Eagles Observations: Eagles complete spectacular, fourth quarter comeback against Colts

Roob's Obs: Eagles complete spectacular, fourth quarter comeback against Colts originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

What a spectacular comeback.

I’m not sure how they did it, but they did it.

The Eagles, trailing by 10 points going into the fourth quarter, roared back with a couple late touchdowns and beat the Colts 17-16 Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Wow.

Here we go with our Instant Observations:

1. This team doesn’t just talk about overcoming adversity, man, they live it. Down 10 points in the fourth quarter, coming off a bad home loss, short week, on the road, against a rejuvenated team? The Eagles were spectacular in the fourth quarter Sunday, turning a 13-3 deficit into a 17-16 win, and it was magnificent. The Eagles had lost 41 straight games trailing by 10 or more going into the fourth quarter since that unforgettable 38-31 win over the Giants at the Meadowlands in 2010 – the DeSean Jackson last-second punt return touchdown. There was a lot working against them Sunday – injuries, turnovers, big deficit - but they found a way and somehow they find themselves 9-1 with seven games to go. This is the team we thought they were. They just waited 45 minutes to start showing it.

2. Jalen Hurts ran 15 times for 87 yards (before a kneel down) and the Eagles needed every one of them. Hurts hasn’t run that much lately, but he was incredible with the ball in his hands Sunday, and in the fourth quarter alone he ran eight times for 49 yards, including a 23-yard scramble, a three-yard run on a 4th-and-2 after the two-minute warning and the game-winning seven-yard TD. Spectacular stuff from Hurts, who also threw the ball beautifully – 18-for-25 for 190 yards, a TD, no interceptions and a 107.0 passer rating. The kid is just so mentally tough and physically tough, and on a crucial snap with the game on the line, I’m not sure there’s anybody I’d rather have running my offense. OK, I’ll give you Patrick Mahomes. But really, he is so clutch and so dynamic and fearless. What can’t he do?

3. Major props to the defense for pretty much shutting down the Colts after that initial 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game. They allowed just three field goals the rest of the way and here’s the Colts’ drives by yards after the TD: 9, 11, 16, 22, 5, minus-4, 23, 32, 47, 8. Coming off Washington, this was a heck of performance. Especially on Jonathan Taylor. He’s one of the most dangerous backs in the league, and he looked like it on the Colts’ first drive, running 7 times for 49 yards. That’s 7.0 yards per pop. After that, he ran 15 times for just 35 yards, which is 2.3 yards per carry. T.J. Edwards was all over the field making big plays, Darius Slay rebounded after a bad game last week and slow start Sunday, Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham had huge late sacks, and Jonathan Gannon got his guys to settle down enough to play some very good football after that sluggish start. Big-time performance by the defense.

4. I’ve felt all year that it’s important to get Quez Watkins involve on offense, and for long stretches he hasn’t been. From Week 3 to Week 9, he had just six catches for 44 yards in seven games. Then came the big 50-yard catch and fumble last week, and it was good to see Shane Steichen and Jalen Hurts remain confident in Watkins after such a crushing play and also to see Watkins keep his confidence. Especially with Dallas Goedert out the Eagles need production from all their skill guys, so it was terrific to see Watkins with a big 1st-down catch on an early 3rd-and-8 and the 22-yard touchdown, his first since Week 2. With his world-class speed, Watkins is such a tough matchup, and he really does have excellent hands. Really encouraging bounce-back performance from Quez, and the Eagles have to make sure he remains part of this offense.

5. Lots of sloppy football from the Eagles. Penalties on three straight plays on a 1st-quarter drive after they got down to the Colts’ 34 – including an offensive pass interference on Tyree Jackson that wiped out an 18-yard A.J. Brown catch - a Jason Kelce snap over Jalen Hurts’ head on a 2nd-and-goal from the 2 that probably cost the Eagles a touchdown, a hold on Grant Calcaterra that wiped out a 1st-down run by Miles Sanders. The Eagles committed seven penalties – five on the offense, one on the defense, one on special teams.

6. The Marcus Epps and T.J. Edwards Appreciation Observation: Epps and Edwards have been the Eagles two-most consistent defensive players this year, and they haven’t made a ton of splash plays but they’ve both been really solid. Sunday, Epps made a fantastic play stripping Taylor and Edwards recovered to set up the Quez Watkins touchdown. But both of them are just really tough, physical, consistent presences on this defense, and they were both huge Sunday. Edwards had two huge tackles for loss, and Epps is always good for a few massive hits per game. Both these guys are unsigned after this year, and they might not be Howie Roseman’s top priorities, but he’s got to keep them here.

7. Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh made an unbelievable impact, and you can see why Howie Roseman wanted to sign them. Honestly, I can’t believe how much they played and how well they played after being out of football since January. They weren’t even in a training camp, but it speaks to just how professional these two guys are and what kind of shape they kept themselves in and how prepared they were to make such an impact after being on the street just a few days ago. They were terrific against the run and in the third quarter they combined on a sack. Joseph and Suh are going to be big-time assets down the stretch. And eventually Jordan Davis will be back, and that’s going to be a monster rotation.

8. It was good to see DeVonta Smith come up with his biggest game in a while when the Eagles needed him the most with Goedert unavailable. Smith caught six passes for 78 yards, his best game since he had 10-for-87 in Arizona. A.J. Brown is scuffling a little bit, although he’s still dangerous as heck, but Smith was terrific Sunday, and when Brown and Smith are both at the top of their game – and Goedert gets back? Watch out.

9. The Eagles rarely throw to their running backs, but you have to love Miles Sanders drawing that DPI on Zaire Franklin in the fourth quarter. That was an enormous play. Sanders doesn’t run a lot of go routes, but on a 3rd-and-2 with under four minutes left on the game-winning drive, Franklin was on Sanders deep down the right sideline and Sanders slickly slowed down for the ball, forcing Franklin to run into him. It was a no-brainer call for the refs and a 39-yard gain that gave the Eagles a 1st-and-10 on the Colts’ 28. Nine players later, Hurts won the game with that seven-yard TD. Sanders’ rushing stats weren’t anything special – 13-for-47 against the NFL’s No. 2 rush defense – but that play was huge.

10. Maybe the most encouraging thing to come out of this game – and there were a lot – was the Eagles’ ability to shut down the Colts’ dynamic running attack after that first drive. Jonathan Taylor looked unstoppable in the first quarter, but largely because of Suh and Joseph the Eagles were fantastic vs. the run after that. The Colts finished with 99 rushing yards on 26 carries – that’s 3.8 yards per carry. After the first drive they were 18-for-49 – 2.7 yards per carry. Matt Ryan is not a quarterback anymore who can carry an offense with his arm, and without benefit of an effective running attack, the Colts’ offense couldn’t do much. That’s why the Eagles had the Colts right where they wanted them on that last drive after they took the lead. They had Ryan in known-throw, and that played right into the defense’s hands. Once the Colts had to throw every snap, it was over. The Eagles have been so bad against the run lately, allowing 144 rushing yards in their last five games, so this was a huge step forward. The Eagles have some elite backs coming up the next few weeks – Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley – and if they can play like this every week, they’re going to be hard to beat.