When the Eagles made a push for points on their final drive of the first half against the Vikings, coach Nick Sirianni’s decision told us several things.
First, the set-up.
- Eagles ball on their own 5-yard line; so, a long way to go
- 1 minute, 21 seconds to play
- The Eagles led, 21-7, in a scintillating, first-half performance
If Sirianni were risk-averse, he could have tried to run out the clock. With your own goal line as a backdrop, you don’t want to get too adventurous.
With one error, your first half of dominance could be all but wiped away. One mistake, one turnover, and the Vikings would be right back in a game they had no right being in.
This is what the decision to try for points told us: Sirianni has faith in the offense.
This is what else the decision told us: Sirianni has ultra faith in quarterback Jalen Hurts.
For good reason.
- “He was in complete control that whole drive,” Sirianni said. “When a guy makes a play with a little bit of presence in his face and makes that type of throw, that’s a huge play. Read the coverage perfectly.
- “We ran that play earlier in the drive with DeVonta [Smith], it was slightly different with the ball sent to DeVonta. That play had different coverage and it went to Dallas [Goedert].
- “That’s what being in complete control — taking what the defense gives you — and it was a big-time play by him and it got us points.”
The drive started innocently enough. The sequence:
- Hurts 9-yard run to the Eagles’ 14
- Kenny Gainwell 3-yard run for first down
- Hurts incomplete deep pass to A.J. Brown
- Gainwell 4-yard run to Eagles’ 21. With 28 seconds remaining, the Vikings call timeout, thinking they can get a stop and a quick shot at points.
This is when Hurts took over. Three consecutive completions and the Eagles are in field-goal range.
- Hurts pass to Smith for 16 yards. Eagles timeout with 22 seconds left and ball on the Eagles’ 37
- Hurts pass to Goedert for 19 yards to Vikings’ 44. The Eagles still aren’t in field-goal range
- Hurts another pass to Goedert, for 24 yards to the Vikings’ 20
- With three seconds left, Jake Elliott kicks a 38-yard field goal and the Eagles strut into halftime with a 24-7 lead
The drive was eight plays in 1:21, over 75 yards. A head coach lacking confidence in his quarterback wouldn’t have tried to drive down the field. A head coach with only marginal confidence wouldn’t have tried to drive down the field.
That Sirianni charged ahead says a lot.
Neither team scored in the second half. Hurts had done all of his damage in the first half. In fact, Hurts said in his postgame news conference that he was disappointed in the offense in the second half.
- “It doesn’t surprise me [how Hurts is playing] in the sense of that’s how practices looked,” Sirianni said. “He’s went to the right place with the football versus different looks.
- “A great indicator of how we’re going to play in games is how we practice. And not just this week, not just last week but also throughout training camp and in OTA’s
- “I’ve seen the growth of him and we talk about this so much with Jalen. Why is Jalen going to continue to reach his ceiling?
- “Because he’s tough. He’s got high football character and he loves football. He’s going to reach his ceiling and it’s fun watching him grow.
- “He’s put in so much work. It’s slowing down but it should. He’s a year further in the process. He’s one of our captains. Get better every day. He believes in that.”
REMEMBER THE UNCERTAINTY?
Sirianni can express a lack of surprise at Hurts’ growth and performance but that doesn’t mean the fan base can’t be pleasantly stunned. Coming into the season — two whole weeks ago — Hurts was considered the big question mark over whether the Eagles would have a successful year.
There still is that element of uncertainty, but with the way Hurts is playing, that skepticism is fading. Seriously, who can watch Hurts the past two games and wonder if he can succeed?
Hurts finished with 26 completions in 31 attempts for 333 yards and a gorgeous touchdown pass of 53 yards to Quez Watkins to open the second quarter.
Hurts also ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns — one of which was a highlight romp of 26 yards through several defenders. He leads the NFL with a 9.1 yards per passing attempt on the league’s top offense, which is averaging 470.5 yards per game.
“That’s the type of football we want to play consistently,” Hurts said.
“Big-time performance on a big-time stage,” Sirianni said about his quarterback.