Wed, 01 Feb 2023

Morning Roundup: A night Eagles fans won't soon forget

Philadelphia Eagles
29 Nov 2022, 18:12 GMT+10

by Dave Spadaro, Sage Hurley & Chris McPherson

The Eagles are 10-1 and own the best record in the NFL after Sunday night's exhilarating 40-33 win over the Green Bay Packers.

It was a special night as the Eagles debuted their all-black uniforms and inducted two of the franchise's premier pass rushers - Trent Cole and Hugh Douglas - into the Hall of Fame.

With the win, though, the Eagles have now won 10+ games in 14 seasons under Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, the fifth most since 1995. Nick Sirianni became just the eighth head coach since 1970 to start 10-1 in their first or second career year on the job. Each of Lurie's five head coaching hires has now posted 10+ wins within two seasons.

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro offers the big-picture outlook from the win, featuring this gem from quarterback Jalen Hurts.

"I mentioned often the importance of being able to attack teams in different ways," Hurts said. "I feel like for us as a football team, as an offense, it's like your favorite steakhouse, your favorite restaurant - 5-star, boujee restaurant you like to go to. You have your steak of the day, your selection of the day. For us, we can kind of do it all as you know. We do everything at a pretty consistent basis, that's what we strive for, and I think we've done that in moments this year, and I think that's our standard."

Read more about the win below in our Morning Roundup, presented by DraftKings.

Jalen Hurts expresses gratitude on record-setting night

Jalen Hurts' name was etched into the franchise history books on Sunday night when he set the record for the most single-game rushing yards by an Eagles quarterback. His 157 yards propelled him 27 past Michael Vick's 130 that had stood firm since the come-from-behind 38-31 win against the New York Giants in 2010, fondly remembered as the "Miracle at the New Meadowlands" or "Miracle at the Meadowlands II."

Just like that game 12 years ago, Sunday's victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to advance to 10-1 is not one Eagles fans will soon forget.

When Hurts learned he hit that milestone, his response was one forged in gratitude for Eagles quarterbacks who came before him.

"I have a great deal of respect for those guys - the guys who have come before me. Randall (Cunningham), Mike (Vick), (Donovan) McNabb," he said.

"To be thrusted into that category - it's a blessing."

His performance was synergistically timed, as it came on the heels of a discussion surrounding the legacy of Black quarterbacks in Philadelphia between Hurts, McNabb, and Vick aired by ESPN two weeks ago.

"They don't even know how they've affected me and impacted me in my time here. It's an understatement to say how much I appreciate them, because I do. They've guided me in more ways than they know. I appreciate them, and I appreciate this team." - Sage Hurley

Jason Kelce picks perfect night to set ironman mark

On the first play from scrimmage on Sunday night, Jason Kelce extended his consecutive games started streak to 133, the second-longest right now in the league, and set the record for most games played by an offensive lineman with 170, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik.

"Chuck obviously wasn't just an offensive lineman," Kelce was quick to note when asked about the milestone. "What I really like about it, and it doesn't get touched on as much, but when you look at the amount of plays, me, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox are all right there and it really speaks to the tenure all three of us have had here and the success we've had in the locker room that we've had."

Kelce further entrenched himself in Eagles lore on a night when the Eagles rushed for 363 yards, the most since the franchise record was set with 376 in 1948. It also happened when the Eagles had two rushers cross the 140-yard plateau for the first time in team history as the Eagles improved to 10-1.

"That's one of the things you really like and appreciate about a strong running performance is it's usually a very team effort," Kelce said. "It takes everybody working in sync and everybody doing the job and being focused and locked in. So that's a great performance, I'm happy to have been a piece of it."

Right tackle Lane Johnson was emotional talking about Kelce's impact on him and the team following the win.

"He's unbelievable the type of player he is. Just consistently, the best center in the National Football League. Just the stuff you can see him do in the run game, the screen game, I don't think there's ever been a center as athletic as him that can move in space," Johnson said.

"He's the ironman. He's my brother. He's a great teammate. I get emotional talking about it. I've spent all these years with him and seeing him grind and how hard he works, that's my brother, man. I've got a lot of respect for him.

"It's rare that you get somebody that cares that much about his job and then goes and answers the bell." - Chris McPherson

Miles Sanders quietly having a brilliant campaign

Honestly, it was a no-big-deal kind of game for running back Miles Sanders as he stood in the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field long after Sunday night's 40-33 win over Green Bay but, of course, it was a very big deal. Sanders ran for a career-high 143 yards and scored his seventh and eighth touchdowns of the season as the Eagles rushed for a whopping 363 yards and all Sanders wanted to do was credit the big guys in front of him.

"I'm telling you, and I've been saying this all season, it's the guys up front," Sanders said. "They're making my job easy. I have so much confidence in them and I'm just following them because they are making holes and I'm running through them. It's that simple."

It's not, of course. But first, let's put what Sanders did on Sunday and what he's done this season in perspective: Sanders became the first Eagle to register 140-plus rushing yards and 2-plus touchdowns in a single game since LeSean McCoy did it in the Snow Bowl on December 8, 2013 against Detroit (217 yards, 2 TDs) at Lincoln Financial Field.

Also, he continued a brilliant season. During his career-best outing, Sanders also established career marks in rushing yards for the season to date - 900 yards - and rushing TDs (8). He became the first Eagles RB to record 8-plus rushing touchdowns through 11 games since McCoy in 2011 (11).

"It is a lovely feeling. I am not going to lie," Sanders said. "To beat a good team like that as well with the run game means a lot, too. It shows how much hard work we do each week. I have to give credit not just to the O-line but Coach Stout (Eagles Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland) because he loves running the ball, too, and he has all the confidence in the O-line and running backs especially. That is what we feed off of."

And the season he's having?

"I'm focused, I'm relaxed, and I want to keep it going," Sanders said. "I just am taking this one day at a time and enjoying it all. We have another hard game coming up and I know we're going to be ready to play when Tennessee comes here." - Dave Spadaro

Reed Blankenship becomes a future Jeopardy question

Reed Blankenship, the undrafted safety from Middle Tennessee State University, had quite the crowd surrounding his locker after the win on Sunday. He was one of the last players speaking with reporters at the end of the night, which would not have been easy to predict in the days leading up to the Week 12 matchup. But after he became the first undrafted rookie to ever pick off future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it came as no surprise.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson was carted off the field due to an injury to his ribs during the first quarter of the game, leaving the job to Blankenship, who had only seen two defensive snaps as an NFL player before subbing in. Inexperience aside, Blankenship drove on Rodgers' pass for the interception in the second quarter, granting possession back to the home team.

"I knew that my name was going to get called eventually, it's a long season. I was ready for it, I was prepared for it, and I went in confident," said Blankenship.

"I was crossing in and saw Rodgers looking that way and I drove on it - I'm surprised he actually threw it, though!

As Blankenship recounted the moment he saw his opportunity to make his first big play, cornerback Darius Slay started a "Reed, Reed, Reed" chant - he was one of multiple veteran players who chimed in with support while Blankenship was interviewed.

"It's one of those crazy moments that I'll live forever with. I'm still kind of shocked. It is what it is, it's an interception. But I got to build on that, I've got to continue to be consistent in what I do," Blankenship said.

Though happy for his teammate, Slay admitted he was a bit jealous - he wanted a picked-off Aaron Rodgers ball for himself.

"I've been in the league for 10 years; he's a rookie! But kudos to him, I'm happy for my dog; my dog went off today," Slay said.

"But, I'm low-key a little jealous, man! He got a pick before me with ARod, I was in this division for 7 years (with the Lions in the NFC North) and I couldn't get him!

Slay had the same sentiment about Josiah Scott, who caught a Rodgers pass intended for Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard, giving the Eagles the ball at Green Bay's 29-yard line which set the offense up for a touchdown drive. The pass first bounced off of Slay's helmet before landing in Scott's hands for an interception.

Similarly to Blankenship, Scott's increased playing time is due to injury; he's been stepping up in place of Avonte Maddox, who will be out for at least another two weeks. - Sage Hurley

Jake Elliott's fourth-quarter field goal sets franchise record

David Akers, the most prolific kicker in franchise history, was at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night as part of the Hall of Fame festivities as Trent Cole and Hugh Douglas were inducted as the Class of 2022.

With a swift kick in the fourth quarter, Jake Elliott put one of Akers' several records by the wayside.

Elliott's 54-yard field goal with 2:16 left in the game provided the Eagles with a two-score lead and set the new benchmark for most field goals of 50+ yards in team history with 17, including playoffs.

"That's news to me. That's cool," Elliott said in the locker room after the win. "A lot of good players before me, so that's cool."

The Eagles, facing a fourth-and-3 from the Packers' 36-yard line, led 37-30. The Eagles tried to draw the Packers offsides, then called a timeout. Head Coach Nick Sirianni sent Elliott out to pad the lead.

"Those big ones in the fourth quarter always come quick on you. I was just grateful for the opportunity. Nick went and called a timeout. I always like to kind of run over to the net and get one more and just be kind of in a good rhythm," Elliott said. "Great execution by Rick (Lovato, long snapper), Arryn (Siposs, punter), and the line and knocked it through."

The make was the Pro Bowl kicker's second field goal of the fourth quarter and the longest successful attempt of the season. - Chris McPherson

Quez Watkins provides spark with go-ahead touchdown

Quez Watkins is the overlooked receiver to some out there in the Eagles' wide receiver group that includes A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and, really, it's not a problem at all for Watkins, the third-year player who on Sunday night caught a huge 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts to put Philadelphia ahead at halftime.

In fact, Watkins likes it.

"I love being the underdog, and that's kind of how I see myself," said Watkins, a sixth-round draft pick in 2020. "I'm motivated to get better every day to earn more time, earn more looks. Whatever the role is, I'm fine with it."

The role is to make plays when the ball comes his way and Watkins has done that. He has 17 receptions for 259 yards this season, with three touchdowns. In Indianapolis two games ago, he ignited the offense with a 22-yard scoring play in the fourth quarter. On Sunday night, Watkins outfought cornerback Rasul Douglas to make a catch with only seconds remaining in the first half to send Philadelphia into the locker room with a lead.

It was a huge momentum play and Watkins was the guy to do it.

"My confidence is through the roof," Watkins said. "I'm so thankful the coaches have confidence in me and Jalen does, too. That pass, it's a 50/50 ball and whoever wants it more gets it. I wanted it more."

Watkins caught 3 passes for 35 yards in the win.

"It was a huge play and I know it meant a lot to the team," Watkins said. "Like I said, having a chance to make plays, that's what we do here. We take advantage of our chances and I just had a chance to go up and get a ball and I did it."

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