As the Eagles ground their way to a winning field goal late in the fourth quarter Sunday against Arizona, they faced a critical third-and-12 from the Cardinals’ 36.
Amateur mathematicians already had run the numbers — and they didn’t look great. If the Eagles didn’t gain a yard on third down, they were looking at a 53-yard field goal attempt from some stranger wearing an Eagles’ helmet who was making his NFL debut.
On this crucial play, Jalen Hurts changed the call at the line of scrimmage. He tossed a quick pass to tight end Dallas Goedert, who made the catch, fought through would-be tacklers and gained 16 yards and a clutch first down.
The extra yards allowed rookie kicker Cameron Dicker to take a deep breath — and maybe calculate some easier math himself.
- “Just trying to put us in the best position to make a play. Obviously at a crucial point in the game,” Hurts said.
- “They were throwing us a lot of different looks upfront … That was a moment in the game, a very pivotal moment in the game, third-and-long, made a play. Dallas made a play.”
Six plays later, Dicker drilled a 23-yard field goal and the 5-0 Eagles got a rare win in Arizona, 20-17, remaining the only undefeated team in the NFL.
- “We had a different play on,” Goedert said. “Jalen did a great job getting to a check, found the open window.
- “I knew I needed to get the first down and I was going to do whatever I could to get the first down, keep the chains moving, keep the clock ticking.”
“Just trying to play what you see out there,” Hurts said. “Sometimes you think you see something and you don’t. Sometimes you have a really good grasp for it and you see it.
“It was a crucial moment in the game … He made a big-time play and effort after catching the ball.”
THE LONG DRIVE
Goedert’s huge play was part of a 17-play, 70-yard drive that put the Eagles in position to win. The drive consumed nearly eight minutes.
- “That was a helluva drive by our offense taking off six or whatever minutes off the clock, not giving them a lot of time. Proud of all the guys,” said Goedert, who had eight catches for 95 yards on a day when yards were difficult to come by.
- “As a whole offense, we take a lot of pride in that [going on a long drive]. You know, the running game wasn’t going great for us in the first half but when we needed it we put out foot down and got it done.”
Goedert has success with quick screen passes. He is a yards-after-catch monster and he piled up much-needed yards.
- “Just the way they played with No. 9 [inside linebacker Isailah] Simmons, him blitzing,” Goedert said about why those plays worked. “We thought we had good matchups on the perimeter with little screens, getting the ball in our hands quick and letting the playmakers make plays.”
TOP TIGHT END
On the opposing sideline was Goedert’s former teammate and mentor, Zach Ertz. They were Eagles teammates for three-plus seasons.
Ertz (26 catches) is one of only four tight ends with more receptions than Goedert this season. Goedert has 24 catches for 335 yards, a 14.0 per catch average.
Goedert has established himself as one of the NFL’s premier tight ends, a position where there are many outstanding players. Goedert catches everything, turns catches into more yards and is a nasty blocker — fitting in with his quality offensive line.
One of Goedert’s big plays was grabbing Hurts around the waist and hauling him into the end zone on a 1-yard run in the first half.
TOUGH ARIZONA DEFENSE
The Eagles’ offense didn’t have their way against a solid Cardinals’ defense. They moved the ball but didn’t dominate in a way fans have become used to from this team.
Hurts was a solid 26-of-36 passes for 239 yards. He was the Eagles’ leading rusher with 61 yards on 15 attempts. Miles Sanders gained 58 yards on 15 attempts, after a 134-yard game last week.
- “They flew to the ball,” Hurts said about the Arizona defense. “They’re very physical. They played physical defensively, upfront.
- “They gave us some different, exotic looks. They did a good job with their scheme. We were just able to find a way.”
Hurts completed one pass that showed a vast improvement from last year. On a third-and-12 from the Eagles’ 11, Hurts rolled left — always a difficult throw for a right-hander — planted his feet and threw a strike back toward the middle of the field to DeVonta Smith.
Smith had a big game — 10 catches for 87 yards that came with some huge hits from the Cardinals.
“Just like any other week, we feel like we could have played better, not left it to the [offensive] line being able to control the game a little better,” Goedert said.
“Winning in the NFL is tough, and we got it done, so it’s pretty happy in there [locker room].”