It was going to take an exceptional effort from this Eagles team to keep up with an opponent as dominant as the Green Bay Packers. The Birds were not up to the task in week 13, stalling for long stretches of the game and ultimately losing the contest 30-16. The big takeaway on the Eagles side of the ball is their decision to pull Carson Wentz during the third quarter in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts. Find a review of his first extended game action and other week 13 storylines for the Birds below.
The Quarterback Story
It’s no secret that Wentz hasn’t been playing inspiring football this year. He continued that trend during the first half on Sunday, failing to lead the Eagles to any touchdown drives and taking poor sacks that brought the offense out of field goal range.
The quarterback change that many fans have been calling for finally happened during the second half when the Birds were trailing the Packers 14-3. At that point in the game, Wentz had completed just 6 of 15 passes for 79 yards. While Wentz hadn’t committed a turnover yet, he had taken four costly sacks and coach Pederson had clearly seen enough. Instead of bringing Hurts in for just a play or two, the rookie quarterback was given the reins for the remainder of the game.
The performance of Jalen Hurts in his first ever extended game action landed somewhere between mediocre and fine. While Hurts completed just 5 of 12 passes for 109 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, those numbers are better when qualified with context. Racking up over 100 yards on just five completions displays that Hurts is willing to throw the ball downfield, something Wentz repeatedly proved unwilling to do with regularity. Further, his lone touchdown was a beautiful 4th and 18 toss to keep the Eagles hopes alive while his interception transpired with just a minute left when the game was already out of hand.
I think this was an encouraging, while not spectacular, start for Hurts who also ran the ball 5 times for 29 yards and multiple first downs. The Eagles playoff hopes look bleaker by the week, but it’s nice for the team to gauge what they have in Hurts.
Meanwhile, the other quarterback in this game was busy making history. Aaron Rodgers became just the sixth quarterback of all time to throw for 400 touchdowns, and he did so in just 193 games, edging out Drew Brees (205 games) for the fastest to achieve that accomplishment. He played lights out in this contest, completing 25 of 34 throws for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
Birds Fail to Find a Ground Game
One of the recipes for the Eagles to have a shot this week was winning time of possession through establishing dominance on the ground. Following this model, the first quarter actually went splendidly for the Birds. They won time of possession by a significant margin and ran a full 20 plays during the quarter.
Unfortunately, those 20 plays only resulted in 67 yards and a measly 3 points. There was hope that Philadelphia could find success on the ground against such a porous rush defense, but as the game wore on that proved decisively not the case. Miles Sanders never got going, amassing only 31 yards on 10 carries.
Newly acquired running back Jordan Howard actually looked fresh in his debut, but only received four carries on the day. Once the Eagles fell behind by double digits, a slow run-heavy approach was no longer an option.
Reagor to the Rescue
There was a brief glimmer of hope for the Birds during the fourth quarter of this matchup. After Hurts’ 4th down touchdown toss and a subsequent three and out by the Packers, rookie wideout Jalen Reagor put on an absolute show. He fielded a punt and returned it a full 73 yards to the house, bringing the Eagles within just one score of their opponent.
This dazzle of athleticism proves how dangerous Reagor can be with the ball in his hands. The Birds need to make a more concerted effort to feed him the rock as he was only targeted once in this game, hauling in that lone reception for 34 yards. Fulgham continues to struggle (0 catches on two targets) so Reagor figures to be a great option for Hurts along with tight ends Goedert and Ertz, the latter of which returned to action and contributed 31 yards.
Fresh off playing the number 2 seed in the entire NFC, the Birds will now have to square off against the number 1 seed in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles will host Taysom Hill and company in a week 14 matchup that is mathematically win-or-go-home for the Birds.