The Philadelphia Eagles are now 7-1 in the 2017 NFL regular season schedule after defeating the San Francisco 49ers by a final score of 33 to 10 (recap here). Six wins in a row! Here’s a look at everything we learned from this game.
1 - The Eagles didn’t play a perfect game but still won big
Not the most pretty win for the Eagles on Sunday. The offense failed to get in a rhythm. Not a lot of style points were scored. Despite this, the Birds still won by 23. It’s pretty good when you can say you played a bad game and still won decisively. I thought Brad Rutter put it nicely:
Eagles playing their worst game of the year and about to hang 40 on them. Cowboys played their best game of the year and hung 40 on them. https://t.co/aGIbTdj73i— Brad Rutter (@bradrutter) October 29, 2017
Look, the Eagles have things to work on. But they’re a darn good team. They’re 7-1 and they still have the best record in the NFL. They got the win on Sunday and that’s all that really matters. Move on to the next game and play better.
Eagles are tied with the Patriots for the most 20+ point games (21) in the NFL since 2016.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 29, 2017
Eagles have scored 20+ points in 12 straight games, longest streak in the NFL. (Only NFL team to score 20+ points in every game in 2017.)— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 29, 2017
The Eagles have scored 25+ points in 6 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 29, 2017
2 - Philadelphia’s defense is looking dominant
It all starts up front with their dominant defensive line, but the Eagles are getting strong production from their linebacker corps and the secondary as well.
Philadelphia’s run defense continues to be the best in the league. The Eagles only allowed 42 yards on 17 carries by 49ers running backs. That’s a 2.47 average. You just can’t run on this team. The defensive line isn’t allowing the offense to open up holes. And in the rare instance they do, the linebackers or defensive backs are there to make the tackle.
When opponents are forced to admit the run game isn’t an option, they have to rely on throwing the ball a lot. Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard had 36 pass attempts on Sunday. Quite simply, the 49ers aren’t going to beat the Eagles when that happens. Philadelphia teed off on Beathard. They sacked him four times (five if a Chris Long sack wasn’t dubiously wiped out) and hit him an additional 12 times. The Eagles defense also put several big hits on Beathard when the quarterback took off running.
The impact of the Eagles’ pressure also manifested in plays made by the secondary. Philly combined for 10 pass deflections and two interceptions.
Overall, just a dominant effort from the Eagles defense. The only time they allowed a touchdown is when an interception forced them to start on a short field. From there, Kyle Shanahan called up a good shovel pass to trick the Eagles.
3 - The offensive line needs to play better
A big reason why this game was sloppy on offense is because the line didn’t seem to play well.
It’s easy to point to the loss of Jason Peters as the main reason why, and the truth is that doesn’t help. He’s certainly a lot better than Halapoulivaati Vaitai. To blame Big V and Big V alone for the Eagles’ blocking struggles would be misguided, though. Lane Johnson wasn’t having his best game at right tackle. That can’t be explained by Peters being gone.
It’s weird, too, because it’s not like the 49ers have a particularly dominant defensive front. DeForest Buckner is a nice talent, sure, but that’s their best guy by far.
The offensive line needs to be a lot better moving forward. Although some of them were his responsibility, Wentz was facing too much pressure (three sacks, seven hits) and the run game couldn’t really get going (3.6 yards per carry).
4 - Carson Wentz was merely average and that’s OK
Wentz’s numbers from Sunday: 18/32 (56.3%), 211 yards (6.6 average), 2 TD, 1 INT, 84.2 rating.
Just not the kind of outing you’re looking for against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
In fairness to Wentz, the interception looks like it was on Mack Hollins breaking off his route. That play hurts his outlook. But Wentz missed some throws that were in his control. His overthrow on a wide open touchdown to Alshon Jeffery was a big mistake. He also overthrew an open Brent Celek in the red zone later in the game.
It wasn’t an awful performance by Wentz but this game serves as a reminder that he’s only in his second year and he’s not a finished product. Despite being in the MVP race, there are still things he can work on.
One silver lining from Wentz’s performance is that it was nice to see the Eagles can step up if he’s not having the best day. Wentz carried Philadelphia to win over Washington on Monday night. Now the team repaid him back by being there for him.
5 - Jalen Mills is proving his doubters wrong
No one should be mistaking Mills for a superstar lockdown corner but he’s far from “the worst cornerback in the NFL.” Mills ranks tied for third in interceptions this season with three. He also has 10 pass deflections. Part of the reason those numbers are high is because Mills is targeted a lot. And it’s typically not a good sign when quarterbacks are regularly willing to throw your way.
But while he’s not perfect, Mills is at least giving the Eagles some competency at the cornerback position. And sometimes even more. His pick-six was a big play in the game on Sunday. The Eagles were lacking energy until he helped the Birds jump out to a 17-0 lead. Mills really deserves credit for cutting back and finding a way to score. That was a great return by him.
6 - Alshon Jeffery is still capable of winning jump balls
We KNEW Jeffery was capable of going up in the air and making a contested catch. We’ve seen him do when he was with the Bears. I personally saw it on a number of occasions in training camp. But Jeffery hadn’t really done it in a game this year ... until now. It was great to see him come down with that ball and not only make the catch but finish the play with a run to the end zone. If Wentz and Jeffery can get onto the same page in the Eagles’ final eight games, that’ll be another boost for this already-prolific offense.
7 - Derek Barnett is coming along nicely
How about the rookie making a big play? Great job by Barnett to burst through the 49ers’ field goal protection and block the kick. You have to love his effort: the Eagles were already up big in the game in the fourth quarter but he made the hustle play anyway. Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp loved it.
This is how Eagles ST coordinator Dave Fipp reacted to Derek Barnett’s field goal block pic.twitter.com/ydSDFrAMDp— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 30, 2017
Barnett’s really been coming along strong lately. In addition to his big special teams play, Barnett notched two solo tackles, two quarterback hits, and one tackle for loss.
8 - Mychal Kendricks is playing his butt off
Kendricks has been having a great season. The Eagles are counting on his presence to help offset the loss of Jordan Hicks and that’s just what happened on Sunday. Kendricks led the Eagles in tackles with seven (six solo). He also had one sack, one pass defensed, and two quarterback hits.
One of the most impressive things about the way Kendricks is playing is that he even looks good in coverage. That’s an area where he’s struggled in the past despite his athleticism. The Eagles made a great decision to not trade Kendricks for a Day 3 draft pick this offseason.
9 - Jake Elliott is causing mixed feelings
On one hand, Elliott accomplished a pretty impressive feat on Sunday. He now owns the Eagles’ franchise record for the most 50+ yard field goals (5) in a single season. He’s a rookie! And he’s only been with the team for seven games. That’s pretty awesome.
On the other hand, what’s up with those missed extra points, Jake? Maybe the wet weather was impacting the quality of the snap and/or hold, but c’mon. Can’t be missing those.
10 - The running back rotation might need an adjustment
Here’s a look at the numbers:
LeGarrette Blount: 16 carries, 48 yards, 3.0 average, 1 TD (1 reception for 4 yards)
Corey Clement: 10 carries, 54 yards, 5.4 average
Wendell Smallwood: 1 carry, 5 yards (1 reception for 9 yards)
Kenjon Barner: 0 carries (2 receptions for 11 yards)
It was weird how the Eagles didn’t really use Smallwood until the second half. And then they barely used him at all. Smallwood has been dealing with a knee injury this season, but he wasn’t listed on the injury report heading into this game. So what gives?
I know he hasn’t been awesome, but he should be getting targets in the passing game over Barner. Also Blount should probably be getting less carries if he’s not efficient. Maybe it’s time to get Clement a little more involved.
Yes, the Eagles’ backs certainly weren’t helped by a lack of good run blocking. But that doesn’t fully explain the curious usage here.
11 - Eagles seemingly escaped the game with no major injuries
The Eagles have obviously suffered a number of major injuries recently with Peters and Jordan Hicks going down in Week 7. But they seemingly escaped this game relatively unscathed.
Starting nickel corner Patrick Robinson, who deserves credit for helping force the interception caught by Rodney McLeod, suffered a head injury. It would seem he’s in the concussion protocol. He won’t be able to return until he’s cleared. The extent of his injury remains uncertain, but it seems like we would’ve heard more by now if it was very serious.
12 - The Eagles have the opportunity to go 8-1 heading into the bye
The Eagles are 7-1 through the first half of the 2017 NFL season. They have the best record in the NFL and the best point differential in the NFL.
Here’s how the Birds stack up in the NFC playoff picture.
And here’s a look at the updated NFC East standings.
The bad news is a lot of NFC teams won on Sunday, including the Cowboys.
The good news is the Eagles will have a chance to maintain their lead with a home game against the Broncos in Week 9. Denver’s defense remains challenging, but the team as a whole is not very inspiring right now. The Broncos have scored a combined 10 points in their last two games. Fans are calling for Chad Kelly, the last pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, to potentially start.
Add in the fact that the Broncos will be traveling on a short week from west to east after playing on Monday Night Football, and this week’s game is looking winnable for the Eagles.
Getting to 8-1 before the bye would be fantastic. Perhaps the Eagles will even bring in a new piece or two via trade to boost their roster.
One thing’s for sure: it’s a very fun time to be an Eagles fan.