the quarterback's man to beat. The offense can't protect everyone in an all-out blitz. Hurts made that defender miss by breaking the pocket with his eyes once again downfield, biding time for his receivers to uncover. He ends up throwing an incompletion, but the offense filed that information away for later.
The next time the Eagles face a third down in the red zone, they expect Cover 0, and that's exactly what they get. Against Cover 0, the middle of the field is open (with no safety help), so if your quarterback can stomach it, a throw can be available there if he's willing to take a hit. Here, a blitzing linebacker is coming up the chute at Hurts and he delivers to Smith for a touchdown.
Hurts was 9-for-11 for 92 yards and that touchdown against the blitz against the Broncos (his third-quarter interception came against the blitz as well). He also contributed a 31-yard run for good measure. This kind of efficiency to burn defenses when they blitz is something to build off of, as Hurts has been one of the most blitzed quarterbacks in the NFL so far this season (according to Pro Football Focus).
That play call on the Smith touchdown against Cover 0 was outstanding, and an example of a great adjustment by the coaching staff. But that wasn't the only great play call in this game. I thought Nick Sirianni pushed all the right buttons, and the game plan itself was really effective. It all started on the opening drive.
This 18-yard screen pass to Boston Scott may look like it was just your typical screen, but the subtle nuances in its execution really stood out to me, because this was disguised as a play that the Eagles have run a bunch of times this season, with the isolated shallow crossing route to an outside receiver off short-motion before the snap.
The Eagles have continually been efficient in underneath throws this season with Hurts, and that continued in this game. Over the last three weeks, Hurts is 32-of-38 for 333 yards and a touchdown on throws that travel fewer than 20 yards in the air. In the NFL, you have to be able to hit on short and intermediate throws, and Hurts has done that at a high clip over these last couple of games.
I pointed out the Eagles' ability to run complementary plays and set defenses up to "take the cheese" last week in the run game, and that continued this week in the passing game. As the Eagles' offense continues to be more efficient, with more plays run every single week, the playcalling and play sequencing will continue to evolve, and it's going to be so much fun to study on a weekly basis.