How the Eagles got to NFC title game: Key moves, team MVP, turning point, key win, full season results, more
Five years after hosting the NFC Championship en route to their first Super Bowl title, the Eagles are back in the running for a conference crown. After dismantling the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs, Philadelphia will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday with a ticket to Glendale, Arizona, on the line. But how, exactly, did the Eagles get here?
It’s been a long time coming, in some sense. After general manager Howie Roseman addressed most of the team’s holes with a busy offseason, the Eagles entered 2022 as a popular pick to surprise out of the NFC East. But then quarterback Jalen Hurts burst onto the scene looking like an entirely different signal-caller, showcasing an improved and more decisive arm. The Eagles raced out to their best start since 2017 before injuries struck at QB and up front — another mirror of 2017.
Now, with Hurts back at what appears to be full strength, and one of the NFL’s most talented rosters fresh off a bye and big win, the lofty goal has returned: another Lombardi Trophy. Here’s a look at what fueled the Eagles’ journey to this point, including key acquisitions, the club’s turning-point victory, and a full list of their season results:
If you’re looking to explain the Eagles’ sudden rise back to the top of the NFC, look no further than under center, where the 24-year-old Hurts took a seismic leap. A year ago, he was still exceptionally composed and both slippery and physical as a runner. But not even his biggest fans could’ve foreseen his strides as a quarterback — a decisive, accurate, aggressive distributor of the football. A shoulder injury briefly quieted his NFL MVP candidacy late in 2022, but when healthy, as he was for much of the year and appeared to be in the Eagles’ playoff debut, he’s been neck-and-neck with Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen in terms of sheer play-by-play difference-making. The problem he presents for opponents these days is trifold: he is tough and elusive on the move, he is confident and smooth airing it out, and he is smart and unbothered in the face of pressure.
Note: * = acquired via trade
Acquired: via trade (Titans)
No single player has helped launch Hurts from a mildly promising QB to a confirmed face of the franchise more than Brown, whose friendship with the QB predated Howie Roseman’s draft-day trade for the ex-Titans star. Even amid a career season, Brown’s numbers aren’t always gaudy. But his imposing combo of size (6-1, 225) and speed always commands attention and justifies his “Always Open” motto. Roseman helped catapult Carson Wentz and Nick Foles to stardom in 2017 when he signed Alshon Jeffery for more of an alpha presence out wide, but Brown is infinitely more dangerous, still entering his prime.
Acquired: free agency (Panthers)
Once considered a Cardinals draft bust, Reddick broke out late in Arizona before a pitstop with the Panthers, parlaying his emergence as a pass-rush specialist into a big-money deal with the Eagles. The Temple product has exceeded even the team’s expectations, dominating as Jonathan Gannon’s lone stand-up rusher alongside a four-man front. Only the 49ers’ Nick Bosa logged more sacks this year; Reddick’s up to 17.5, including playoffs, and also has an NFL-leading five forced fumbles.
Acquired: free agency (Giants)
Cut by the salary cap-strapped Giants in May, Bradberry signed a one-year, prove-it deal to start opposite Darius Slay, and has done more than enough to prove he still deserves top billing. While Slay does most of the talking in Philly’s secondary, he and Bradberry have been like 1A and 1B in the secondary. Both stay physical in tight windows to headline the NFL’s top-rated pass “D,” and Bradberry in particular has come up big when it matters, leading the team with 19 pass deflections, including playoffs.
Acquired: via trade (Saints)
One of Roseman’s final touches to a playoff-caliber roster, Gardner-Johnson arrived in a swap of draft picks after a promising three-year run with the Saints, who were apparently eager to offload his big personality ahead of a contract year. The Eagles have happily reaped the rewards, with CGJ plugging in as a ball hawk at safety, tying for the NFL lead with six picks despite later missing five games due to injury. Though not invulnerable in coverage, his range and slot CB experience have been invaluable.
Key draft pick
Drafted: No. 13 overall
A mammoth on the interior (6-6, 335), the Georgia product has played sparingly since an early-season emergence. But his presence behind the likes of Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox and in-season pickups Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh speaks to the sheer depth along the Eagles’ defensive trenches. No team had more sacks than Philly this year, and that’s mostly a testament to the way Roseman has built and refortified the front, which also played a vital role in the club’s 2017 run.
The Roseman RealityEagles GM Howie Roseman
Coach Nick Sirianni deserves lots of credit for the confident, players-first approach he brings to the sidelines. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie, in turn, should be applauded for his hire, which extends an impressive track record including Andy Reid and Doug Pederson, who combined for 12 playoff appearances and two Super Bowl bids in their respective tenures. But the architect of this current Eagles roster, GM Howie Roseman, is perhaps most worthy of praise considering he’s now assembled two potential title contenders from scratch. Infamously reassigned circa 2015 after a string of draft and free agent misfires, he surrounded a young coach-quarterback duo with impeccable depth in 2017, and has done it again with a new pairing just five years later.
Just as his long list of 2017 splashes (QB Nick Foles, RB Jay Ajayi, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Torrey Smith, DE Chris Long, CB Ronald Darby, CB Patrick Robinson) was bolstered by longer-term investments the year before (QB Carson Wentz, OG Brandon Brooks, LB Nigel Bradham, S Rodney McLeod), Roseman’s 2022 gambles were preceded by smart brick-laying moves to land starters like Hurts, WR DeVonta Smith, OG Landon Dickerson, DT Javon Hargrave and CB Darius Slay.
Key winWeek 14 vs. Giants
The Eagles were 11-1 entering this contest, on a three-game win streak thanks to high-scoring victories over the Packers and Titans. But they’d yet to face the Giants, who up to that point had been feisty in one close game after another. The last time Hurts traveled to New Jersey to face Big Blue, in November 2021, he’d fallen flat trying to move the ball through the air and suffered an ugly 13-7 defeat. On this occasion, however, he absolutely had his way, torching New York with early deep-ball TDs to both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, while he and Miles Sanders ran wild in a 48-22 rout. The blowout confirmed Philly as the potential class of the NFC when healthy, clinched a playoff berth, and ultimately turned out to be a preview of …
Turning pointDivisional round vs. Giants
For weeks after the Eagles’ Week 14 rout of New York, it felt as if the team was coasting, in a sense. Not because coach Nick Sirianni and Co. scaled it back, but because Hurts ended up injuring his shoulder the following week, in a win over the Bears. With backup Gardner Minshew stepping in, the Birds still fought, most notably in a nail-biting loss to Dallas, but opted for a vanilla strategy in a Week 18 rematch with the G-Men, mostly to ease Hurts back into the lineup. Everyone in Philly hoped that Hurts would be back at full strength after the bye week afforded by the No. 1 seed, but no one knew for sure.
Then the Eagles’ opening playoff game happened, and the Giants, who impressively upset the Vikings with a shootout win on Super Wild Card Weekend, once again had absolutely no answers for their rivals. If Hurts had any limitations, they didn’t show. DeVonta Smith’s slender frame outran and outmuscled New York’s secondary all night. And Gannon’s defense looked as fresh as ever, especially up front, helping seal a 38-7 rout. This victory reminded everyone that, oh yeah, the Eagles are still really good on both sides of the ball when their MVP is full-go and they’re firing on all cylinders.
Full 2022 season results