As the first quarter ended and the Eagles trudged off the field, you could hear the Philadelphia national anthem.
The boos weren’t coming from everybody, but it was noticeable enough. The wet, wind-blown and chilly Lincoln Financial Field crowd was surly at the ugliness they were watching. They didn’t hold back.
One quarter in and some fans had turned on the NFL’s only undefeated team.
With 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Jacksonville led, 14-0 — one fewer point than the Eagles had given up in the last two games. The Eagles played poorly in digging that hole — including a pick-six thrown by Jalen Hurts.
That moment might have been the most pressure this Eagles team has faced this season. A loss to Jacksonville might have prompted trouble with a road game at Arizona next, followed by a home game against the Cowboys.
The Eagles’ reaction?
What would you expect from a team with big plans? Down 14-0, could Hurts bring his team back? Whether the Eagles’ situation would get better or worse probably was directly in Hurts’ hands.
Well, the Eagles scored 20 unanswered points to end the first half ahead 20-14, en route to a 29-21 victory Sunday.
- “We’ve talked about adversity,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “Have we faced a lot of adversity? Not really. In three games we probably haven’t. We had a battle up there in Detroit …
- “It was a great opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we’ve talked about this, we’ve discussed this. You players here, the reason you’re here is because you’re built to be able to handle adversity.’
- “Not every game is going to be pretty … it’s going to be muddy sometimes. It was muddy right there and our guys just buckled down …
- “Being down 14-0? It’s a long game, just like it’s a long season.”
Winning in such a fashion might have been more impressive than the Eagles’ first three victories. Dealing with horrible weather, facing scoreboard hardship and an opponent intent on winning one for their coach on his former home field, the Eagles knew they were in for a dogfight.
Not many thought this was going to be a breezy, comfortable game for the Eagles. The Jaguars, already are one of the league’s surprises, didn’t come to Philly just to eat cheesesteaks. They came to beat coach Doug Pederson’s former team — and probably to pound some cheesesteaks, too. The crowd honored Pederson before the game with long sustained cheers when he walked onto the field.
In perfect conditions, ball security should be a priority. In these conditions, ball security was the difference in the game. Four Jags’ turnovers led to 23 of the Eagles’ 29 points.
Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence helped get the Eagles back in the game. He lost four fumbles and was intercepted by James Bradberry at the Eagles’ 7 late in the third quarter, when a touchdown would have given Jacksonville the lead.
Lawrence’s first fumble set up the Eagles, who went 62 yards in seven plays. Two quarterback draws led to the Eagles’ first touchdown. Hurts took a huge helmet-to-helmet hit at the goal line but broke the plane and the Eagles were down only 14-7.
More impressive, the Eagles bounced back from an offensive pass interference call on Dallas Goedert that cost them a touchdown. Hurts was faced with a first-and-goal from the 21-yard line.
The next Eagles possession led to a tie score, Miles Sanders scoring on a 10-yard run.
On the following series, Lawrence fumbled on a quarterback sneak, recovered by Haason Reddick at the Jags’ 35. With 26 seconds left in the half, the Eagles led 20-14, on Kenny Gainwell’s 10-yard burst up the middle.
SANDERS MADE THE DIFFERENCE
The second half was a slug-it-out affair mostly between the tackles. With the NFL’s best offensive line and top-ranked offense, the Eagles had the advantage.
With Sanders, the Eagles had a *huge* advantage. Sanders, criticized for frequently being injured and fumbling, was magnificent.
“Miles Sanders is our number one back, there ain’t no question about it,” Sirianni said loudly and jokingly.
Sanders carried the ball a career-high 27 times for a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns— and zero fumbles. He slashed outside, he ground out tough yards inside. He broke tackles and drove for extra yards.
“Miles ran really hard today,” Hurts said. “Miles protected the ball — everybody did. He made plays.
“You saw him run the diagonal route across the field. He played angry, in my opinion. He played with a purpose. He deserves it. He played a helluva game.”
Sanders appreciated the extra work and thrived on it.
“Absolutely, it helps me get in the groove [getting so many carries],” Sanders said. “My job is to just be ready whenever they call my number.
“With the weather being what it was, we leaned on the offensive line. The offensive line had a heckuva game.
“I’m excited as heck. Never been 2-0, never been 3-0 here. The best thing about being 4-0 is being able to be 5-0.”