Playoffs? Playoffs? It’s a real possibility in Philadelphia after the Eagles crushed the New Orleans Saints 40-29. They now own a crucial tie-breaker for a wild-card spot.
The final score looked closer than how Sunday’s victory went down. The Eagles went over 200 rushing yards for a second straight week – 242 ground yards against the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense – and hopped on Jalen Hurts’ cape.
The dual-threat quarterback racked up 216 total yards, including 69 on the ground. His three rushing touchdowns set a single game franchise record for the most by an Eagles starter. Yes, that list includes Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick.
Hurts was sensational in this one, particularly on an ankle-breaking, nail-in-the-coffin run. That 24-yard scamper made it 40-22 and ended all doubt. It was his third touchdown of the day, eighth on the year – the latter set a new record for any quarterback in his first 11 games.
It wasn’t all good for Philadelphia. They let the Saints back in the game after taking a 27-7 lead into the halftime locker room. Darius Slay’s interception return for a touchdown – Slay’s third score in four weeks – should have closed the door. Nope. New Orleans outscored Philly 22-7 in the fourth quarter until Hurts slammed it shut with his third touchdown.
“He hit that L1 juke,” right tackle Lane Johnson said, referring to the Madden video-game franchise. “I couldn’t tell where he was. Next thing I know he sticks it in the ground and pulls it for a big-time play.”
“Jalen is a special player,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “[He] forces defenses to play different. You look at the tape, you look at the stats, you look at where they are, you look at their defense. But you also want to do what you do well and so we know we’ve been running the ball well and it’s a little different when Jalen’s in there.”
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JJ Arcega-Whiteside Makes Play of Day
Hurts’ heroics aside, JJ Arcega-Whiteside made arguably the play of the day when he snatched a 23-yard reception for a first down. The catch came on a pivotal 2nd-and-11 (from their own 25-yard line) with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter. Seven plays later, Hurts raced free for his game-sealing touchdown.
Sirianni called Arcega-Whiteside’s catch-and-run the play of the game. The key conversion was his first reception of the 2021 campaign and it came after a really tough week for him. Arcega-Whiteside had been dealing with some “personal issues,” according to Sirianni.
Playoff Picture Shaping Up Nicely
The Eagles had a 36% chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight polls. They are squarely in the mix to land an NFC wild-card spot after beating New Orleans.
The Eagles are battling the Saints (32%), Minnesota Vikings (59%), and San Francisco 49ers (47%) for a postseason berth. They own the tie-breaker over New Orleans. San Francisco already beat Philadelphia. And the Eagles and Vikings don’t play.
Sirianni likes his team’s chances to sneak in. He talked about their connected identity and physical toughness.
“It’s not about plays you call or defenses you call or special teams calls,” Sirianni said. “We have a close-knit group of guys that connect. It’s a physical group of guys and guys that leave everything out there on the field.”