Miles Sanders, Eagles run over Jaguars playing smash-mouth football

PHILADELPHIA — They were facing the No. 1 rushing defense in football on a rainy, windy day when running was about the only thing either team could do. They lost their left tackle in the first quarter, and their right guard went down in the fourth.

They are bullies up front. Their offensive line is deep. Their ball carriers look unstoppable running behind them.

"Our offensive line," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, "I'll take them over anybody in the league."

And they are powered by what just might be the best offensive line in the NFL.

"That is a good offensive line," Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. "That's what they pride themselves in."

Consider what that line helped the Eagles do to the Jaguars on what Sirianni described as a "really messy" day — "a train wreck," was how center Jason Kelce described it — during which neither team topped 200 passing yards. And remember, the Jaguars' formidable defense had given up just 165 rushing yards and zero rushing touchdowns in their first three games.

The Eagles were unmoved. They got 134 rushing yards from running back Miles Sanders alone and had four rushing touchdowns total — three in the second quarter, when they ran for 96 of their yards. And in the fourth quarter, when the Jags had pulled within a touchdown with 7:19 to play, they rode that line for a clock-eating, 10-play drive that lasted 5:25 and came within one misfired fourth-down pass of running the clock out completely.

"That's how you win games at the end," Pederson said. "When you have the lead, you run behind that big offensive line."

That's what the Eagles did almost the entire game against the Jags, from the moment they fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, thanks in large part to a Hurts pick-six when an ill-advised pass was deflected into the arms of Jaguars safety Andre Cisco. That woke the Eagles up, and they scored 29 unanswered points as they physically pushed the Jaguars around on both side of the ball.

And they got a career-best performance from Sanders, whom Sirianni playfully declared "our No. 1 back — there ain't no question about it."

"Miles ran really hard today," Hurts said. "He made plays. He played angry, in my opinion. He played with a purpose."

Hurts' touchdown run in the second quarter was a reminder of just how much faith Sirianni has in the Eagles' ground game. They ran a quarterback draw on third-and-goal from the 16 and Hurts ran up the middle to the Jaguars' 3. 

Then they went for it on fourth-and-goal, with Hurts running another draw even with Jaguars rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd flying in to meet him at the goal line.

Lloyd hammered Hurts, who lost the ball — but not before he crossed the goal line for the Eagles' first touchdown of the game. And no, it clearly didn't matter to Sirianni or Hurts that the Jaguars' defense was giving up only 55 yards per game.

The Eagles still ran 50 times in the game and gained 4.2 yards per carry. They were determined to run it down the Jaguars' throats.

"I think what we realized about this football team is we can be efficient in everything we do," Hurts said. "That's our goal."

And so far this season it's clear they do everything well. But despite Hurts' impressive start to the season through the air — a 66.7% completion percentage (82-for-123), 1,120 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions — smash-mouth football is still what they do best. They averaged 159.7 rushing yards per game last season when they ran because they had to. They've upped that to 165.25 yards per game this season even though they have a passing game that has proven to be really good.

They've got it all, including what Sirianni called a "gritty … grimy … physical" offensive line that just manhandled one of the better defensive fronts in football.

That's how the Eagles are winning football games right now, and even in this wide-open passing era, that's still how good teams win big games in the winter. The Eagles are built to do that, and they do it better than most.

Sunday's game was a reminder of just how good they are at that kind of physical football, and why later in the season — and in the playoffs — they will be very tough to beat.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. He spent 22 years covering the Giants, Jets and NFL at large for SNY and the New York Daily News. He can be found on Twitter at