Jalen Hurts is the Philadelphia Eagles’ headliner and the guy with the massive contract. DeVonta Smith can make a spectacular catch on any play. Most games, A.J. Brown is dominant. The defense has a bunch of stars, particularly their pass rushers.
But the biggest reason for the Eagles’ success is what they’ve built on the offensive line. When the offense was struggling enough in the first quarter Thursday night that home fans started booing, Philadelphia let the O-line take over. When the Minnesota Vikings were making a charge in the fourth quarter the Eagles asked the line to dominate again, and it did.
D’Andre Swift ran for 175 yards, Jalen Hurts got a couple rushing touchdowns, and that’s what will show up on the fantasy gametrackers. There’s nothing in the boxscore that will quantify all the holes opened up for them. The Eagles improved to 2-0 with a 34-28 win.
The Eagles have the best offensive line in the NFL, and it was the star of Thursday night’s win.
Eagles start slow
The Eagles struggled enough in the first quarter that the fans started booing … in the home opener for the reigning NFC champion who came in at 1-0. Never change, Philly.
But everyone knew the Eagles had to pick it up on offense. They were struggling with Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ gameplan, which dropped as many as eight players in coverage and disguised pressures well. So the Eagles started running it right at the Vikings with Swift. He had 63 yards on 12 carries in the first half. The Eagles got their first touchdown on a “tush push” quarterback sneak by Hurts.
Late in the first half the game turned when Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson got unlucky on a fumble. Jefferson made a good play and tried to get in the end zone, but he had the ball knocked loose for a fumble. It was ruled the ball went out just before the pylon, but a review showed it was right over the pylon. That meant the fumble went out of bounds in the end zone, giving Philadelphia possession and a touchback. The Eagles ended up with a field goal as the half expired, a huge swing in the final minute. Philadelphia led 13-7 at halftime.
The Eagles extended that lead in the third quarter. The Vikings fought back, but eventually Philadelphia’s offensive line put the game away.
Eagles put the game away late
The Vikings lost momentum before halftime and the avalanche continued at the start of the second half. Josh Sweat hit Kirk Cousins from behind, Cousins fumbled and the Eagles recovered. A few plays later there was another “tush push” sneak TD from Hurts and the Eagles led 20-7. That play seems unstoppable, but part of that reason is the Eagles’ offensive line always gets a big push in front of Hurts and his teammates shoving him in the back.
When the Vikings had a coverage breakdown — cornerback Akayleb Evans gave Smith a free inside release, clearly expecting safety help that wasn’t there — that led to a 63-yard touchdown to Smith and the Vikings were down 27-7.
Give the Vikings credit for coming back. They scored two straight touchdowns. With plenty of time left in the fourth quarter they trailed 27-21. That’s when the Eagles took off on a punishing eight-play, 75-yard drive that was capped with Swift’s 2-yard touchdown run. The Vikings were helpless to stop it, even though the Eagles made it clear they were going to run it right at them. That practically clinched the win. Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson scored a second touchdown with 1:10 left but the Vikings couldn’t recover the onside kick.
The Eagles used a lot of two tight end sets and imposed their will on the Vikings. The NFL has turned into a passing league, but there’s still something to be said about being able to line up, punch your opponent in the mouth and move the ball 5 or more yards at a time on the ground.
The Eagles can do that better than just about anyone in the NFL. Even when there are games they start slow, they know the offensive line can take over when needed.