News and links for 9/20
Schwartz followed up his debut as defensive coordinator - in which his unit held the Browns to 10 points - with another impressive game plan. He zigged to open the game and blitzed more in the first quarter than he had all of last week.
Schwartz utilized his depth by substituting packages at linebacker and kept a steady flow of changes up front to keep the line fresh. He schemed a way to offset the loss of cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who was out with a hamstring strain, and silenced the great Alshon Jeffery after the receiver torched the Eagles early.
For the first time in a long time - perhaps dating back to the Jim Johnson era - the Eagles have a defense they can ride. And it's with an attacking 4-3 scheme that is tailor-made for Philadelphia.
Were they perfect? Hardly. Have they yet to see a playoff-caliber offense? Not at all. That test will come soon enough - next week against the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers, in fact. But the Eagles don't devise their schedule. They play the games as they come.
And after two games they are without a loss. Carson Wentz mania will certainly increase after the rookie quarterback's second game, but Schwartz's defense has earned as much credit for the Eagles' 2-0 start.
The Eagles' offense was missing its top pass-catching tight end, Zach Ertz, who sat out the game with a rib displacement. Ertz caught six passes from Wentz in last week's win over the Browns.
But it didn't seem to matter to Wentz. Burton, who came into the game with just three career receptions, was targeted seven times and caught five passes for 49 yards, including the third-quarter touchdown catch that gave the Eagles a 22-7 lead at the time.
Jordan Matthews, who Wentz targeted 14 times against Cleveland, and who had seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in that game, was targeted nine more times Monday night and had six catches for 71 yards.
It should have been more. Matthews got a step on Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan late in the second quarter, and Wentz laid a ball right in his hands for what should have been a 35-yard touchdown. But Matthews couldn't hang on to it.
Earlier in the first half, Wentz had a 19-yard completion to tight end Brent Celek erased by a holding penalty on center Jason Kelce.
In both instances, the rookie just shook off the bad luck and moved on to the next play.
His 86.6 passer rating wasn't quite as impressive as the 101.0 against the Browns. And he averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt, attacking the Bears with mostly short and intermediate passes.
The Eagles converted just three of 15 third-down situations and weren't very effective in the red zone.
But that means little. The Eagles are now 2-0 and the rookie still hasn't thrown an interception in 71 NFL attempts and that means a lot.
Wentz looked poised and prepared in the opening drive as he completed eight of his nine pass attempts for 45 yards to five different receivers. The Eagles went no-huddle on the first six plays in an empty shotgun formation, leaving the quarterback to make a lot of pre-snap calls at the line of scrimmage.
Wentz connected on a lot of short, easy throws and he did a good job of recognizing blitzes. On both of the Bears’ blitzes, Wentz quickly got the ball out of his hands to the hot read. The only blemish, however, was his incompletion to Brent Celek in the red zone, when he threw a ball that could’ve used some more touch to get over the defender.
4. I’ve been clear about just how much I like (Jordan) Matthews’ game. He’s a class act with a bright future. Blah, blah, blah. But goodness gracious, you can’t let that ball go through your hards. You just can’t.
It was just before halftime, Eagles had a 2nd-and-10 on the Bears’ 35, and Wentz tossed maybe the best pass of his career, an absolute thing of beauty that led Matthews perfectly into the left near corner of the end zone. It sailed right through Matthews' hands, and the Eagles had to settle for a 53-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal.
Matthews has a chance to be a special player, but the drops have to stop. Especially ones that are so damaging. Matthews has to be better than that.