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'We take everything personal': Eagles silence Dolphins hype with 31-17 victory, prove to be NFL heavyweights
Nick Sirianni strutted into the Eagles’ locker room shouting “Stop doubting the Eagles!” and asking, “Is that pretty enough for you?” Once inside, the players turned up the volume on Dreams and Nightmares. This was not a routine October victory. This one mattered even more. It was a statement game.
The Eagles rebounded from their first loss of a season with a convincing 31-17 win over the Miami Dolphins in which they held the NFL’s best offense to one offensive touchdown. They were better on both sides of the ball. They had the more explosive offense. They had the more physical defense. They were the better team. And the rest of the league should take notice, too. The Eagles played like the heavyweights they are.
“We take everything personal. No matter, it could be a little team down the street, we take it personal,” veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “That’s our job. You got to play this game with a lot of pride. …We knew they had a really explosive offense. And our job was to slow them down.”
If there’s any reason for angst on Monday morning, it’s that Jalen Hurts needed to wear a knee brace during the game and is dealing with some type of leg injury.
“I’ll be fine,” Hurts told reporters.
There will be more to learn this week.
Other than the health of the franchise quarterback, the story of the game was the Eagles defense. Miami entered the nationally televised showdown as the talk of the league; their offense was No. 1 in virtually every category, including yards, points, and DVOA.
“A lot of grit, you hold a team down to 244 (yards)?” said rookie safety Sydney Brown, who started for the first time on Sunday.
He knew the number. The Dolphins totaled 244 yards, which was more than half of their average entering the game. They went 4 of 11 on third downs, they didn’t score in the red zone, and they possessed the ball for only 23 minutes and 17 seconds. Their drive chart would have seem improbable before the game:
- Field goal
Even when the Dolphins lost to the Bills earlier this season, they moved the ball with more effectiveness than they did on Sunday. The Eagles emphasized physicality all week — it was part of Sirianni’s message. The way to beat speed is with physicality. Tua Tagovailoa entered the game with the NFL’s quickest release. He was sacked four times and hit six times.
“If you looked at the tape, you saw what Buffalo did, they played off,” Brown said. “Tua’s a spot thrower. Great quarterback, great weapons all around him to get the ball to, but he’s a spot thrower, so we played a lot of looser zones… Just let them take the short stuff and react down low.”
It was noteworthy that this came from Brown because he was thrust into a bigger role with the Eagles down two starting safeties. Their slot cornerback (Josiah Scott) was signed off Pittsburgh’s practice squad this week. It was the seventh different starting secondary in seven games. Yet defensive coordinator Sean Desai devised a plan that stymied the Dolphins — and it’s consistent with much of Desai’s first seven games in Philadelphia. Desai has been more than a capable replacement for Jonathan Gannon; he’s flourished with creativity and adaptability.
“You see why we hired him, right?” Sirianni said. “We knew the type of guy we were getting. I just think he’s done a phenomenal job. What I think he’s done such a good job of is what I admire of any coach: Adapting to the personnel that you have.”
It helps to have one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts. Josh Sweat had two sacks and was one of the best players on the field. Haason Reddick had two tackles for a loss and helped limit the toss crack plays that the Dolphins like to run. Miami rushed for only 45 yards because the Eagles made them one-dimensional. Cox, Jordan Davis, and Jalen Carter were forces in the middle of the defense.
“ I always feel like when we play our best is when we’re leaning on — obviously Jalen playing great — but we’re leaning on the offensive and defensive lines,” Sirianni said. “I felt that completely the time that we had to throw, the way we stopped the run, you lean on those guys. So (physicality) was the message this week. But, shoot, those guys went out and did it and they played their butts off.”
It’s true the Eagles win along the lines of scrimmage. But this performance stretched through all 22 players on the field. The Eagles’ cornerbacks mostly limited big plays. Tyreek Hill, who entered the game leading the NFL in receiving yards, averaged only eight yards per catch. He beat the Eagles for a 27-yard touchdown, but was otherwise kept in check. And late in the game, with the Dolphins threatening to tie the game or at least cut into the Eagles’ lead, Darius Slay chased down an interception for the Eagles’ first turnover since Week 3.
“That’s why I’m named ‘Big Play,’ really,” Slay said. “I make plays at critical moments.”
Cox made sure to credit the Eagles’ offense for possessing the ball. It helped that the offense converted three fourth downs with the “Brotherly Shove” — and scored a touchdown on the play, too. A.J. Brown finished with 10 catches for 137 yards and a score to eclipse 125 yards for the fifth consecutive week. And though the Eagles’ must clean up their turnovers, they were 4 of 6 in the red zone (and really 4 of 5 because they took a knee late in the game). So they’re improving in areas that have been a problem.
Hurts’ status will be a critical story this week. But the Eagles outplayed one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and the music was justifiably reverberating in the locker room.
That’s why it’s worth listening to Sirianni. With the way the Eagles played on Sunday, there’s little reason to doubt them.