Eagles observations: Jalen Hurts regains MVP dominance in enormous win

Roob's Obs: Hurts, Sirianni, more shine in dominating win originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It was over after two drives.

The Eagles’ offense drove 75 yards for a touchdown on their first drive, then their defense sacked Daniel Jones twice on the Giants’ first drive. It was the middle of the first quarter and you just sensed it was over.

And it was.

Eagles 38, Giants 7.

See you at the NFC Championship Game.

Here’s our 10 Instant Observations from the Eagles’ second 38-7 postseason win on Jan. 21 in the last five years.

1. There’s a reason Jalen Hurts was the MVP before he got hurt, and he showed everybody exactly why Saturday night. This was a monster performance by the 24-year-old Hurts, a masterpiece of efficient playoff football. He was in complete control throughout, making all the right decisions, delivering the ball accurately, commanding the offense flawlessly. If anybody had any doubts whether that shoulder was still bothering him or whether he’d be 100 percent, they were quickly answered. A 40-yarder to DeVonta Smith on his first pass, 7-for-7 with TD passes to Dallas Goedert and Smith in the first quarter, and the game was effectively over before he threw an incomplete pass. Hurts added a touchdown run in the second quarter and finished 16-for-24 for 154 yards and a beefy 112.2 passer rating, 4th-highest in franchise history (behind Rodney Peete vs. the Lions in 1995, Nick Foles against the Vikings in 2017 and Tommy Thompson against the Steelers in 1947). This was a huge step for Hurts, who had such a tough time down in Tampa last year in his postseason debut. The Eagles are now 15-1 with Hurts in uniform this year, and he’s the youngest QB in franchise history to reach the NFC Championship Game – he’s about nine months younger than Donovan McNabb was in 2001 and next weekend he’ll try to become only the eighth QB in history to take a team to the Super Bowl before his 25th birthday. I sure as heck ain’t betting against him.

2. This was just absolute perfection from Nick Sirianni and his entire coaching staff, particularly Shane Steichen, who had the Giants’ defense off-balance from the start, and Jonathan Gannon, who hopefully quieted the “Fire Gannon” crowd for at least a few days. They had this team mentally and physically prepared, and they devised gameplans that turned this game into a rout before the first quarter was over. Winning in the playoffs is a different animal than winning in the regular season, and some coaches just aren’t very good at it. This is Sirianni’s second year as a head coach on any level, and he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt he can handle the moment.

3. There are so many guys who were incredible on defense, but Haason Reddick was an absolute beast, recording a sack and half a sack on back-to-back snaps on the Giants’ first drive, adding three QB hurries and a tackle for loss and really setting the tone for the entire defensive performance. The Eagles’ front got after Daniel Jones from start to finish, and it was amazing. They were dominating. Jones never had a chance to set his feet, and he didn’t hurt the Eagles at all scrambling. Seemed like he was in over his head. Threw for just 135 yards. Are you kidding me? The Eagles set a franchise record with five sacks, but they harrassed Jones all night. He’s going to have nightmares about Reddick, B.G. and Josh Sweat tonight. Really, the entire defense played lights out. Darius Slay and James Bradberry were beasts, Reed Blankenship played the game of his life, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was all over the place, Kyzir White continues to enjoy a late-season resurgence. Everybody made plays. They covered, tackled, pressured, hit. You couldn’t draw it up any better.

4. I need to give Blankenship his own Observation here because what he’s doing is unprecedented in Eagles history. He’s the first undrafted rookie in franchise history to start a playoff game, and he played some incredible football. Only one other undrafted Eagles rookie has ever started a game – that was running back Reno Mahe in the 2003 NFC Championship Game and that was a flukey deal where they opened in a two-RB set and he didn’t even have any carries in the game. So Blankenship is really the first undrafted rookie to ever start a playoff game for the Eagles and contribute, and that’s truly impressive. He’s smart, he’s tough, he's physical and what he lacks in speed he makes up for in effort, determination and grit. Blankenship wasn’t even a priority undrafted signing for the Eagles. They signed 12 undrafted rookies this year, and only one got less guaranteed money (linebacker Ali Fayad). But he was forced into action when Chauncey Gardner-Johnson got hurt, and he played so well in four late-season starts it was a no-brainer to keep him on the field in nickel and move Gardner-Johnson down into the slot instead of playing Josiah Scott. That’s a lot of faith to show a 23-year-old undrafted rookie, but since he started playing he’s rewarded his coaches, and that didn’t stop Saturday night.

5. Shane Steichen showed some signs of getting away from the running attack late in the season, so it was awesome to see him dial it up early and often against a Giants team ranked 27th against the run. The Eagles’ 268 rushing yards are 2nd-most in franchise history in the postseason, just six yards behind their 274 yards in the 1949 NFL Championship Game against the Rams in L.A. And I love the three-headed monster with tons of Miles Sanders, a bunch of Kenny Gainwell and a smattering of Boston Scott. Sanders ran with tremendous patience and toughness, finishing with 90 yards on 17 carries, Gainwell was incredible, contributing 112 rushing yards on just 12 carrries, and Scott added 32 rushing yards and his 11th career touchdown against the Giants. The Eagles rammed it down the Giants’ throats in December and they did it again Saturday night. Consider this: In the first 89 years of the Eagles-Giants rivalry, the Eagles ran for 250 yards against the Giants five times. Now they’ve done it twice in seven weeks. Unreal.

6. Dallas Goedert is just so freaking good. That could be the whole observation. He’s just a flat-out stud. The obvious highlight against the Giants was his one-handed touchdown catch, but he was just trampling people all night and blocking his ass off. He finished 5-for-58 and a TD, and those numbers are fine, but the stats don’t begin to tell the story of just how dominating he was. The Giants didn’t want anything to do with him. Really, all the Eagles’ skill guys blocked their asses off Saturday night. A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Zach Pascal are all physical players who are just as happy to spring someone else on a big play as get the big play themselves. That’s rare these days. True team guys.

7. This was the best game of the year for the Eagles’ offensive line. They played at an astonishing level. Every one of them. They protected Hurts, they paved massive holes for the backs and they put up 38 points almost effortlessly. Was great to see Lane Johnson out there playing at a high level after what he’s been through. He looked a little hobbled, but he’s just such a warrior. This o-line finished the season not playing quite up to its own expectations, but this was a massive performance by all five of those guys.

8. Howie Roseman deserves so much credit for where this franchise is. The Eagles are hosting the NFC Championship Game for the second time in six years with a different quarterback, a different head coach and only five position players who were on both teams. Howie had more than his share of misses along the way – Marcus Smith, Nelly, Fireman Danny, Jalen Reagor – and he took a ton of grief around here, some of it warranted, a lot of it over the top. But he grew and he learned and he figured a lot of things out about himself and about football, and he’s one home win from building two almost completely different Super Bowl rosters in six years. It seemed crazy when Jeff Lurie restored him to the G.M. role when he fired Chip Kelly. But the Eagles are one of the NFL’s best teams since that day, winning one Super Bowl, reaching two NFC Championship Games, reaching the playoffs five times. Everything single thing you see out there has Howie Roseman’s fingerprints on it.

9. That Giants’ touchdown drive in the third quarter cracked me up. They scored, but it was really a concession speech. Here are the Giants down 28-0 halfway through the third quarter of a playoff game and, yeah, they got in the end zone, but they ran on eight of 10 plays and took more than six minutes off the clock. Why on Earth are you running clock down 28 points in the third quarter? The Giants were so afraid to throw the ball they basically conceded the game even though they scored. Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka have done a terrific job this year, but you’re not going to come back from a 28-point deficit playing ball control. That was embarrassing.

10. Three of the last four head coaches Jeff Lurie has hired – Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and Sirianni – have reached an NFC Championship Game by their third year. That’s unreal. And get this – the Eagles have now reached seven NFC title games since 2001. Only the Patriots (13) have reached seven or more during the same span. Might not quite be the Gold Standard, but they’re in the conversation.