New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles (24-21 Eagles)
Mike The Ace @TheAceWriter
With the offense struggling, and the playoffs looking like a long shot, the Eagles handed the offense over to rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Eagles were expected to be much better than they’ve been this season, and it’s hard not to look at this year as a failure for this organization.
Carson Wentz signed a 4-year, $128 million dollar deal extension with the team in the summer of 2019. Despite making such a massive investment into Carson Wentz, Philly still went on to draft Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft. That decision was a bad move without a doubt, but oddly enough, it may save the jobs of Head Coach Doug Pederson and General Manager Howie Roseman.
Hurts played well in the second half against the Packers last week, and he impressed even more against the Saints. New Orleans has one of the best defenses in the league, and the rookie QB was able to put pressure on them all game. Jalen Hurts would finish the game going 17/30 for 167 yards, and a touchdown, with no interceptions. He also added another 114 yards rushing on 18 carries.
The passing numbers weren’t outstanding, but it’s good for a rookie QB – in his first start – against one of the league’s best defenses. I was mostly impressed with Hurts’s poise throughout the game, and his command of the offense. His pocket presence was refreshing to see, after watching Wentz struggle with pocket presence for most of the season.
Prior to this matchup, the Saints had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 55 straight games. Both Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts ran for 100-yards in this outing, and it was the Saints’ downfall Sunday afternoon. Saints’ Quarterback Taysom Hill ended up going 28/38 for 291 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He was stuffed running the football, rushing for only 33 yards. Hill was also sacked 5 times.
The Eagles’ defense wanted Taysom Hill to have to win this game with his arm, and they dared him to do so. Hill was inconsistent with his accuracy in this game, and it hurt the Saints’ offense in clutch situations. Hill accounted for 300+ yards of offense, but the team had just 14 points with 2:00 left in the game. There was a final rally from Hill after a Jalen Hurts fumble inside of two minutes, but the Saints could not recover the onside kick following the touchdown.
The Eagles will have to finish the season out with Jalen Hurts at QB. In my opinion, there should be a battle at the QB position between Wentz & Hurts. Wentz’s contract makes it difficult to trade him this upcoming offseason, so the smartest decision would be to let this play out into training camp of next year. The Eagles have an aging roster that needs help. Wentz could be moved for draft picks – sooner rather than later – if Hurts continues to ball out.
Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos (32-27 Broncos)
At the beginning of the football season I picked Drew Lock to be one of my breakout players of the year. So far, there have been some extreme ups and downs with Lock in his 2nd year. Injury, COVID-19 concerns, and overall play have caused some hiccups for the QB. When I watched his college film, and film from last year, this outing was the type of game I predicted him having more often.
Drew Lock went 21-27 with 280 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was under pressure a lot from the Panthers’ gritty defense, but he seems to thrive on rolling out and off scripted plays. The Broncos started off the game right with a punt return touchdown by Diontae Spencer. Denver was able to get the run game / screen game going to relieve some of the blitzing pressure on Lock. Running backs Phillip Lindsey and Melvin Gordon combined for 92 yards running and 30 yards receiving. Another interesting observation was the fact that most of the passes from Lock were chunk plays. KJ Hamler, the leading receiver, had 2 catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Jerry Juedy also added 2 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Even though the Panthers did lose, the defense played great. They were in the backfield with Drew Lock all game. They were only able to get one sack, but they did get the sack and 5 QB hits along with tons of pressures. The Panthers’ issues seemed to be in the secondary, referring back to Lock having so many chunk plays. The defensive line applied pressure, but if they were not able to get there, Lock was just letting it fly to wide open receivers and tight ends.
Teddy Bridgewater went 30-40 with 281 yards. Mike Davis was the touchdown getter for the day, going 11 rushes for 51 yards and 2 Touchdowns. The Panthers made a furious comeback, with the Broncos defense letting up a little bit in the second half. They ended up running out of time in the end.
This is the progress I like to see from Drew Lock. He has continued to learn in the system and has all the weapons he needs to succeed, he just needs to play better more consistently. The Panthers are now out of the playoff picture with the loss. They have had a lot of moving parts on the offense because of injury, but have still made strides under first year head coach Matt Rhuel. The Panthers have pieces, but the rebuild will take time after the regime change.