Jalen Hurts is the Philadelphia Eagles headliner and the guy with the huge contract. DeVonta Smith can make a spectacular catch on any play. In most games, AJ Brown is dominant. The defense has a lot of stars, especially the pass rushers.
But the biggest reason for the Eagles’ success is what they built on the offensive line. When the offense struggled so much in the first quarter Thursday night that the home fans started booing, Philadelphia let the O-line take over. When the Minnesota Vikings attacked in the fourth quarter, the Eagles asked the line to dominate again, and they did.
D’Andre Swift ran for 175 yards, Jalen Hurts caught a pair of rushing touchdowns, and that’s what will show up on fantasy gametrackers. There is nothing in the boxscore that can quantify all the holes open for them. The Eagles improved to 2-0 with a 34-28 win.
The Eagles have the best offensive line in the NFL and it was the star of Thursday night’s win.
The Eagles start slowly
The Eagles struggled enough in the first quarter that fans started booing…in the home opener for the defending NFC champion who got within 1-0. Never change, Philly.
But everyone knew the Eagles had to take it back on offense. They were struggling with Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ game plan, which dropped as many as eight players in coverage and masked pressures well. So the Eagles started playing against the Vikings with Swift. He had 63 yards on 12 carries in the first half. The Eagles got their first touchdown on a quarterback “tush push” by Hurts.
Late in the first half the game changed when Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson was unlucky with a fumble. Jefferson made a good play and tried to get into the end zone, but the ball was lost for a fumble. The ball was determined to have come out just short of the pylon, but then a review showed it was just above the pylon. This meant the fumble went out of bounds in the end zone, giving Philadelphia possession and a touchback. The Eagles finished with a field goal as time expired, a huge swing in the final minute. Philadelphia led 13-7 at halftime.
The Eagles would extend that lead in the third quarter, the Vikings would fight back, but ultimately Philadelphia’s offensive line put the game away.
The Eagles put the game away late
The Vikings lost momentum before halftime and the snowball continued early in the second half. Josh Sweat hit Kirk Cousins from behind, Cousins fumbled, and the Eagles recovered. A few plays later there was another sneak “tush push” TD by Hurts and the Eagles led 20-7. That play seems unstoppable, but part of that reason is that the Eagles offensive line always gets a big push ahead of Hurts and his teammates pushing him from behind.
When the Vikings had a breakdown in coverage — Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans gave Smith a free inside release, clearly expecting safety help that wasn’t there — that led to a 63-yard touchdown run for Smith and the Vikings trailed 27-7.
Give credit to the Vikings for coming back. They scored two touchdowns in a row. With plenty of time left in the fourth quarter they were down 27-21. That’s when the Eagles launched a punishing eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Swift touchdown. The Vikings were powerless to stop him, even though the Eagles had made it clear they would do just that against them. This practically sealed the victory. Vikings tight end TJ Hockenson scored a second touchdown with 1:10 left but the Vikings failed to recover the onside kick.
The Eagles used a lot of tight end two sets and imposed their will on the Vikings defense. The NFL has turned into a passing league, but there’s still something to be said for the ability to line up, punch your opponent in the mouth, and move the ball five or more yards at a time down the ground.
The Eagles can do it better than anyone in the NFL. Even when games start slow, they know the offensive line can take over when needed.