In the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers, center Jason Kelce was on the sidelines wearing a Batman mask. But that might not be the scariest costume in the eyes of the NFC. No, that was reserved for the Eagles themselves, who came out of their bye week wearing perhaps the most terrifying costume to the rest of the NFC.
A complete football team.
The Eagles picked up right where they left off during their 6-0 start, taking care of business against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an impressive 35-13 win, moving to 7-0 for the first time since the 2004 season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was on point almost all day, often targeting A.J. Brown, Philadelphia’s big offseason acquisition at receiver. Hurts finished the afternoon completing 19 of 28 passes for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Brown hauled in 6 passes for 156 yards and 3 scores.
But the duo was just part of the story.
We will begin there, however, with Brown and Hurts. The new Philadelphia receiver put up monster numbers in the first half alone, catching 5 passes for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns, numbers that most receivers would love to post over the course of an entire game.
Or, well, over the course of a few weeks:
All three touchdowns came on go routes, making Brown the first player to score three touchdowns on that route in a single game since Next Gen Stats began tracking route classifications back in 2018:
Brown’s first touchdown came early in the first quarter, with the receiver making the perfect adjustment to the deep throw from Hurts for the score:
The second touchdown from this pairing came as a result of a great route from Brown, and an absolutely perfect throw from Hurts:
The most impressive of the three first-half scores was the third, as Brown beats the cornerback in coverage and bounces off safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for the touchdown:
The receiver would be flagged for taunting for his pointing after the play, but frankly according to the “rule of cool,” if you pull off a play like this, no flag should follow.
Brown was not done, as he would take a dig route deep into Steelers’ territory early in the fourth quarter:
How impressive was the Eagles’ offense today? Their next snap would be just their first in the red zone all afternoon, stunning considering their 28-13 lead at the time.
They would score on the next play, thanks to running back Miles Sanders:
35 offensive points. One red zone snap.
What might be concerning for the rest of the NFL was on display during the Eagles’ first drive of the second half. While Philadelphia focused on the passing game in the first half, gaining just 23 yards on the ground through the first 30 minutes, their rushing attack was featured as the Eagles opened the third quarter. Sanders ripped off two big runs early in the drive, first for 21 yards and then later for 10 yards. Then, as Tony Romo noted during the broadcast, the Steelers dropped a safety down into the box, setting up this play:
Philadelphia shows a screen to tight end Dallas Goedert, with Hurts pumping on the route. Instead of blocking the cornerback, however, wide receiver Zach Pascal releases vertically and is wide open. Hurts hits him in stride for his fourth touchdown pass of the game.
Speaking of Goedert, the tight end continues to be a huge security blanket for Hurts, thanks to Goedert’s strong hands. Those were on display early and late against the Steelers. On this play from the first quarter, the Eagles convert a fourth down on an RPO design, with Hurts keeping the football and hitting Goedert in the flat:
On this play from later in the first half, watch as Goedert trusts his hands, extending them away from his body to make a catch on a low throw:
Then Goedert turned in perhaps his best catch of the day, reaching behind him to snare in the ball on a crossing route, before barreling downfield a few more yard to pick up the first down:
Defensively, the story in Philadelphia remains how the Eagles can get pressure with four or five up front, and play tight coverage in the secondary thanks to an elite pair of cornerbacks in Darius Slay Jr. and James Bradberry. The Eagles got to Kenny Pickett early in the game, sending just four at the rookie but getting home for the sack:
The first half ended with another sack, this time from Javon Hargrave:
Interestingly enough, both plays come with a twist or stunt along the defensive front. On the first example, the twist comes on the inside, with the two defensive tackles crossing paths on their way to the quarterback. On the sack before halftime you see a tackle/end exchange, with Hargrave pushing upfield to occupy the guard and the tackle as Josh Sweat cuts behind him into the A-Gap. Hargarve fights through the two blockers to get home for the sack to end the half.
Why is this notable? Entering Week 7, the Eagles were using stunts and twists up front at one of the lowest rates in the league:
Correlation not causation. But one of the coolest parts about the Cowboys defense has been how much they stunt on passing downs. When adjusting for game situation, the Cowboys have stunted 20% more than expected, and have the highest pressure rate in the NFL pic.twitter.com/C7SjvYQduW
— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) October 25, 2022
Hargrave was not done, however.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Steelers on the march and trying to cut into Philadelphia’s 28-13 lead, the big defensive tackle worked through the line with a powerful rip move before chasing down Pickett from behind, punching the ball loose:
It was not the last time they would get to Pickett either, as Chauncey Gardner-Johnson had a free run at Pickett on this slot blitz midway through the fourth quarter:
It was the fifth sack of the game from the Eagles’ defense, and to that point the Steelers offense had converted just 1 of 11 third-down chances.
Holding an offense to 1-11 on third down is a recipe for success in the NFL.
Following the Sanders touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Romo and Jim Nantz wondered whether the Eagles had any weaknesses. On this day, at least, none were apparent. The passing game was clicking in the hands of Hurts, regardless of who he was targeting. While the Eagles did not need much from their running game, what they were able to produce on the ground was effective. When the Eagles pulled their starters after the Chauncey Gardner-Johnson sack, these were their efficiency numbers, courtesy of RBSDM.com:
Beyond impressive from the Eagles offense.
Similarly, look what they did to the Pittsburgh offense:
The Eagles right now are a complete football team, and that should be scary for the rest of the NFC.