Eagles RB D’Andre SwiftAP Photo/Derik Hamilton
For the second straight week, the Philadelphia Eagles survived against a feisty opponent that just wouldn’t go away. Fortunately, the Eagles have enough talented players—many of them still developing—in their locker room to once again head into it as the victors.
Last Sunday, it was those pesky New England Patriots who stayed in the game until a critical fourth-down stop with less than a minute remaining gave Philadelphia the win.
On Thursday night, it was a Minnesota Vikings team that took every punch the Eagles could deliver and fought right back. There were times it looked like Philadelphia could put the game away in the second half, but the Vikings drew within six points with less than two minutes remaining.
Ultimately, Philadelphia had to navigate Minnesota’s onside-kick attempt and a last-second Hail Mary to escape with a 2-0 record.
A win is a win, but Philadelphia doesn’t feel like the same dominant team that ran roughshod over the NFC a season ago. The Eagles caught several fortunate breaks against the Vikings.
Minnesota generated just 28 yards on the ground and turned the ball over four times, one of which being a Justin Jefferson fumble over the goal line with 34 seconds left in the first half.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
This Justin Jefferson fumble went over the pylon and was ruled a touchback 😳 pic.twitter.com/LonOv2u6Fj
Jake Elliott nailed a 61-yard field goal on the last play of the half, making Jefferson’s gaffe a potential 10-point swing.
Thursday night’s contest easily could have gone in the Vikings’ favor. It didn’t, thanks to some of Philadelphia’s youngest budding playmakers.
D’Andre Swift, the 24-year-old running back acquired in a draft-day trade from the Detroit Lions, was the biggest star of the second half. After some early offensive ups and downs, coordinator Brian Johnson turned to more two-tight-end sets and a heavy emphasis on the ground game.
Swift took full advantage, finishing with 175 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Eagles traded a 2025 4th-round pick for D’Andre Swift in April…
Tonight he rushed for a career-high 175 YDS 🦅
As a team, Philadelphia rushed for 259 yards and controlled the football for more than 39 minutes—without Week 1 starting RB Kenneth Gainwell (ribs). This proved to be critical for a few reasons.
For one, it allowed quarterback Jalen Hurts to settle in as things opened up in the passing game. Hurts was 10-of-13 in the first half but had only 84 passing yards and an interception.
Third-year wideout DeVonta Smith, another young standout on Thursday, produced 60 of those yards on the opening drive. Hurts finished with 193 passing yards and a touchdown, while Smith caught four passes for 131 yards and a score.
Smith is a home-run hitter, but he can help the offense even when he doesn’t have the ball. His downfield ability demands that opposing defenses can’t sell out to stop the run.
Controlling the clock was also important because Philadelphia’s secondary struggled to find answers for Kirk Cousins (364 yards, 4 TDs), Justin Jefferson (11 catches, 159 yards) and the passing game.
This was, in part, because new defensive coordinator Sean Desai still seems to be learning how to best utilize his personnel—Mac Jones topped 300 passing yards in Week 1. Not having cornerback James Bradberry (concussion), safety Reed Blankenship (ribs) and linebacker Nakobe Dean (foot, injured reserve) certainly didn’t help.
Philadelphia’s answer for Minnesota’s potent offense was to lean on its powerful defensive line. 2022 first-round pick Jordan Davis and 2023 first-round pick Jalen Carter are quickly becoming standouts of the unit.
Davis finished Week 1 with a half-sack, three tackles and a forced Ezekiel Elliott fumble in the first quarter that led to an Eagles touchdown. Carter had a key sack that put New England in 3rd-and-long and helped set up that critical late fourth-quarter stop.
The strong play of Davis and Carter continued on Thursday. Davis had another sack, while Carter repeatedly pushed into the Vikings backfield.
In back-to-back weeks, the Eagles have had young players step up in the biggest moments when they were needed. That’s a big reason Philadelphia is 2-0, and it provides a look at how special the Eagles could be in a month or two.
Philadelphia was without four key players on Thursday, and it’s still adjusting to the losses of offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
2022 standouts like Javon Hargrave, Miles Sanders, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, T.J. Edwards, Marcus Epps and Isaac Seumalo are long gone. While the Eagles entered the 2023 season among the Super Bowl favorites, they do not have the same team they did a year ago.
However, the 2023 Eagles have the potential to be even better.
Let’s not ignore the fact that Hurts is still a 25-year-old quarterback with 36 regular-season starts on his resume. While Hurts broke, full-sprint, into the spotlight last year, he had yet to reach his ceiling.
Swift appeared more decisive and more explosive than Sanders did for much of the 2022 season—which is why Philadelphia turned to Gainwell in the playoffs. Smith is poised to make a second-year jump.
According to Eagles cornerback Darius Slay, Smith could be among the NFL’s best by season’s end.
“I told him, ‘You know, it ain’t going to be too much longer we’re going to be saying Smitty the best receiver in the league,’ for sure,” Slay said last month, per Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It ain’t gonna be too much longer.”
Carter and Davis, meanwhile, could soon form the most feared defensive-line duo in the league.
On Thursday, Carter and Davis helped pressure Cousins while keeping Minnesota one-dimensional. Smith and Swift accounted for 312 of Philadelphia’s 430 yards.
If Desai and Johnson settle in, the Eagles stop with the mental mistakes (2 turnovers, 12 penalties through two weeks), and the roster gets healthy? Philadelphia won’t be scraping by anyone. It will be winning big and racing straight toward another deep playoff run.
Those are, of course, big “ifs” that still have to be answered. For now, the Eagles should be thrilled that some of the young players they’ve invested heavily in recently are playing well enough to keep them in the win column.