The Philadelphia Eagles kicked the Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson era off with a 29-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. Wentz finished 22-37 for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns and overall looked good. Eagles running backs combined for 132 yards and a touchdown and the defense sacked Robert Griffin three times.
Eagles came out of the tunnel as a team rather than as an offense or defense with individual introductions. Malcolm Jenkins lead the way.
Eagles fan and Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance as the Eagles and the entire league honored the fallen victims of 9/11. The Eagles rolled out a massive flag for the national anthem.
This was a game where both teams had new head coaches and new quarterbacks, and it looked it.
The Browns won the toss deferred to the second half. Eagles took a touchback to start.
The Eagles opened the game with a great drive. They kept the ball on the ground to start and then Carson Wentz looked sharp. Jordan Matthews dropped his first attempt, but then Wentz was flawless. He created a first down with a hard count that caused the Browns to jump and be penalized. Veteran move by the rookie. Then Wentz went to work probing the Browns defense with passes to Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, moving the ball down the field. The Eagles rolled Wentz out, taking advantage of his mobility and getting him out of expected pressure from the Browns. Wentz capped off a solid drive with a perfect strike to Jordan Matthews.
Then things slowed down. The Browns couldn’t get out of first gear on their first two possessions, going three and out in each. The teams exchanged punts until Caleb Sturgis missed a 46 yard field goal.
The Browns ensuing possession went nowhere, and Hue Jackson took a gamble on 4th down with a fake punt. Eagles rookie Kamu Grugier-Hill, who was picked up off waivers last week, snuffed the play out and got the turnover on downs.
Wentz showed more signs that the Eagles were right to put so much faith in him. He checked out of the called play, dropping from under center to shotgun and finding Jordan Matthews on a deep crossing pass for 28 yards. Impressive all around. The drive stalled out in the red zone after Wentz threw to high on 3rd down, and Sturgis hit a 22 yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0.
The Browns then finally found some offense. Terrelle Pryor caught a 44 yard pass, setting up the Browns in the red zone. Nolan Carroll was in phase with him the entire time, but Pryor just used his height advantage to go get the ball, and showed some good hands holding on to it on the way down.
The Browns then got lucky as a hold on Vinny Curry wasn’t called an Malcolm Jenkins was flagged for a questionable pass interference call on 3rd down. Isaiah Crowell ran it in from the 1 to make it 10-7 Eagles.
Both teams kept making in game adjustments. The Eagles had Jordan Hicks spying RGIII, crashing in on handoffs and then backing out if the ball was kept to pass. Cleveland took advantage of this with a fake and crossing route behind Hicks by Pryor for 13 yards that could have been more if Pryor hadn’t bobbled it. Hicks then did good job matching an RGIII audible and getting the Eagles in position to stuff a run. RGIII followed that up with a scramble for 20 yards, getting the Browns into Eagles territory.
Two plays later Hicks dropped straight back and was able to tipped an RGIII pass that then appeared to bounced off Carroll and was caught by Rodney McLeod for an interception.
Wentz showed more signs of deserved faith by the Eagles staff, being unafraid to use the middle of the field inside the 2 minute warning knowing he has 3 timeouts to work with. An encouraging sign for a rookie.
Sturgis hit a 38 yarder to make it 13-7 at the half but the Eagles might have been able to get more. Darren Sproles dropped a 3rd down pass that would have given him at least a first down.
After receiving the kickoff to start the half, the Browns moved into Eagles when RGIII under threw a deep pass to Corey Coleman, who had to come back on the ball so far that he created separation from three Eagles DBs. But then the Browns stalled out again and had to settle for a field goal to cut it to 13-10.
Wentz answered back with a 22 yard pass to a diving Jordan Matthews, but the drive stalled out after a Brent Celek pass interference call.
After an Eagles punt, the Browns snapped the ball over RGIII’s head and out of the end zone for a safety that gave the Eagles a 15-10 lead. Then the Eagles put pressure on the Browns.
Doug Pederson went for it on 4th and 4 from Cleveland’s 40 and the Eagles converted on a 5 yard pass to Celek. On the next play, Wentz threw a perfect deep pass down the near sideline to Nelson Agholor for a 35 yard touchdown to extend the lead to 22-10.
The Eagles defense, which was struggling to get consistent pressure on Griffin, then found it with sacks by Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham, who forced a fumble when the Browns were pinned inside their 10 but RGIII was able to recover it.
The Eagles ground out the end of the game, giving Ryan Mathews the ball with Beau Allen blocking for him on the goal line. Mathews ended with 22 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown to cap it off at 29-10.
As debuts go, the Eagles couldn’t have reasonably asked for a better game. Wentz looked poised and showed good command. He wasn’t flawless, a few passes were off target and he took an unnecessary sack. But he made a few impressive throws and showed good understanding of the offense, demonstrating why the Eagles have so much faith in him. And Doug Pederson called a pretty good game and managed the clock well. The Eagles didn’t take their first time out of the game until into the two minute warning and their first of the second half until there were under seven minutes left in the game.
The road gets tougher from here, but so far, so good.