Happy Dallas week, Eagles fans

Holly Spirit adviser Sherm drops in to give her take on this historic start to the season

Sherm, Benevolent Overlord

Last Sunday evening, after the 4:25 games had wrapped up and I was sitting down to dinner with my husband, I got a text from my father, who lives outside Washington, D.C.

“I think it’s time to invest in some Eagles green,” he said.

“Plenty of room on the bench for new fans,” I texted back.

This has been an ongoing gag with my family, who are largely Washington Commanders fans (and have been for decades), but it’s becoming increasingly possible that some remaining holdouts who still don the burgundy and gold could jump ship and join me in Eagles heaven. It’s not only because the Birds are sitting pretty at 5-0–the only undefeated team in the league–but also because Philadelphia is having a sports Renaissance, and everyone wants a taste.

Part of the reason why I have so passionately embraced Philly after leaving D.C. in my 20’s is because it is, above all else, a sports town. There is a long, albeit complex history of highs and lows in the city of Brotherly Love. Before 2008, the Phillies hadn’t won a World Series in almost 30 years; before 2018, the Eagles had never won a Super Bowl, and the 76ers haven’t won a championship since 1983. But it’s the grit and fight in Philly that has always drawn me to the city’s sports scene. 

D.C. has its own complex history, but unlike Philly, it’s one imbued with corruption, poor planning, abuse, even racism. I admit that I didn’t immediately throw away my Nats sweatshirt or my London Fletcher jersey, but I welcomed the opportunity to move on to greener pastures (no pun intended).

As I mentioned, the Philly sports scene is on fire at the moment. I’m admittedly not a baseball person, but even I can see the significance of the Phillies and their entrance to the playoffs. Last night they managed to eek by the Atlanta Braves in a 7-3 nail-biter that featured some late inning drama (and should have been a lot less close). This puts them in a solid position; according to CBS Sports, historically, teams that take Game 1 of a best-of-five MLB playoff series go on to win that series 71.3 percent of the time. 

Even Philadelphia soccer is heating up. The Union is coming off its best season in franchise history, and they’re currently the #1 seed in the East. Even I had to watch clips of Union midfielder Dániel Gazdag’s hat trick to win the game last weekend. 

But most impressive (because I am a football fan) has to be the Eagles, who, as I mentioned, currently lead the NFC East and remain undefeated heading into week six. Coming off an abysmally mediocre season last year, despite the fact that they made the playoffs, the Eagles have already become a formidable force both offensively and defensively.  Like many fans, I was lukewarm to second-year coach Nick Sirriani, but the Birds’ performance over the last few weeks has made me a true believer.

Perhaps most notable have been quarterback Jalen Hurts’ “explosive plays” throughout the season thus far. Josh Tolentino of the Philadelphia Inquirer defines explosive plays as “either pass completions longer than 16 yards or rushes exceeding 10 yards,” and he notes that Hurts leads the league with 42 explosive plays throughout the last five games. This is not the same indecisive quarterback who struggled with accuracy and pressure last season. Hurts has dominated the offense, and demonstrates his range in skill, from screen passes to deep 40 and 50 yard passes downfield. His ability to scramble has led to a number of first downs (122 in the first five games, vs. 99 from their opponents, according to NFL.com). In the 2022 season thus far, he’s racked up an impressive 1,339 yards with a 97% QB rating. Following his two interceptions, he remained calm and collected, and he works well with this OT and his receivers. In what I believe is a bit of a rushing deficit, Hurts has picked up important yards and plays.

Hurts luckily has a variety of weapons to choose from. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith, all 160 pounds of him, has made headaches for opposing defenders. Equally impressive has been Hurts’ other WR, Quez Watkins, as well as his running backs, namely Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell. 

With the exception of the last game against Arizona, which I’ll dive into momentarily, the defense has maintained the same powerful structure since week one. I am a huge fan of our defensive line, including DT Fletcher Cox and DE Brandon Graham, who have been outspoken cheerleaders of Philadelphia for years. But I’m equally impressed with the work of our corners, namely James Bradberry and Darius Slay, who each have two interceptions (made at key moments) and the fight they put up each week.

The biggest criticism at this juncture has been that Philadelphia hasn’t played any “real opponents” yet. I have to agree on some levels; Washington, Detroit and Jacksonville are mid-level teams with spots of talent and not much else. But I would argue that we had a powerful game against a formidable opponent in Minnesota, a game we won outright from start to finish, namely through Hurts’ 300+ yards and a beautiful 53-yard bomb to Watkins. 

Last week, however, was, admittedly, gross. It was not as much of an Eagles win as a Cardinals loss

While the Eagles were able to make some key plays, it was mostly a game of capitalizing on Arizona’s mistakes. Their hurry-up offense put our defense through the ringer, but it was exactly this format that got the Eagles a stroke of luck. Late in the fourth quarter, Arizona QB slid just short of a first down, then spiked the ball without realizing he didn’t make the first down, which forced them to kick, a shot that (thankfully) went wide right of the goal post. 

Games like last weekend are more reflective of the Eagles’ ability to survive, not necessarily dominate. But surviving won’t be enough this weekend against Dallas, who comes in hot at 4-1 despite the absence of QB Dak Prescott. I’m less worried about the offense than I am about Dallas’ defense, which is arguably the toughest the Eagles have faced. No team has scored more than 19 points on the Cowboys, which currently ranks third in the league. 

Despite this, and all criticisms of the Eagles at this juncture, I am thrilled to be able to celebrate an undefeated start to the season. Dallas week is upon us, and there is no better time to be obnoxious than right now. 

Fingers crossed I’ll be singing the same tune this time next week.