INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Eagles emerged from the battle of the NFC’s last two champions still undefeated.
Their signature tush push? It still reigns supreme.
Philadelphia found itself in a close fight for nearly the duration of Sunday’s 23-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams, pulling ahead by more than one possession only late in the fourth quarter. But it was the score with two seconds remaining in the first half, when Nick Sirianni opted for a Jalen Hurts sneak from the 1-yard line to go up, 17-14, that proved both the most daring and impactful.
“Huge,” Sirianni told reporters of how big of a conversion it was. “That was exciting. That was fun right there. I imagine that was a great time to be a fan. They had the big completion for a touchdown, then we come back and score a touchdown with no time left. I just have confidence in the play that nobody likes that we run.”
The Eagles could have played it safe, electing for a field goal to bring the score to 14-13. Thanks to the defense pitching a shutout over the next two frames, the result still would have held.
The play call sent a message, though. The Eagles were going to shove it down the Rams’ throat on an all-or-nothing play, and Los Angeles — like much the rest of the league — would be powerless to stop them.
It started before that, too, after the Rams took a 14-10 lead on a nifty 22-yard catch by Puka Nacua near the boundary of the end zone with 32 seconds remaining. It seemed momentum was shifting L.A.’s way.
Philly could have taken a knee to run out the first half, but it didn’t.
Instead, Hurts scampered for a 9-yard gain out of bounds, then airdropped a perfect pass to A.J. Brown for 38 yards. The Rams committed a horse collar on the play, gifting their opponents 15 extra yards, then interfered with an end-zone pass on the very next throw.
That set up the last-second snap at the goal line, where the already aggressive Eagles didn’t blink. They packed their backfield behind Hurts, he took the snap and received a helpful push from his teammates into the end zone with center Jason Kelce leading the plunge.
“You always want to be aggressive,” Hurts said about his appreciation of the play-calling on that drive. “The moment you stop playing the game the way you want to play the game and being aggressive, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s just a matter of execution and trust. We did a great job in that. It obviously helped us with the penalty they gave us, and then they gave us another one in the red zone on the 1. I think it was just great operation at that point.”
- 2023 NFL season, Week 5: Notable injuries, news from Sunday's games
- 2023 NFL season, Week 5: What We Learned from Sunday's games
- Giants QB Daniel Jones exits loss to Dolphins with neck injury
Although this was perhaps the boldest iteration of the tush push QB sneak to date, the play is almost a tradition for the Eagles at this point.
Since 2022, Hurts has over twice as many rushing first downs on third- or fourth-and-1s as any other NFL player. He comes in at 36. Justin Fields is in second with 16.
It’s a near-automatic result has frustrated opposing defenses to the point that the competition committee looked into removing it from the game this offseason.
“Of course they are,” Sirianni said postgame when asked about the committee reportedly considering evaluating it once again. “Last night in our meeting we talked a lot about growth mindset. That was our message this week, that we constantly have to be in this steady growth. … What we did is we looked at the evolution of what we’ve been through quarterback sneaks and we’ve grown in that. Not only have we been highly successful, but we’ve grown in that area.
“The fundamentals that these guys go to, we watched our evolution of the play, and the growth of that play is just a great example of what we want to be as a team. If we stayed the same in our quarterback sneaks from 2021 until now, defenses would’ve caught up to it. But we’ve grown in the areas, and we’ve grown in fundamentals. … Then we watch the rest of the league and, quite frankly, they can’t do it like we can. We’ll play the rules of what they say to do. It’s a good play for us. The competition committee can look at it, but until then people have to stop it.”
Hurts was shorter in his response to any sneak-inspired angst, but he mirrored his coach’s thinking.
“Not to pour more water into that jug, but it’s something that we’re able to do at a high level,” he said. “It’s clear that it doesn’t always work for everyone else.”
There’s little question the Eagles exercise this version of the QB sneak with far more success than other teams across the league.
The name, at least for Hurts, is a question.
“I’ve never called it that,” he clarified Sunday when the tush push was initially referenced.
His response to what he does call it: “Not that.”
Whatever the play’s name, the Eagles have perfected it with lethal execution. It remains legal, it remains nearly unstoppable and it’s one of the reasons Philadelphia ends Sunday sitting at 5-0.
Follow Bobby Kownack on Twitter.
Source: Read Full Article