Hurts, Birds Show They're Unbreakable In Another Rain-Slogged Comeback Win
PHILADELPHIA — As rain cascaded on Lincoln Financial Field, Jalen Hurts emerged from the home tunnel 53 minutes before kickoff, retreating to his typical warmup space at the goal line to engage in his pregame routine.
Later on Sunday afternoon, the Eagles’ star quarterback would find the end zone once again in the game’s most critical moment – a 12-yard rushing touchdown in overtime that propelled the Eagles past the Bills in overtime, 37-34, to complete the nine-yard, 75-yard drive that Hurts masterfully engineered.
Rolling up three touchdowns in the second half, the Eagles atoned for a sluggish first half, forcing overtime on Jake Elliott’s 59-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining after the Bills had taken the lead on their prior drive – a 12-play, 53-yard march ended on Tyler Bass’ 40-yard field goal.
The Bills carried a 17-7 lead into the break, with the Bills offense accumulating 276 scrimmage yards, including 209 passing yards from quarterback Josh Allen.
Conversely, Hurts had struggled to establish an early rhythm, mustering just 4 completions for 33 yards, while tossing an interception and committing a late second-quarter fumble, two turnovers resulting in 14 Bills points.
Hurts finished 10-of-19 for 127 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith led all Eagles pass-catchers, reeling in 4-of-5 targets for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive end Brandon Graham, playing in career game No. 189 – the most in team history – registered the team’s lone sack.
Let’s go ahead with the observations.
* RT Lane Johnson, nursing a groin injury, underwent an extensive pregame warmup, with Howie Roseman, OL coach Jeff Stoutland, head athletic trainer Ted Rath and others monitoring before retreating to the locker room. Third-year pro Jack Driscoll got the start instead.
* Huge third-down stop on Buffalo’s opening drive by S Reed Blankenship and LB Nicholas Morrow, who swarmed to bring down Bills RB Latavius Murray for no gain on a 3rd-and-2. Blankenship, in particular, continues to impress from an instinctual and diagnosis standpoint.
* Rough first series for the Eagles’ offense. Bills OLB Leonard Floyd beat Driscoll, filling in for an injured Johnson. On second and third down, however, it appeared Hurts had time to scan but failed to find open receivers and sailed consecutive throws forcing three-and-outs.
* Costly 2nd-and-6 drop from Bills RB James Cook on perfectly placed pass down the left sideline on wheel route. Cook had multiple steps on Morrow, and could’ve scored on the play – one he’ll regret given the one-possession outcome.
* Deafening crowd noise from the home crowd triggered ensuing false start penalties on RT Spencer Brown and C Mitch Morse, taking the Bills out of field goal range – another major mistake in a close game.
*It’ll probably get lost in the shuffle, but Bills S Micah Hyde executed an important tackle of DeVonta Smith – limiting the Eagles receiver to just five yards on the catch – to save a big play, as the backside was wide open.
* RB Kenny Gainwell showed some rare explosion, with a 23-yard run – his longest of the season – to put the Eagles on the board first.
* Rookies Eli Ricks and Sydney Brown had defined roles on third-down.
* Defensive pass interference penalty notwithstanding, S Kevin Byard has been tremendous against tight ends the past two weeks – against Chiefs TE Travis Kelce and impressive Bills rookie Dalton Kincaid – to play a crucial role, especially given the upcoming matchup against 49ers TE George Kittle.
* In inclement weather, ball security and field position are paramount, so when Hurts tossed a second-quarter interception that returned possession to Buffalo at the Philadelphia 29-yard-line, it felt like an imminent turning point, especially after Buffalo punched it in four plays later on a Josh Allen 9-yard TD run. Allen’s 19-yard strike to WR Gabe Davis on 3rd-and-9, after he rolled right for time, was the play of the drive.
* Late in the second, the Bills managed to get out of the shadows of their own end zone after Allen completed a 31-yard shot to WR Khalil Shakir. But credit the Eagles’ defense for still holding firm and forcing a punt. The past two weeks, the defense has come up with some timely stops, atoning for a largely erratic offense.
*Bad fumble with 1:08 left by Hurts, as Bills DE Gregory Rousseau recovered the loose ball at the Philadelphia 36. Allen then orchestrated a 5-play, 36-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass to WR Stefon Diggs.
* The Eagles’ pass rush struggled to manufacture pressure on Allen, garnering just one sack, from DE Brandon Graham, who dropped Allen for a 7-yard loss with 9:44 left. PR Britain Covey, second in the NFL in punt return yards (277) and average yards per return (14.6) returned the ensuing punt 18 yards. Covey could punch his ticket to the Pro Bowl.
* Nice play by TE Jack Stoll, who rarely garners targets, to lower his shoulder and rumble for four yards on 3rd-and-2 in the red zone, setting up Hurts’ 3-yard touchdown to A.J. Brown, trimming the Bills’ lead to three.
* LB Zach Cunningham’s hamstring injury left the Eagles lean at linebacker, but Christian Elliss stood out early, burying Bills RB Ty Johnson for a 5-yard loss. Allen responded on the ensuing play, however, eluding Reed Blankenship en route to a 16-yard TD run, extending the Bills lead to 24-14. Blankenship, typically a sure tackler, missed a couple in this game.
* Big-time catch by DeVonta Smith on his 15-yard touchdown, which cut the Eagles’ deficit down to three early in the game’s final frame. The third-year wideout, who skied between two Bills defenders on the catch, continues to come through in critical moments.
*When it comes to takeaways, it’s been radio silence for CB James Bradberry this year, but that changed when the veteran picked off Allen and returned possession to Buffalo’s 24. Facing 3rd-and-15, Hurts then tossed a 29-yard go-ahead TD strike to WR Olamide Zaccheaus – the receiver’s first TD since Week 3 – who skied over Hyde to reel in a circus catch.
* Bend-but-don’t-break defense eventually broke for the Eagles at an inopportune time, as Bills executed a 10-play, 74-yard scoring march in the fourth to retake the lead, 31-28, with 1:55 remaining in regulation. There wasn’t much pressure and the Eagles were atypically loose in run defense.
* The Eagles had a chance to mount a comeback in the waning moments – and appeared poised for points – before two uncharacteristic C Jason Kelce false starts hindered all progress. The Eagles “settled” for Elliott’s 59-yarder to knot the game at 31 and force overtime.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.