Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ offense struggle in opener with a short week to fix shortcomings
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts slogged through an offensive performance that reminded no one of the dynamic play last season that stamped him as an MVP candidate and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
Only 170 yards passing. A fumble that nearly cost Philadelphia a win.
But win, the Eagles did.
“Winning is the only thing that matters,” Hurts said.
He’s right, though the Eagles hardly played like the team that steamrolled through the NFC last season in their 25-20 win Sunday at New England. This was the kind of effort fans call an ugly win.
There are no style points for victories in the NFL, and the Eagles had a full load of reasons why the offense just didn’t click. Most of the starters didn’t play much in the preseason. The Eagles broke in a new offensive coordinator. The play-calling was suspect. And yes, the Patriots’ defense did what it was supposed to do in limiting breakout plays.
“They limited us by our count to three or four,” coach Nick Sirianni said Monday. “We know how important it is to create explosiveness.”
AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith were held to a combined 14 catches for 126 yards.
“It’s not like we were throwing it to some bums on the outside,” Sirianni said Monday.
The Eagles have a short week to tweak their shortcomings. They play their home opener on Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings — a game so big the Phillies shifted a scheduled 4:05 p.m. game that day to Monday.
Here’s the good news for the Eagles:
Hurts — who needed six games last season before he threw less than 200 yards in a game — didn’t have two bad games in a row last season. If he’s looking for ways to break out, he can just examine last year’s game film against the Vikings, a 24-7 win at home, also in the second week of the season.
The Eagles’ track record suggests this sluggish offense won’t be a long-term problem. Hurts threw for 333 yards and a touchdown and ran for 57 yards and two more scores in last season’s win over the Vikings.
Lost in the shuffle of one of the normally more explosive offenses in the NFL is the steady foot of Jake Elliott. Elliott kicked four field goals, including from 56 and 51 yards, and now has 21 kicks of 50 yards or more, including the playoffs, extending his franchise lead. He made two 50-plus-yard field goals in the same game for the second time in his career and became the first Eagles kicker since 1960 to boot two 50-yarders in the second half.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Yikes, this one was tough to stomach for an Eagles fan. Maybe the offense is still getting used to new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson or maybe the lack of action for the first team in the preseason left them rusty, but the normally high-flying Birds were grounded.
The offense finished with only one touchdown and 251 total yards and had just one offensive play longer than 16 yards. Hurts, the NFL MVP runner-up, threw for only 47 yards in the first half.
Johnson couldn’t find the right calls to get Hurts going and the offense was far from the first one stymied by New England’s Bill Belichick.
“I think Brian did a great job for us,” Hurts said. “I’ve said these things throughout training camp and I’ve made that clear of us searching for an identity and us trying to find an identity and that’s something that we are navigating, and that is something that happens when you have different roles and new guys and new places and new faces.”
DeVonta Smith caught a touchdown pass and rocked the football like a baby.
He’s just getting started — both catching touchdowns this season and in fatherhood.
Smith revealed after the game his daughter, Kyse, was born to him and his girlfriend, Mya, on Saturday. Smith, who had seven catches for 47 yards, said the birth happened earlier than expected. But not so early that he couldn’t rush to make the team plane and still suit up for the opener.
“Everything timed up perfectly,” Smith said. “It was amazing, man. Everybody was talking about it, like, let’s go, you’ve got to rock the baby.”
Smith said the best parenting tip he received from his teammates was to sleep while he can. It probably doesn’t help the Eagles play on short rest this week. He had seven receptions for 80 yards against the Vikings last season.
Tight end Dallas Goedert has averaged 54 catches a season the last four years, remaining a trusted target even as the Eagles boast perhaps the best wideout corps in team history.
He’s stuck at 0 after the opener.
Goedert, who had six catches for 60 yards in the Super Bowl, was targeted only once in New England. He did have five catches for 82 yards in last year’s game against Minnesota.
“Maybe next week will be my week, and if not, I will just keep chopping away until it comes,” he said.
Sirianni said linebacker Nakobe Dean is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks with an injured foot. Cornerback James Bradberry is in the concussion protocol. Josh Jobe could fill Bradberry’s spot.
18 — Hurts has won 18 of his last 19 regular-season starts.
The Eagles play their home opener Thursday night against Minnesota.
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