The Eagles lost 40 percent of the NFL’s best offensive line to injury Sunday against Jacksonville.
In a game played with 20-mph winds and rain that was coming down sideways, as Jalen Hurts said, the offensive line and running game were vital to the Eagles’ success.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata was injured in the first quarter chasing down a Jags pick-six. He only played six snaps. Left guard Isaac Seumalo’s ankle was rolled up by a teammate in the second half. Their top reserve, Andre Dillard, was on the injured list.
Facing the season’s first dose of distress — trailing 14-0 in the first quarter and injuries to Mailata and cornerback Darius Slay — the Eagles rolled up their wet sleeves and went to work.
And scored the next 29 points in a 29-21 victory. Miles Sanders ran hard for a career-high 134 yards on a career-high 27 carries. He scored two touchdowns and, most important on a wet day, no turnovers.
DOMINANT OFFENSIVE LINE
And while Sanders was deserving of all the praise, after the game many people were talking about the Eagles’ battered offensive line.
“With this offensive line we got, we’re going to lean on them,” Sanders said. “Over 200 yards rushing (210), that’s the day …
“They [Jaguars] got a great team over there, a good front, but honestly I’ll take our o-line against anybody.”
SIRIANNI LOVES HIS O-LINE
The Eagles’ offensive line was widely acknowledged as the league’s best in the many offseason evaluations. Coach Nick Sirianni has spent many, many minutes in news conferences and in conversation praising his frontline.
He did again Sunday after the victory that sent the NFL’s only undefeated team to a 4-0 record.
- “We’ll do whatever we need to do to win the football game,” said Sirianni, who was wearing a Roxborough High football T-shirt to honor the victims of last week’s shooting.
- “And of course conditions are going to play into that … We take everything into account. We were running the ball really well. I think that second quarter our offensive line was *rolling*.
- “That’s a really good [Jaguars] defensive line. I’ve known that going back to my Indy days [as the Colts’ offensive coordinator].
- “But our offensive line, I’ll take them over anybody in this league. I love that group. They’re gritty, they’re grimy, they’re tough, they’re physical.”
Sirianni said his veteran line is helping him with in-game decisions.
“Players are communicating with us what they think,” Sirianni said. “To have guys like Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Isaac [Seumalo], those guys are able to communicate with you and tell you what’s working, feel what’s working, how the defense is playing, that’s huge.”
OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH
Jack Driscoll, at a new position, stepped in for Mailata. Sua Opeta played 20 snaps in relief of Seumalo. If there was a difference in efficiency on the offensive line, you couldn’t tell. Sirianni and Hurts praised Driscoll, Opeta and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
“I look at Jack Driscoll and I look at Opeta and those are two guys that have always come in and been able to play at a high level,” Hurts said. “Always been ready when their phone rings.”
The Eagles’ offense averages 28.7 points per game. They have won games through the air, on the ground and simply due to Hurts’ brilliance. They were the NFL’s top-ranked offense coming into the Jacksonville game.
Defenses have a growing problem game-planning for the Eagles. Concentrate on receivers A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert and the running game might trample you. Put extra defenders in the box to stop the run, then Hurts and the receivers have more room to operate.
An impressive feature against the Jags: The Eagles did not panic when they were down 14. Many teams would have started passing on every down to cut into the deficit. The Eagles stuck to their running attack, with 50 rushes and 25 passes.
“It gives everybody confidence [winning in different ways],” Sanders said. “It’s a team sport. We know we can’t win without all aspects of the game.”
Hurts was 16-of-25 passing for 204 yards. On his pick-six, he delivered the ball late to Zach Pascal, the pass was deflected and intercepted. Hurts also fumbled once but fell right on the ball.
“He knows how important it is to take care of the football and he can do it,” Sirianni said about Hurts. “That’s such a key to winning and losing games. I think that even elevates when it’s messy outside.”
Hurts talked about how the Eagles fought back after their early deficit.
- “Up 14-0, down 14-0, you control what you can,” Hurts said. “Do your job, execute …
- “We found a way. This team didn’t flinch. We persevered. We were unwavering in how we played.
- “Nothing was able to deny us. I’m so proud in how this team played.
- “We can be efficient in everything that we do. That can be running the ball, passing the ball, defensively. That’s our goal, to be efficient in everything we do.
- “We look at this game and we see there is some bad in it. We see that there are things that can definitely be fixed.
- “But we look at this and we found out a lot about this football team, just in terms of being able to persevere.”