The Philadelphia Eagles are now 4-1 in the 2017 NFL regular season after defeating the Arizona Cardinals by a final score of 31 to 7 (recap here). Three wins in a row! Here’s a look at everything we learned from this game.
1 - The Eagles can play a complete game
Winning close games is important and all, but the mark of a truly good team is one who is able to blow out inferior opponents. That’s exactly what the Eagles did on Sunday as they dominated the Cardinals in all three phases.
Doug Pederson’s offense looked great. Philadelphia racked up 34 points and 419 yards. 21 of the Eagles’ points were scored in the first quarter alone.
On defense, Jim Schwartz’s unit only allowed seven points despite missing two of the team’s defenders: both Fletcher Cox and Ronald Darby. The Eagles would’ve have logged multiple interceptions on Sunday if their cornerbacks had better hands.b
Dave Fipp’s special teams group is still one of the best in the league. He does such a good job with that unit. The Eagles had a huge punt return (more on that later) and a blocked field goal (more on that later as well).
Just an overall great team win. A total statement game from the Eagles.
2 - Carson Wentz is amazing
11 of 12 (91.7%) for 225 yards (18.8 average), three touchdowns, nine first downs, and a 158.3 passer rating. These were just Wentz’s numbers on third down. Wentz has been unreal in that area. He’s just so clutch in those moments. He sees the field so well and makes the right call. Or, if there’s nothing there, he can always just take off running and move the chains with his legs.
Wentz’s complete game stats: 21/30 (70%), 304 yards (10.1 average), 4 TD, 1 INT, 128.3 passer rating. He also rushed for 11 yards.
Wentz is clearly ahead of where he was at this time last year. He’s making that Year 1 to Year 2 leap that most NFL players make in their career. There’s progression and growth. His accuracy looks improved. He’s racking up all the Air Yards.
Wentz’s success is clearly a great thing for the Eagles’ outlook. It’s terrible news for all his unreasonable critics and doubters out there.
In fairness, Wentz was not perfect on Sunday. The interception he threw was really bad. Can’t turn the ball over in that situation. Even if the Eagles have to kick a field goal, they go up three possessions (17 points) and then get the ball back after the half. It wasn’t the appropriate time to force a tight throw. Wentz also terribly missed a wide open Ertz on third down in the red zone. Completely threw behind him and in the dirt.
In a way, there’s comfort to be had in these mistakes. Because for as good as Wentz played, there’s still room for him to be even better. And given his incredible work ethic and will to win, there’s confidence he’ll correct the things that went wrong moving forward.
Carson Wentz’s 4 passing TDs were the most by an Eagles QB in a single game since Nick Foles’ 7 TD game against Raiders.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 8, 2017
Wentz had the most third-down passing yards and yards per attempt by an Eagle since at least 1991.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 8, 2017
Carson Wentz is the only NFL QB to record multiple games with a perfect passer rating on third down this season. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 8, 2017
Carson Wentz '17 (4-1)— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 9, 2017
3rd Down: 37/52 (71.2%) 6 TDs, 1 INT, 137.8 QB rating
Red Zone: 14/23 7 TDs, 0 INTs, 111.6 QB Rating#FlyEaglesFly
3 - It’s time to really give Doug Pederson some credit
4th-and-8? No, 4 and 1. That’s the Eagles’ record right now and it’s time to give credit to the head coach.
The Eagles have been very well-prepared heading into games this season. Pederson has had his guys ready to go from the jump.
If you’re still not sold, look at these numbers:
The Eagles are tied with Falcons and Patriots for the most 20+ point performances (18) in the NFL since the start of the 2016 season.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 8, 2017
Eagles have scored 20+ points in 9 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 8, 2017
In addition to this consistency, players seem to enjoy playing for Doug. They’re having fun expressing themselves in their touchdown celebrations, which is something Pederson actually encouraged the guys to practice during training camp.
Doug’s done a good job. It’s still relatively early in the season, but the man at least deserves to be in the Coach of the Year conversation.
4 - Nelson Agholor looks like a new player
I always believed in you, Nelson. And now you’re proving me right.
OK, just kidding, I didn’t believe in him at all. But there was great reason not to. He was literally one of the worst wide receivers in the NFL over the past two seasons. And now Agholor is a guy who can do THIS:
Through five games, Agholor now has 16 receptions for 266 yards (16.6 average) and three touchdowns. He’s clearly on pace for his best season yet.
The Eagles’ 2015 first-round pick has been a great option for Wentz in the slot. He’s not the volume target that Jordan Matthews is, but he’s much more explosive. The Eagles really aren’t missing JMatt at all.
5 - Patrick Robinson has been such a pleasant surprise
Patrick Robinson looked awful in Eagles training camp. It wasn’t just me who thought this, either. A number of media types thought he was having the worst camp of any player. Even Robinson admitted he was really struggling.
But he’s really rebounded in a big way. And it’s not just because he’s playing in the position he’s best suited for: the nickel cornerback role. On Sunday against the Cardinals, the Eagles used Robinson on the outside a good amount. He was in position to make multiple interceptions. Unfortunately, he dropped them, but still ... he was pretty great in coverage.
Now’s a good time to remind you the Eagles signed him for the mere cost of $1 million. Tremendous bargain signing.
6 - Larry Fitzgerald isn’t an Eagles Killer anymore
Well, at least he wasn’t on Sunday. Fitz only had six receptions for 51 yards and zero touchdowns. Two catches and 20 yards came on the final drive of the game, which was pure garbage time production.
In his last two games against the Eagles, Fitzgerald only has nine receptions for 94 yards. Take out the garbage time numbers and it’s seven for 74. The 34-year-old is not the Eagles Killer he once was. I declare his reign over.
7 - Kenjon Barner is the unsung hero of this game
Back when the Eagles re-signed Barner, I was optimistic about his chances of contributing to the team’s return game.
Barner helps Eagles return game— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 27, 2017
2016 KR: 9 for 277, 30.8 avg
2016 preseason KR: 3 for 96, 32.0
2015 preseason PR: 13 for 223, 17.2, 2 TD
Barner rewarded my faith with three punt returns on Sunday for a total of 110 yards. His longest of the day went for 76. Barner might not be some exceptional talent but he has familiarity with Fipp’s scheme and he seems to have picked up a thing or two from his mentor, Darren Sproles.
But it wasn’t like Barner only contributed on his returns. He also had five carries for 23 yards (4.6 average) on the ground. And he drew a 16-yard pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles are fortunate that the Chargers cut Barner this summer. He’s a nice role-player to have.
8 - Another great game for the defensive line
The Eagles only had two sacks but they were pressuring Carson Palmer all game long. If the cornerbacks could catch, I’d be saying the line pressured Palmer into throwing multiple picks.
Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry each had one sack and one quarterback hit. Tim Jernigan, Chris Long, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett, and Elijah Qualls also all had one quarterback hit.
When it came to run defense, Graham was a monster. He had three tackles for loss. Curry and Jernigan also logged one each.
The Eagles held Arizona to 31 yards on the ground for a 2.2 average. If you take out J.J. Nelson’s 14-yard jet sweep, Cardinals running backs combined for a mere 17 yards on 13 carries (1.3 average).
9 - The secondary stepped up
I talked about Robinson’s performance earlier. He could’ve had like three interceptions if he had better hands. Jalen Mills also dropped a potential pick, though in fairness John Brown did a great job of playing defense and breaking it up.
I thought Malcolm Jenkins quietly played a very good game. He deserves credit for holding Fitzgerald to a meager performance.
No one will be mistaking the Eagles’ secondary for the best in the league anytime soon, but they played pretty well. Now imagine when Ronald Darby returns.
10 - The Lane Johnson injury looms large
Johnson suffered a head injury during the Eagles-Cardinals game and did not return to the game. Jeff McLane reports the injury is indeed a concussion. If that’s true, Johnson will have to pass through the NFL’s mandatory concussion protocol before he can suit up. He might not be ready in time for the Eagles’ Thursday night game against the Carolina Panthers. Even if he thinks he’s ready to play, it doesn’t matter. It’s not his call. He has to be cleared by an independent doctor.
The good news is that Halapoulivaati Vaitai seemed to play well in his absence. The bad news is he’s no Lane Johnson.
Stay tuned for more updates on Johnson’s situation as Pederson addresses reporters on Monday.
11 - The offensive line is still mashing people
You have to love the way this Eagles offensive line is performing. Wentz was only sacked once. According to PFF, the Eagles have the NFL’s best pass protection unit since Isaac Seumalo was benched.
Eagles O-line:— PFF PHI Eagles (@PFF_Philly) October 9, 2017
Pass Block Efficiency
Weeks 1-2: 79.0
NFL rank: 16
Weeks 3-5: 90.6
NFL rank: 1
The run game has obviously been awesome as well. Against a tough Cardinals run defense, Philly running backs gained 114 yards on 26 carries (4.4 average).
The only complaint I have about this offensive line is the dumb left guard rotation. It’s just so unnecessary. The Eagles’ offense was playing well on Sunday. They had three straight scoring drives with Stefen Wisniewski starting ... and then Chance Warmack took over and drives suddenly started to stall. The rotation is so forced and unnecessary.
A holding penalty on Warmack late in the game wiped out a rushing touchdown. The game was virtually over, but come on. Just get Chance out of there.
12 - LeGarrette Blount has been surprisingly good
Blount finished with 74 yards on 14 carries against the Cardinals. His longest run of the day was for 37. The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for opening a huge hole for him, but Blount is able to generate his own yards once he’s in the open field because people can’t tackle him very easily. It’s just really fun to watch defenders bounce off of him and he continues to keep his legs moving and pick up extra yards. It must be really demoralizing for a defense to have to go up against a player like that.
Crazy but true: LeSean McCoy hasn't scored this season and has fewer rushing yards (216) than Blount (249).— Patrickortreat Wall (@ByPatrickWall) October 9, 2017
LeGarrette Blount has 277 yards on 42 carries the past three weeks (6.60 YPC), and leads all RBs in PFF Elusive Rating.— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 8, 2017
13 - The Eagles gained a buffer in the NFC East
The Eagles now have two more wins than the second place team, the Washington Redskins, in the NFC East.
1 - Eagles | Overall: 4-1 | Conference: 3-0 | Division: 2-0
2 - Washington | Overall: 2-2 | Conference: 1-1 | Division: 0-1
3 - Cowboys | Overall: 2-3 | Conference: 1-2 | Division: 1-0
4 - Giants | Overall: 0-5 | Conference: 0-4 | Division: 0-2
That’s a nice little buffer to have, especially with the Eagles having a tough road game against the 4-1 Carolina Panthers coming up on Thursday night.
Right now, it’s hard not to feel pretty good about this Eagles team. They’re 4-1 and they haven’t even hit their ceiling yet. Wentz is still developing. Cox and Darby will be returning from injury at some point. Sidney Jones might be on the way as well.
Beating the Panthers would be incredible. That’d put the Eagles at 5-1 with 10 days to prepare for a Josh Norman-less Washington team in Week 7. Winning in Carolina won’t be easy, but you can’t say the Eagles don’t have a shot. The Birds are a good football team.
The Eagles are 4-1 and their one loss was against the only undefeated team in the NFL: Chiefs. It was KC’s closest game in terms of score.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 9, 2017