They played a pretty good first half. And then they played an absolutely brilliant second half.
The Eagles on Sunday became the first team in 32 years to open a season 5-0 after losing the Super Bowl the previous year with a 23-14 win over the Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
They’re now 19-3 over the last two years and 25-5 in their last 30 games.
The Eagles led 17-14 at halftime before outscoring the Rams 10-0 after halftime and outgaining them 249-50 in the second half until the final 30 seconds.
The Rams had the football for only 9:43 in the second half.
Let’s get to our 10 Instant Observations:
1. This was a masterpiece by new defensive coordinator Sean Desai. Everything the Rams did early, the Eagles shut down in the second half. Everything that worked against them early, Desai found an answer for late. That’s a pretty high-powered Rams offense and an elite quarterback with two record-setting receivers, and the Eagles shut ‘em out in the second half and held them to 50 yards. The Eagles covered, they pressured, they tackled – this was a tremendous performance by a defense with a patchwork secondary missing Fletcher Cox against the No. 4 offense in the NFL. A true signature achievement for Desai.
2. This was just as much a masterpiece by new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, who I thought really channeled his Inner Steichen with his balanced, creative play calling. The Eagles were pretty bad in the red zone and could have scored a lot more points, but they moved the ball up and down the field on the Rams all day, they kept the Rams’ defense off balance, neutralized Aaron Donald, attacked deep and mixed in the run game with both D’Andre Swift and Kenny Gainwell, in the second half to keep the clock moving. The Eagles piled up 453 yards, held the ball for 38 minutes, protected Jalen Hurts, converted an insane 13 out of 18 third downs, threw for over 300 and ran for over 150 yards and just wore down the Rams as the game went on.
3. I knew A.J. Brown was good. I knew he was really good. I knew the Eagles got the best of that draft-day trade last year. But I’d be lying if I said I knew he was this good. He’s only played 22 games in an Eagles uniform – 26 including the postseason – but I’m comfortable saying he’s as good as Eagles WR I’ve ever seen. That includes Mike Quick, who put together five straight Pro Bowl seasons, that includes DeSean Jackson, who scored long touchdowns at an unprecedented rate, and, yeah, that even includes T.O., who hurt his own value with all the needless drama he brought with him to Philly. Brown is playing at such an astronomical level right now – 131 yards in Tampa, 175 vs. Washington and 127 Sunday – and that’s 432 yards in the last three games. Those 432 yards the last three games are the most in a three-week span by any Eagles receiver in at least 50 years. He’s so smooth when he catches the ball and then clicks on linebacker mentality with the ball in his hands, trampling defenders, stiff-arming corners, running through people as much as running past them. Brown is unstoppable.
4. Loved the concept of getting Dallas Goedert involved quickly. It just does so much for this offense when the Eagles establish early that the passing game is more than just Hurts-to-A.J. and Hurts-to-DeVonta. Goedert came into the game with 88 yards all year and had more than half of that on the opening drive – 4-for-45 and a six-yard TD, his first this year. He had more catches and yards (and TDs) on that drive than in any entire game the first month of the season. Goedert is too talented, too valuable, too important to be averaging 22 yards per game, and it looked like the Eagles made a concerted effort to get him going, and it worked. Goedert finished with eight catches for 117 yards, second-most of his career. That’s the real Dallas Goedert and the one we need to see every week.
5. Considering some of the guys who were playing in the secondary, I’m not sure you could ask for anything more than what they gave. Josh Jobe had never played a defensive snap before opening day. Eli Ricks had played one snap before Sunday. Mario Goodrich had gotten on the field on defense in one game in his life, the Vikings in Week 2. Bradley Robey just signed here Wednesday. Heck, it’s easy to forget Reed Blankenship was an undrafted rookie last year and was making his eighth career start. The Rams went after all of them, and the Eagles’ young d-backs hung in there better than anybody could have hoped. What was most impressive was how well they played in the second half. Cooper Kupp was 6-for-95 before halftime, 2-for-23 after halftime. Puka Nacua 3-for-34 before halftime, 3-for-23 after halftime. A lot of that was pressure. The Eagles really delivered some heavy pressure on Matt Stafford in the second half, and pressure on a QB is a young d-back’s best friend. But overall, considering who was out there and who wasn’t? This was a real triumph for this makeshift no-name secondary.
6. Red zone continues to be a huge problem for the Eagles. They were 24th in the league coming into this week with touchdowns on just 46 percent of their red-zone drives, and Sunday in L.A. was more of the same. A drive down to the 16 netted three points. A drive down to the 20 netted no points thanks to a turnover. A drive down to the 8 netted a field goal. It hasn’t been any one thing. A penalty here, a dropped pass there, a miscommunication here, a missed throw there. Whatever the reason, these are opportunities the Eagles can’t continue to squander. They were 3rd-best in the league in the red zone last year and with the talent they have on offense that’s where they should be again. They got away with it Sunday, but they’ve got to be better.
7. Kudos to Sua Opeta for holding up just fine in his sixth career start and second at right guard. This was an undrafted free agent going up – at least for much of this game – against one of the greatest interior linemen ever, and Opeta held Aaron Donald in check, just like the Eagles have always done. Donald is a beast against everybody else, but in five games now against the Eagles – 2014, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2023 – Donald has zero sacks, and the Rams are 1-3 in those five games. He had one solo tackle Sunday and that it. No pressures, no QB hits, no tackles for loss. Talking to Opeta during the week, I really liked his mentality. He embraced the challenge. He said he had the utmost confidence in himself and looked forward to proving himself against a guy like Donald. Cam Jurgens can’t come back for at least three more weeks, but the Eagles have to feel good about the way Opeta went out and battled against Donald and against the Rams.
8. Britian Covey was a solid, reliable punt return last year, but this year he’s become an actual weapon. Covey averaged a decent 9.3 yards per return last year and was up to 11.1 over the last 13 games – 7th-highest in the league during that span. And the Eagles would have been happy to have that sort of production again. But Covey has shown tremendous growth as a returner this year. He’s seeing the field better, making quicker cutbacks, running away from traffic, and the results are impressive. On Sunday, Covey picked up his fourth return this year of at least 20 yards – he had only one last year – to increase his season average to 16.9. He’s now the first Eagle with a 20-yard return in three straight games since Darren Sproles against the 49ers, Rams and Giants in 2014. Covey was sitting in second in the NFL coming into the game and didn’t do anything to hurt his ranking. The Eagles signed Covey to be a safe, reliable guy who would catch everything and get you six or seven yards of field position. So far, he’s been much, much more than that. He’s turning into a guy who can really flip field position and make life easier for the offense.
9. If there were still any lingering questions about Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ passing game after Sunday, there can’t be anymore. The inconsistency, the mistakes, the lack of cohesion we saw the first few weeks of the season have disappeared, and Jalen Hurts and Company are back in that 2022 mode where you just expected them to score on every drive. Or every play. Hurts was spectacular Sunday and he’s now put together back-to-back 300-yard games. Hurts finished 25-for-38 303 yards with a TD pass to Goedert, one interception he probably shouldn’t have thrown and another rushing TD. And a 75-yard TD drive in 32 seconds? How is that even possible? And he looked like the Jalen of old running the ball too. The Eagles needed it and he delivered with 72 rushing yards. The numbers are staggering: Hurts is now 28-11 in his career, and only seven QBs – including Dan Marino, Kurt Warner and Patrick Mahomes – have won more games in their first 39 starts. He’s 25-3 since Nick Sirianni’s Roots Underground speech in late October 2021, and most importantly he once again looks unstoppable. And we’ve seen what can happen when Hurts looks unstoppable.
10. D’Andre Swift has had games with better stats, but I really loved his performance Sunday. Swift didn’t do much early – 5-for-7 rushing and caught three passes for 18 yards in the first half. But in the second half, when the Eagles pulled away and took command of the game, Swift came up huge. In the second half, when the Eagles held the ball for 19 ½ minutes, Swift was 12-for-63 rushing – most of it against a stacked box – and caught three more passes for 20 yards. That’s 83 net yards after halftime against a defense that knew the Eagles wanted to run. Swift is so tough, so difficult to bring down. Through five games he has 434 rushing yards and 509 scrimmage yards – over 100 per game. What an acquisition.