The Eagles pulled off a statement win on Monday night.
They got off to a hot start and carried it into a 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings to move to 2-0 on the year. It was one of two games scheduled for the prime-time slots for Week 2, and the Eagles rose to the occasion of playing their home opener on national television.
The offense looked explosive largely thanks to stellar play from Jalen Hurts, and the defense rebounded from a shaky performance vs. Detroit in Week 1 to dominate a talented Vikings offense.
Here’s our instant analysis of the win:
Some of the biggest questions going into the season surrounded Hurts.
On Monday night, the young quarterback had all the answers.
Hurts was nearly perfect in the first half — calling it the best half of his career might be an understatement. He completed 17 of 20 passes going into halftime and flashed the type of anticipation, accuracy, and decisiveness that will define whether he’s the long-term answer at the position for the Eagles.
“It was a big-time performance from him,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said after the game. “Obviously in the run game and in the pass game. Great run — both of his touchdown runs were outstanding runs. … Big-time performance on a big-time stage.”
» READ MORE: Shane Steichen helped dial up Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ stunning offensive performance over the Vikings
Even on two of his three first-half incompletions, Hurts made good decisions and put the ball where it was supposed to be. One was a high pass to Dallas Goedert on an out-breaking route when Goedert got both hands on the ball before it was knocked loose on an impressive play by Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler. The other was a pass to A.J. Brown that was slightly overthrown as Brown jostled with a Vikings defensive back.
The completions were even more impressive for Hurts, who finished 26-for-31 for 333 yards, one touchdown, and one interception that bounced off Kenneth Gainwell’s hands. He hit passes down the field to multiple receivers. He targeted all areas of the field, including the intermediate middle portion he has consistently avoided for most of his career.
“To be able to come out here and perform at a high level as a team, that’s big for us,” Hurts said. “… Hell of a game tonight, but there’s still a hell of a lot to learn from.”
Against Detroit, Hurts played well against a blitz-heavy scheme that used mostly man coverage. The Vikings were almost the exact opposite and, even though Minnesota had its share of defensive miscues, Hurts thrived nonetheless.
Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen both deserve credit for the script that Hurts brought to life as the offense totaled 486 yards. It’s also important to note that the Vikings’ scheme somewhat resembles the Vic Fangio-influenced scheme the Eagles ran during training camp.
None of it changes the bottom line: Monday night was a noteworthy test for Hurts, and he aced it.
» READ MORE: Eagles’ Jalen Hurts claims the title of best quarterback in NFC East … with a bullet
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and his unit caught the ire of fans after a leaky performance against the Lions, but they rebounded nicely against the Vikings.
The Eagles held Minnesota mostly in check in the first half and rattled off two interceptions on back-to-back drives in the third quarter. The first one came when Darius Slay undercut a pass to Justin Jefferson in the end zone. Javon Hargrave had the difference-making pressure, getting in Kirk Cousins’ face and forcing the errant throw.
The next one came on a leaping grab by Avonte Maddox. It was an ill-advised throw from Cousins, but required Maddox to use his full jumping ability to come up with it.
Gannon called a handful of well-timed blitzes to keep Cousins on edge. The Eagles hardly blitzed last season but have become more unpredictable with sending extra rushers early this year.
The Eagles didn’t have significant sack production, but they had more than enough pressures to get Cousins throwing off his back foot for much of the second half. Fletcher Cox had a strip-sack in the fourth quarter and the entire defensive front generated pressure once the Vikings got one-dimensional late in the game.
The Eagles held Minnesota to 264 total yards and forced three turnovers. The tackling was better and the pressure was more consistent. Gannon cooled off the heat, at least for the time being.
“That was an important bounce-back game for us defensively,” Sirianni said. “It was a full-team defensive game. We talk about Slay and the job he did on Jefferson, but [also] the coaches putting the guys in the right position, and the salt in the pocket that our front seven really got on the pressures.”
Slay didn’t seem too attached with his first interception ball, and it turned out to be for good reason.
The Eagles cornerback sought out 76ers guard James Harden, who was in one of the club seats in the front row at Lincoln Financial Field, to give him the ball he intercepted.
A quarter later, Slay got one for himself, picking off Cousins a second time in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to all but salt the game away. The Vikings allowed Josh Sweat to come free off the edge on the play and Cousins couldn’t step into the underthrown pass. It was one of several misguided attempts from the Vikings quarterback, and the Eagles capitalized.
Slay matched up with Vikings star receiver Jefferson for most of the night and performed admirably against one of the best wideouts in the league. Jefferson had six catches for 48 yards, which pales in comparison to his 184-yard performance in the Vikings’ 23-7 win over Green Bay in Week 1.
“The defensive staff did an unbelievable job with the plan,” Sirianni said. “And the guys did an unbelievable job of executing it. You don’t just put all your eggs in one basket, right? There were different disguises, different coverages, but make no mistake about it, a lot of it was to stop No. 18. When Slay had to cover him one-on-one, he did an unbelievable job.”
DeVonta Smith and his lack of catches in the season opener was a hot topic in the week after the win in Detroit.
After logging seven catches for 80 yards, it’s safe to say Smith’s role in the offense this season will be sufficient. Sirianni and Steichen made a point of getting Smith a touch early on the first series, running the first play for him for a short completion.
Smith had catches on consecutive plays in the second quarter, piling up 35 yards on the plays.
“When the ball comes to you, you have to make the most of your opportunity,” Smith said. “So just going out there, us as an offense, executing, everybody got their opportunities and everybody made the most of them.”
After featuring Brown heavily in Week 1, the Eagles’ passing attack was much more balanced in general. Quez Watkins had two catches for 69 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter after a nice play design freed him up deep downfield. Goedert had five catches for 82 yards, and Brown had five catches for 69 yards.