Gardner Variety Victory
Minshew Shines In Eagles Debut
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In an unpredictable twist, the Eagles and Jets on Sunday engaged in what appeared to be a shootout at MetLife Stadium.
While the two teams exchanged blows throughout much of the first half, however, it was the visiting Eagles who ultimately pulled away after the break, improving to 6-7 headed into the bye week.
Fueled by a revitalized aerial attack piloted by backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, who started the game in place of an injured Jalen Hurts, the Eagles accumulated 418 yards of total offense in what proved to be a resounding 33-18 victory.
Minshew, who hadn’t started a game since Week 14 of last season as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, did his part to catalyze a sound offensive attack, completing his first 11 passes attempts for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
His first incompletion didn’t come until 1:29 left in the second quarter.
On his way to completing 20-of-25 pass attempts for 242 yards and two touchdowns, Minshew achieved an 80-percent completion percentage while accruing a 133.7 percent quarterback rating. He also engineered scoring drives on seven of eight possessions.
Minshew’s fast start, coupled with a two-headed rushing tandem comprised of Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell provided some much-needed rhythm and stability to Nick Sirianni’s offense. Sanders and Gainwell combined for 65 yards at the break, allowing Minshew to work off play action and from under center.
“It was great,” Minshew said. “I think that’s a testament to a lot of things. I think we were running the ball well early, protecting well. [Head coach] Nick [Sirianni] and [offensive coordinator] Shane [Steichen] called a great game. A lot of things went into that.”
Tight end Dallas Goedert, coming off a week in which he managed just one reception for no gain, caught all six of his targets for a career-high 105 yards as Minshew’s preferred passing option.
Goedert also found himself on the receiving end of both Minshew touchdown tosses, including a 36-yarder between two defenders to cap the opening drive as the two established an early connection.
“The first [touchdown],” Goedert said, “we knew that if we went in this formation when I motioned over, that the MIKE would have to carry me deep down, so I just ran at him and released and kept it vertical. But yeah, I think that was kind of the primary on the play, for sure.”
Goedert’s second score came on the second play of the second quarter, on a savvy play design devised to get the athletic tight end down field again. With Jets cornerback Javelin Guidry trailing, Goedert hauled in a 25-yard touchdown down the right side to put the Eagles ahead.
“The second touchdown, it was like a little rub play,” Goedert said. “Boston [Scott] motioned down and kind of got in my defender’s way. We kind of knew they played man-to-man a lot on third down, so it was a great call. Boston did a great job kind of setting up the guy so he had to go underneath. Gardner gave me a good ball and I was able to score, which is always a lot of fun.”
The chemistry between Minshew and Goedert was evident, but rather than traditionally being forged by repetition, the connection was instant.
With Minshew primarily commanding the second-team offense throughout the season, opportunities to establish cohesion with the team’s top tight end have been few and far between.
“I mean, this was my first week to ever really throw to Dallas,” Minshew said. “I mean, he’s really good, so yeah, it’s pretty comfortable throwing to him, anytime you have a player like that. He had a great game today, I was really happy to find him. He’s gonna continue to be a really good player.”
With Hurts on the mend from an ankle injury, the Eagles’ offense withstood any setbacks, even with Minshew starting his first game in nearly a year.
The third-year signal caller made quick decisions, worked through progressions while keeping his eyes down field, protected the football, and took what the Jets’ defense allowed.
Regardless of any public perception that Minshew should leapfrog into the starting spot, Sirianni quickly declared after the game that Hurts would return as the starter when ready.
The Eagles are off this week before a crucial tilt against the surging Washington Football Team, winners of four straight and the biggest threat to the Eagles’ playoff chances, with four divisional games for the Eagles still remaining.
Still, Minshew’s consistency and preparation can’t be understated, especially in a spot start on the road. His 93.3 percent completion rate in the first half tied Donovan McNabb for the highest completion percentage for an Eagles quarterback in the first half since 1991.
Minshew also became just the fourth Eagles quarterback since 1991 to register a perfect passer rating in the first half, along with Nick Foles, Michael Vick and McNabb.
“Obviously, it always starts up front, how the protection’s going,” Sirianni said regarding Minshew’s success. “I thought the protection was awesome. Not to take anything away from Gardner, he played a great game. He got the ball to the backs on checkdowns when there wasn’t something there. He hit some chunks in the pass game, a couple to Quez on those deep overs, and I thought he played a really good game.
“I think our message to Gardner was: Go out and be yourself, protect that football, you got a good supporting cast around you – got a good offensive line, you got good receivers, you got a good tight end, you got good backs, you got a good running game, you got a good defense.So, go out there and be yourself and that’s gonna be enough. So, he did. I’m really happy for Gardner and the game that he played.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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