Birds Stretch Unbeaten Mark To Five Games, Bounce Pesky Rams In L.A.
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The parking lots bordering SoFi Stadium on Sunday were flooded by a sea of Midnight Green, as Eagles fans traveled in droves – along with transplants – to catch the team on the West Coast.
After trading blows early, the Eagles (5-0) did enough following the break to preserve its perfect record, clawing its way to a 23-14 win.
The visiting Eagles jetted out to an early lead, courtesy of a 12-play, 75-yard drive that soaked up more than six minutes, but the Rams countered with their own 6:36 scoring drive, largely exploiting the middle of the field with wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who reeled in 5-of-6 targets for 56 yards.
Mario Goodrich opened the game in the slot, marking his first career start, while rookie free agent Eli Ricks also joined the rotation. Veteran corner Bradley Roby, signed last week, worked into the mix after the initial possession.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who completed 25-of-38 pass attempts for 303 yards, a touchdown and an interception, also accumulated 70 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Tight end Dallas Goedert, a non-entity through four games, led the Eagles in targets (nine) and receptions (eight), eclipsing the 100-yard receiving mark and scoring a touchdown for the first time this season while wide receiver A.J. Brown corralled six of his eight targets for 127 yards.
Edge defender Haason Reddick and rookie Jalen Carter each notched a pair of sacks.
Let’s go ahead with the observations.
* The Eagles sorely needed to establish a third passing option, and did so on the opening drive, involving WR Quez Watkins on a 5-yard bubble screen on the game’s first play, as well as TE Dallas Goedert, who reeled in all four targets for 45 yards and a touchdown. In all, the drive covered 12 plays, 75 yards
* CB Mario Goodrich got the start inside and rotated with rookie free agent CB Eli Ricks. Rams QB Matthew Stafford adjusted accordingly, peppering the middle of the field with a heavy dose of WR Cooper Kupp, who snared 5-of-6 pass targets for 56 yards on the 14-play, 75 yard drive. Interesting to see the Eagles rotate two young corners inside – a move I agree with – rather than immediately turn to veteran CB Bradley Roby. The Eagles need to see what they have in their two young defensive backs, as roster spots figure to be at a premium in the coming weeks.
*Roby assumed all slot reps on the second series, which ultimately resulted in a Rams punt. Rams record-setting rookie WR Puka Nacua, who saw the drive-stalling 3rd-and-7 pass ricochet off his fingertips, had beaten Roby. The Eagles in two series auditioned three different slot defenders.
* RG Sua Opeta, starting in place of an injured Cam Jurgens, looked strong on the first two drives, particularly in pass protection. The five-year pro is powerful at the point of attack and held up well enough to allow Hurts and the high-octane Eagles offense to operate. Opeta’s block sprung Hurts for a 12-yard run on 3rd-and-9 on the third possession.
* Third-down defense for both teams was abysmal early, as the Eagles and Rams combined on 11-of-15 opportunities.
* Hurts struggled with accuracy at times, sailing a 3rd-and-10 pass for Watkins to force a punt. He also misfired wide of Goedert of a short pass on 2nd-and-6 on the ensuing drive.
* Curious play call on 3rd-and-2 late in the second quarter. Rather than run up the middle and rely on an offensive line that had been clearing seismic lanes, Watkins took a short screen wide to the left that yielded no gain and forced a field goal. Watkins also oddly took the play wide as opposed to getting north-south to pick up the two needed yards. Worth noting that HC Nick Sirianni appeared fervid at the tail end of the play.
* Stafford is renowned for being one of the tougher players in this league and came into the game nursing a hip injury. But the 35-year-old was dealing in the first half, completing 12-of-17 pass attempts for 147 yards and two TDs. Stafford’s second touchdown was a perfectly placed 22-yard fade down the right sideline to Nacua, though it’s tough to defend any better than CB James Bradberry did on that throw.
*Hapless pass defense from the Rams in the waning moments before the break, allowing a back-breaking 37-yard completion on third down – in addition to committing a horse-collar tackle – with 17 seconds to play. The Eagles punched it in on a 1-yard Hurts run with two seconds to go as they retook the lead, 17-14.
* Without DT Fletcher Cox (back), DTs Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis and Milton Williams all saw an uptick in playing time as a result. Carter registered two sacks on the afternoon, perhaps none more defining than his third-quarter sack that dropped Stafford for an 11-yard loss and pinned the Rams deep in their own territory. A 15-yard facemask penalty called on LB Zach Cunningham injected new life, but the drive ultimately stalled.
*While his sack total might not indicate it, DE Josh Sweat continues to be disruptive off the edge, registering a pair of QB hits and a forced fumble. Against most quarterbacks, his pressures convert into sacks.
* Hurts appeared much more patient as a passer, more apt to take what the defense allowed. In this case, the underneath plays were available, and the Eagles capitalized with RB D’Andre Swift, who reeled in all five of his targets for 33 yards. RB Kenny Gainwell caught a crucial seven-yard pass on a 3rd-and-6 in the first half.
* Hurts and WR A.J. Brown typically have a symbiotic relationship and impeccable timing. However, on Hurts’ third-down interception by Rams CB Akhello Witherspoon, the duo was hardly in sync. The play ultimately turned the tide when it appeared the Eagles were primed to pull away.
* The Eagles did a remarkable job keeping notorious game-wrecking DT Aaron Donald at bay. The All-Pro interior force failed to generate a sack or quarterback hit.
* He’s rarely mentioned and presumably anonymous to casual observers, but TE Jack Stoll is remarkable in the run game. While he’s largely excelled in that area all season, there were multiple instances where he sealed the edge, doing the dirty work. He also corralled a rare catch, a 4-yarder in the first half.
* On a fourth quarter 3rd-and-7 from the Rams’ 8, Hurts missed a wide-open Gainwell in the flat, instead opting for an end zone strike to DeVonta Smith that fell incomplete. The Eagles were forced to settle for another Jake Elliott field goal, extending the lead to 20-14. The sputtering red-zone offense – 2 for 6 this game – has become a troubling trend.
* On a similar topic, the Eagles strung together two eight-minute-plus drives but managed just three points. Against better teams, that won’t be enough. They play the Dolphins in Week 7.
* An unrelenting Eagles pass rush eventually took its toll on Stafford, forcing hasty decision-making and erratic throws. Again, the numbers don’t indicate it, but the tidal wave of pass rushers bearing down impacted the Rams’ passing rhythm.
* Given the amount of success the Rams experienced with Kupp in the slot early, it felt like Rams HC Sean McVay and Co. outsmarted themselves, moving away from a prosperous formula.
* The Eagles dominated time of possession, 36:56 to 21:04. The Eagles also out-totaled the Rams in first downs, 28-15.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.