The chants are only getting louder for Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Hurts on Sunday delivered another stellar performance. His efforts — 392 combined yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) — proved to be the deciding factor in the Eagles’ 35-10 victory against the Tennessee Titans at Lincoln Financial Field.
As Hurts left the field victorious, he was greeted by “MVP” chants near the home tunnel. With five regular-season games remaining, Hurts has emerged as a legitimate candidate for the league’s top award. The Eagles own the NFL’s best record at 11-1 and stand in first place in the NFC East.
“I love where he is,” coach Nick Sirianni said of Hurts. “But the MVP stuff is for you guys to decide. He just has to do what he has to do to play well, give us a chance to win each week.”
Star wide receiver AJ Brown admitted he was experiencing a wave of emotions ahead of the game against his former team. He successfully rid himself of those feelings. Brown torched his former teammates with a game-high eight catches, 119 yards, and two touchdowns.
In a draft-day trade with the Titans, the Eagles surrendered first- and third-round picks in order to acquire Brown, whom they subsequently signed to a four-year extension worth up to $100 million. Brown has helped transform the Eagles offense into a high-octane machine.
“This one meant a lot to me,” Brown said. “Early on, I had mixed emotions about the trade and everything, and I’d be lying to you to say I didn’t circle this game…I wanted to make them regret that decision.”
When Hurts wasn’t delivering picturesque basket-type passes to Brown, the 24-year-old quarterback was tossing completions to wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who finished right behind Brown with five catches, 102 yards, and one touchdown. Hurts also recorded his ninth rushing touchdown. He needs just two more rushing touchdowns to top the franchise record (10) that he set last season.
“We work really hard and we prepare really hard, and sometimes it just looks different,” Hurts said. “Regardless of how we’re attacking a defense, we just want to execute in whatever it is we’re doing. We want to make the right plays, make the right decisions with the football, protect the football, and put points on the board. We just want to continue to grow. It’s the same old message with me.”
The Eagles became the first team in the NFL to throw for 350-plus yards after rushing for 350-plus yards in the previous week (363 rushing yards vs. Packers) since the 1987 Los Angeles Raiders.
“I think we can be very dangerous,” Smith said. “Teams can’t pick one certain thing how to defend against us.”
All week long, the Eagles knew exactly who was coming to town. The defense proved to be up for the challenge as it limited Titans running back Derrick Henry to 11 carries and 30 rushing yards.
Early and often, coordinator Jonathan Gannon stacked the box with extra defenders. It took a collective group effort to quiet the former offensive player of the year. For a majority of the game, the interior defensive line set the tone while others performed cleanup duty. The defense also welcomed back nose tackle Jordan Davis to the fold. The rookie did not record a tackle, but his presence was felt on rushing downs with the Titans allocating multiple blockers towards Davis. Linebacker TJ Edwards paced the unit with a team-high six tackles.
“Obviously, they had a good idea of what we were going to do, and we had a good idea of what they were going to do,” Edwards said. “It was all about winning your one-on-ones, winning your area, defeating blocks. I thought our D-line just ruined that game. They were dominant, all across the board.”
With the Titans unable to get much going on the ground, quarterback Ryan Tannehill couldn’t muster much more. The defensive front harassed Tannehill to the tune of six sacks, including two from defensive end Josh Sweat. Last season, the Eagles recorded 29 sacks. Through 12 games, they are up to 42 sacks. Tannehill managed just 14 completions with 141 passing yards and one touchdown. He also finished as the Titans’ leading rusher with 34 yards on three scrambles.
“We knew the exact challenge,” defensive tackle Javon Hargrave said. “We manned up. We were physical. We showed out.”
The special teams group suffered arguably its worst performance of the year last Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers. But it rebounded nicely vs. the Titans with several standout performances.
Linebacker Christian Elliss, who was elevated from the practice squad, started the party with an electric hit in the first half. Elliss also served as a key blocker in front of returner Britain Covey, who finished with a season-best 105 yards across six punt returns. Covey also recorded his longest return of the season (27 yards).
“I think it always takes breaking one or two big returns to catch that fire and belief across everybody,” Covey said. “More than anything, sometimes special teams, especially returns, it’s about being patient. I feel like [fans] on social media we’re desperate for a big return. While I was frustrated, I wasn’t nervous or impatient. This type of performance definitely makes me more hungry. Once you break a couple, it helps the confidence of the unit as a whole.”
Added Elliss: “My mindset was to bring energy, don’t be an energy-sucker — be an energizer bunny. It was a team effort. Luckily I have 10 other guys out there with me who responded after my hit. It just started an effect. I love watching those guys roll.”
Despite the final score, it wasn’t an entirely clean performance from the Eagles. They committed a season-high 11 penalties for 75 yards. A handful of their mistakes were committed by the offensive line, with veterans Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson flagged for false-start penalties. Those type of slipups simply can’t occur at such a frequent rate, especially late in the season at home.
“Those penalties are unacceptable,” Smith said. “We have to do better as an offense. I had one myself. We just have to cut that out. It worked in our favor today, but down the line, you never know. The difference might come down to penalties.”
Wide receiver Quez Watkins sustained a shoulder injury in the second half and did not return. Linebacker Kyzir White sustained a lower body injury; he was momentarily replaced by rookie Nakobe Dean. Watkins and White indicated they should be fine after the game.
Second-year offensive lineman Landon Dickerson sustained an apparent lower body injury during the first half. Dickerson missed a few snaps and was briefly replaced by Andre Dillard at left guard.
With the outcome decided near the beginning of the fourth quarter, Sirianni elected to rest a majority of his starters for the remainder of the game. Looking ahead, the Eagles face their longest road slate of the year with three consecutive road games against the New York Giants, Chicago Bears, and Dallas Cowboys.