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Spadaro: Jalen Hurts delivers in the clutch as Eagles escape with a win

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

INDIANAPOLIS – For most of 55-plus minutes, Sunday was an extremely frustrating day for the Eagles on the road at Lucas Oil Stadium. They trailed by six points to the Colts, the offense stymied by a confluence of mistakes – penalties that ground Jalen Hurts and the attack to a halt in the first half, a pair of giveaways to halt drives and lead to Colts points in the second half – and the defense allowing a first-possession touchdown drive and hanging tough for the remainder of the game.

It came down to, then, the final 4 minutes, 37 seconds. Indianapolis led by those six points against an Eagles offense that had scored 20 or more points in 14 consecutive games but had just 10 on as many drives on Sunday. And in the end, an Eagles offense that struggled all game put together a brilliant 75-yard touchdown drive and a defense that started slowly finished with a flourish and Philadelphia pulled it out, 17-16, to move to 9-1 in this marvelous season to date.

"Sometimes, you have to win that way. It may not be pretty, but you find a way to win and that's all that matters," said defensive end Brandon Graham, who came up with a key quarterback sack on the final defensive drive to preserve the win. "We would love to make them easy, but this is the NFL. Sometimes, you have to win on the edge of your seats. I'm sure our fans have no nails left. Hey, we were the same way on the sidelines on the last drive, but we have Jalen (Hurts) that guy, man, he can ball out and he did just that."

But before it was over, there was plenty of drama on that final Philadelphia drive. So, let's look at the drive, as it happened.

First down, Eagles 25-yard line. A game hanging in the balance.

Two plays – an incomplete pass on first down and a completion to wide receiver A.J. Brown on second down – gained 8 yards. On third-and-2, Hurts had time. So much time. And he looked down the right sideline for running back Miles Sanders, running open against linebacker Zaire Franklin, who had no choice but to tackle Sanders. The penalty, a pass-interference call against Franklin, gave the Eagles a first down at the Indianapolis 28-yard line.

Breathe. Breathe.

Five straight running plays moved the Eagles to the Colts' 9-yard line at the two-minute warning. And the game came down to this one play that the Eagles discussed on the sidelines. Fourth-and-2 against an Indianapolis defense that ranked second in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (3.8 yards) and that allowed just 133 yards on 28 rushing attempts (4.8 yards per attempt) in the game.

The Eagles lined up as if to sneak Hurts, but it was designed to draw Indianapolis offsides. The Colts didn't bite, so the Eagles called timeout. When the Eagles emerged from the timeout, they lined Hurts up in the shotgun and he took the snap and ran up the middle, sidestepped the pile to the left side and picked up 3 yards to the 6-yard line

First down.

Still alive.

Sanders gained 2 tough yards inside on first down from there to the 4. But then Hurts lost 3 yards on second down after faking a handoff to running back Boston Scott, setting up a third-and-goal play from the 7. No problem. Put the ball in the hands of your touchdown-maker – Hurts. He took the snap and raced through a huge hole up the middle – even though the play was designed to head outside, but good interior blocking opened up a gap inside and Hurts hit it – for his 21st touchdown run since 2020 and his eighth of the season to cap an 11-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 3:17. Jake Elliott added the PAT to give the Eagles a 17-16 lead with 1:20 to go in the game.

The defense had to hold, however. One more hold, that's all. Matt Ryan's pass on first down was incomplete. On second and 10, Ryan found Parris Campbell for a first down out at the 39-yard yard line. And that would be all the Colts could muster. The pass defense covered down the field, Graham came up with a huge quarterback sack – using a bull rush to get to quarterback Matt Ryan from his blind side – and the Eagles came back from 10-plus points down in the fourth quarter for the first time since that remarkable DeSean Jackson punt return game at the Giants in 2010.

Final score, Eagles 17, Colts 16.

Whew ...

"This what I came back for, exactly this," new defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "A team win. A comeback win. You learn a lot about a team when you win like this. This is a resilient team, a tough-minded team that can win games in a lot of different ways."

The Eagles certainly made it very difficult for much of the afternoon. A myriad of mistakes hurt early – the Eagles committed four penalties in the first quarter and five in the first half – and gave up the ball on fumbles on the first drive of the third quarter and then later in the fourth quarter, while the defense gave up a 10-play, 75-yard drive on the Colts' first drive. But the defense hung in there in a big way, allowing just 10 first downs and three field goals the rest of the way and the offense had that last drive and, oh, what a beauty it was.

"There was never a doubt," Hurts said of the team's mindset going into the final drive. "We never wavered. Throughout the game, there were things that did not go our way in terms of our execution and we put ourselves in a bad position, but we were never out of the fight. There was never any doubt because of the belief that we have in one another."

What does it all mean? The new defensive tackles, Suh (3 tackles, 0.5 quarterback sack) and Joseph (0.5 quarterback sack), played a lot of snaps and played very well as the Eagles limited the Colts to 99 rushing yards on 22 attempts. They sacked Ryan four times and held the Colts to just one touchdown in three red-zone visits.

The offense kept chipping away, chipping away, and stayed on its toes and confident and then it was all about Hurts, who ran for a game-high 86 yards on 16 carries and completed 18 of 25 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.

"This is his team. He's the man," said wide receiver Quez Watkins, who hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass to get the Eagles into the end zone in the fourth quarter. "He is always cool, always calm, and today he lifted us to a huge win."

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