The Philadelphia Eagles are now 3-1 in the 2017 NFL regular season after defeating the Los Angeles Chargers by a final score of 26 to 24 (recap here). Two wins a row! Here’s a look at 14 things we learned from this game.
1 - Eagles fans are the best fans in the NFL
As if there was any doubt.
Seriously, though, it’s amazing how a sea of midnight green took over StubHub Center on Sunday.
This really was like an extra home game for the Eagles. Jordan Hicks and the defense were pumping up the crowd. Carson Wentz was signaling for fans to be quiet while the Birds were on offense. Fans chanted “BULLSHIT” when the refs called a penalty that went against the Eagles. Fans cheered when the refs made calls that helped the Eagles.
It’s one thing when the Eagles have a big presence like they did in Washington (Landover, Maryland) in Week 1. That’s not too far way from Philly. But this was Carson, California. This is a 39-hour drive away from Philly. A total distance of 2,725 miles separates the two cities.
There’s no question Eagles fans factored into this win. Kudos to everyone who showed up. Now let’s do it again when the Eagles play the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 14!
2 - The Eagles are still first in the NFC East
Isn’t it great?
A look at the standings:
1st - Philadelphia Eagles - 3-1 overall (2-0 in division and conference games)
2nd - Washington Redskins - 2-1 overall (0-1 in division, 1-1 in conference)
3rd - Dallas Cowboys - 2-2 overall (1-0 in division, 2-1 in conference)
4th - New York Giants - 0-4 overall (0-2 in division, 0-4 in conference)
Note that Washington will fall to third place if they lose to the Chiefs in Kansas on Monday night. If they win (or tie), they’ll remain in second.
The Eagles are in a pretty good spot after the first four games of the season. They played three out of four games on the road but still managed to go 3-1. Now the Birds will play four out of their next five games at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia was 6-2 at the Linc last year. Hopefully the home field advantage holds up.
3 - The Eagles have a pretty good run game!
As I said all along, the Eagles run game would be fine.
OK, so I didn’t say that.
But there was real reason to be concerned about the Eagles’ rushing attack after the first two games. Philadelphia only managed to gain 165 rushing yards on 41 attempts (4.0 average) in that span. And 61 of those yards were gained on eight carries by Wentz. So the non-QB rushing figure was 104 yards on 33 carries (3.15 average).
The last two games have been a completely different story for the Eagles. Against the Giants, the Birds were able to gain two touchdowns and 193 yards on 39 attempts (4.9 average). The Eagles rushed for one touchdown and 214 yards on 42 carries against the Chargers (5.2 average).
That’s 407 total rushing yards in just two weeks!
There’s a lot of credit to be doled out for the success of the run game. After being criticized for abandoning it, now it’s time to credit Doug Pederson for sticking with it. Wentz has seemingly done a good job making calls at the line of scrimmage and directing the run. Then there’s the execution element. The offensive line is mashing up front and creating big holes. Jason Kelce is playing at a high level. Then the running games are taking advantage of the space that’s given to them. LeGarrette Blount is proving to be dangerous when he gets past that first level and is able to shed one-on-one tackles. Wendell Smallwood looks like he might be a capable Darren Sproles replacement when it comes to outside runs and being a factor in the receiving game. The Eagles showed a lot of faith in Corey Clement by keeping him in for those two 3rd-and-1 conversion attempts late in the game. Clement rewarded their confidence in him by moving the chains.
It appears the Eagles have a new three-headed monster. I’ve been pretty skeptical/critical of the Eagles’ running-back-by-committee approach but it sure is working right now.
The only thing I’d caution here is that the Giants and Chargers had very bad run defenses prior to the Eagles playing them. New York ranked 28th in rushing yards allowed per game before Week 3. Los Angeles ranked 31st. Credit to the Eagles for taking advantage of these bad units. We still have to see if they can run the ball effectively against a less terrible defense.
4 - The Eagles shut down an elite pass rushing duo
The Eagles’ offensive line wasn’t just great at run blocking. Their pass protection was stellar as well. Wentz was only sacked once.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram had 23.5 combined sacks in their last 15 games.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 2, 2017
Lane Johnson and Jason Peters held them to zero today. #Eagles
Big props to Lane and JP. If the Chargers were going to win, it was going to be because their pass rush got to Wentz. It didn’t. The Eagles won instead.
Only an absolute legend could wear his OWN T-Shirt.— NBC Sports Philly (@NBCSPhilly) October 2, 2017
Jason Peters can. pic.twitter.com/3eCDFcgUFs
5 - Carson Wentz played his best game of the year
The numbers aren’t super flashy: Wentz completed 54.8% of his passes for 242 yards, one touchdown, and a 91.1 passer rating. But make no mistake: Wentz looked pretty good in this one. His accuracy was the best it’s been all season. The way he floated some of those deep passes down the field ... beautiful stuff. Those throws were right on the money.
It was apparent how Wentz was really in control of this game. He was constantly making calls at the line of scrimmage and getting the team organized. One of his checks was especially impressive. It was the play where he hit Alshon Jeffery over the middle for a tough third down conversion. Speaking of, Wentz is so clutch when it comes to those tough third down situations.
Wentz’s brain was a big reason why the Eagles were so sold on him. It doesn’t always show up in the stats, but it’s clear he’s a big contributing factor to why the team won.
6 - The left guard rotation seems to be working
I still think the whole left guard thing is weird. Isaac Seumalo goes from undisputed starter all summer to a healthy scratch by Week 4. Chance Warmack goes from a healthy scratch to being part of a guard rotation with Stefen Wisniewski. I just don’t love the idea of rotating offensive linemen in and out of the game, especially when Wis seems to be the better option.
But I guess Warmack wasn’t too terrible in this game. And if it’s working, I can’t blame them for sticking with it. I just hope they’re willing to commit to Wis full time at some point if Warmack isn’t playing well.
7 - Torrey Smith is struggling
Smith only finished with one reception for nine yards against the Chargers. He had the potential to have a much bigger game but drops haunted him once again. Smith has four of the Eagles’ seven drops this season. He’s looking like a 2016 Eagles receiver out there.
It’s not time to abandon Torrey completely, though I’m sure some might wish they’d do that. He’s still very much capable of getting open deep. He just needs to catch the ball. Credit to him for being honest about his struggles.
In the middle of the worst stretch of my career...I'll bounce back...proud of the team— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) October 1, 2017
While I’m not in favoring of benching Smith completely, it’s probably time to give Mack Hollins some more of his snaps. The rookie wide receiver has been productive whenever his number has been called.
8 - Jake Elliott is still very much the man
This little dude is awesome.
Elliott went made all four of his field goal attempts: 40, 45, 47, and 53. Plenty of leg on them and right down the middle. He made all of his extra points. He also kicked a touchback on all seven of his kickoffs.
If Elliott keeps this up, there’s no need to activate Caleb Sturgis from injured reserve. Just keep him there all season, re-sign him to a minimum offer this offseason (he’s set to be a free agent), and then have him compete with Elliott in training camp. Trade the loser of the kicking competition to another team for a seventh-round pick.
9 - Fourth quarter defense is an issue
The Eagles are allowing way too many points late in the game. Philadelphia has allowed 52 points in the fourth quarter this season. That’s an average of 13 per game so far, which ranks second worst in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Eagles have only allowed 33 points in the first three quarters combined of their first four games this year.
Injuries certainly aren’t helping the Eagles. Last week Philly was missing a number of key players by the end of their game against the Giants. This week the Eagles had to play without Fletcher Cox. Still, the Eagles shouldn’t be this bad in that area. They’re supposed to be a team that can defend a lead due to their pass rush. The problem is that the Eagles are still weak in the secondary and that issue is showing up on a weekly basis.
10 - It’s really Zach Ertz’s year
Ertz has led the Eagles in every game this season except last week when Alshon Jeffery had one more yard than he did. Ertz finished with five receptions for 81 yards against the Chargers. He continues to be great at helping the Eagles offense move the chains.
Through four games, Ertz is on pace for 104 receptions, 1,304 yards, and four touchdowns. It’d be nice if that TD number was higher, but overall, can’t complain!
11 - Nelson Agholor is proving to be a solid slot option
Agholor had three for 58 on Sunday. He’s up to 12 for 173 and two touchdowns on the season. That’s not elite production or anything, but for his standards, it’s pretty good. The Eagles don’t need Agholor to be a star -- it’s not realistic anyway. Just being a solid contributor works. And that’s what he’s doing.
12 - Beau Allen stepped up in the absence of Fletcher Cox
The Eagles really do need their Cox back. But at least Allen isn’t a terrible backup option. Honey Beau Beau finished with two tackles for loss, one sack, and one quarterback hit.
13 - Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth were awful
Good god. The call on yesterday’s game was just downright brutal. Stockton can’t get anyone’s name right. He referred to Wendell Smallwood as “LenDale Smallwood.” He did it with other players as well, as he has in the past (“Aante Asamuels”). Apparently he thought the Eagles should go for a touchdown at the end instead of just kneeling for the win. Schlereth kept saying San Diego instead of L.A. (in fairness, I’d probably do the same, but I’m not a professional broadcaster). I feel like I’m really not one to complain about broadcasters most of the time but this was just so awful.
14 - Doug Pederson was not awful
On Saturday, John Barchard and I talked about Doug Pederson during our BGN Radio show on SportsRadio 94WIP. Our point was that Pederson doesn’t get any credit.
After the Eagles beat the Giants last week, I saw some people in the BGN comments suggest that Pederson is “holding the team back.”
That notion is ridiculous and needs to stop. The reality is that the Eagles are 3-1 and Pederson deserves credit for that.
The Eagles’ offense ranks top 10 in a number of key categories.
Eagles offense's NFL rankings:— Ben Livingston (@bliv94) October 2, 2017
3rd in yards/game
7th in scoring
2nd in first downs
2nd in third down conversion rate
1st in time of possession
It’s time to give Pederson his due.
I’m not saying he’s the best coach ever. I’m not saying he’s above criticism by any means. But Pederson is doing good things. People need to stop acting like he’s the worst coach in the NFL. Or that he’s “the least qualified coach in the last 30 years.”
Oh, and another thing about Pederson. Remember how he got hammered for going for it on 4th-and-8 last week? (Lol, like anyone forgot.) Well, he just so happened to punt late in the first half in this Eagles-Chargers game in order to pin Los Angeles back deep. But then the Chargers drove down the field and scored three points anyway. Huh, it’s almost like punting isn’t the automatic solution it’s made out to be and there’s some merit for trying to get a first down to prevent the other team from even getting the ball.
But I digress. This was a good game from Pederson. The Eagles will need more from him as the team enters this stretch of home games. It’s time for the Eagles to put their foot on the gas and not surrender their first place lead.