PHILADELPHIA — Since last the Eagles were in the Linc for a real football game, they had played for the championship of the world, made their quarterback the highest-paid player in history for a time, and mostly tried not to discuss what might come next.
Their plan was to let their 2023 play speak for itself. Thursday, their play said plenty.
In a 34-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Jalen Hurts scored two touchdowns and passed 63 yards to DeVonta Smith for another, meeting a short-week challenge to help improve the Eagles to 2-0.
D’Andre Swift, who had just one carry in a Week 1 triumph in New England, rushed 28 times for 175 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown. Jake Elliott added two field goals, including a 61-yard shot at the end of the first half.
Hurts showed off his $255,000,000 arm early, connecting with Smith for 54 yards on the fifth offensive play of the game to plant the Eagles at the Minnesota 10. However, the nine-play, 69-yard drive would yield just a 24-yard Elliott field goal.
The Eagles wasted a chance to add to the lead after accepting possession at the Minnesota 39 after their third fumble recovery of the first quarter. The offense generating nothing, Elliott would sail a 55-yard three-point attempt wide right.
The ensuing Minnesota possession spilling into the second quarter, Kirk Cousins made it worthwhile by capping a nine-play drive by spinning in the backfield and tossing a five-yard scoring pass to T.J. Hockenson, who would muscle past Mario Goodrich. The 55-yard march was juiced by Hockenson’s 24-yard reception on third-and-nine that sent the Vikings to the Eagles’ 17.
The Eagles immediately countered with a 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive, taking the lead on Hurts’ one-yard TD sneak with 2:44 left in the first half.
The Vikings appeared to be in good shape when Cousins hit Justin Jefferson with a 30-yard pass near the goal line. But with Terrell Edmunds defending, replays revealed the ball slipping out of Jefferson’s hand and into the end zone for a lost fumble and touchback.
Taking possession with 34 seconds showing, the Eagles needed five plays to reach the Minnesota 43, and Elliott hit a 61-yard field goal just before halftime for a 13-7 lead.
On the first Minnesota possession of the second half, Josh Sweat jolted the ball loose from Cousins and Fletcher Cox returned the fumble to the 7 before Hurts scored on another one-yard push. Cox had been on the injury report earlier in the week with a rib issue.
Hurts continued to punish the Vikings with a 63-yard TD pass to Smith with 10:54 left in the third, the Elliott PAT inflating the lead to 27-7. But the Vikings quickly answered when Jordan Addison scored on a 63-yard heave from Cousins.
Cousins continued to lead a rally, drawing the Vikes within 27-21 with a 10-yard pass to a wide-open K.J. Osborn in the end zone with 7:41 to play, punctuating an 86-yard drive. But the Eagles countered with an eight-play drive. The 75-yard push featured seven Swift carries, including a two-yard touchdown run.
Unimpressed, the Vikings used the next 3:03 to go 75 yards and pull within 34-28 on a five-yard scoring pass from Cousins to Hockenson. Smith, however, flopped on the on-side kick, essentially smothering the threat.
Minnesota had possession at its own 17 with 0:07 showing, but a Cousins bomb fell incomplete.
Though barely trying to win in the preseason, the Eagles defeated the Patriots and four days later reminded a capacity crowd why they are sitting NFC champions. Minnesota dipped to 0-2.
“I think similarities of a short week are very similar to the first game of the year,” Nick Sirianni said. “It’s a lot about fundamentals. It’s a lot about football IQ. And it always is. It always is.”
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With Kenny Gainwell out with a rib injury, the Eagles essentially used Swift as an every-down, go-to back. The St. Joseph’s Prep product had just one carry in the opener, a 25-20 triumph in New England.
“No question about it, he’ll be in that role sometimes where he carries the load for the game,” Sirianni had said. “And he’ll be in the role sometimes like he was in last game. We don’t ever want to come out with him only having those many touches. That’s just kind of how the flow went in the game. We had things called for him, but sometimes the ball doesn’t go for him in a certain way. That’s just the way the defense takes it away.”
In a 75-yard, late-second-quarter drive, Swift carried seven times for 31 yards and caught a one-yard pass. His six-yard run in the third put Hurts in business to score from the 1.
“I see him being able to play any role that he’s in,” Sirianni said, “because of the type of back he is and the skill set that he has.”
Boston Scott was allowed five carries despite needing a concussion exam in the third quarter, Rashaad Penny three.
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NOTES >> The Eagles were without injured Gainwell, James Bradberry (concussion) and Reed Blankenship (ribs). Also scratched were Tyler Steen, Moro Ojomo, Tanner McKee and Albert Okwuegbunam. … Quez Watkins (hamstring) and Avonte Maddox (shoulder) left in the first half and did not return. … Scott needed concussion-related attention in the third quarter. … Before the kickoff, Michael Buffer, a ring announcer of modest exposure, loudly proposed group rumbling preparation.
Source: Berkshire mont