The Philadelphia Eagles are now 2-1 in the 2017 NFL regular season after defeating the New York Giants by a final score of 27 to 24 (recap here). Whew. Talk about a thriller. Here’s a look at 11 things we learned from this game.
1 - JAKE ELLIOTT IS A HERO
Jake Elliott missed a 30-yard chip shot in Week 2. His 52-yard attempt in Week 3 was wide left.
But none of that matters because Elliott stepped up when it counted the most. His 61-yard field goal is the longest kick by a rookie in NFL history. What an impressive moment by the young man. Relive the kick in all its glory by clicking here.
That was certainly one of the most memorable moments in the history of the Linc. From my seat in the press box, I was pretty sure the kick didn’t have much of a chance. I expected it to land short. But then the refs signaled it was good and the entire press box was shocked. Fans went nuts. Eagles players ran out onto the field. After a postgame interview with Dave Spadaro, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Mychal Kendricks carried Elliott to the locker room. The rookie kicker received a standing ovation as he was taken into the tunnel. What a moment.
This week easily could have been very miserable if the Eagles had lost. Thanks to Elliott, it won’t be. What a relief.
Jake Elliott’s 61-yard FG is tied for the 7th-longest FG in NFL history. It’s the 3rd longest walk-off FG in NFL history. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 24, 2017
2 - The Eagles, who still own the Giants, are first in the NFC East
Last Sunday, I wrote that the Eagles’ loss to the Chiefs wouldn’t really matter as long as the Birds took care of business in Week 3. Well, that’s exactly what happened.
The Eagles are now in first of the NFC East with a 2-1 overall record and a 2-0 record in division/conference games. That’s a pretty good start to the season.
The Washington Redskins are also 2-1 but the Eagles currently have a head-to-head tiebreaker over them. Plus they’re still 0-1 in the division.
And then down there in the basement of the NFC East, it’s the New York Giants. The G-Men are off to an 0-3 start with an 0-2 record in the division and an 0-3 record in conference games. With a Week 4 game coming up against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, the Giants are potentially staring 0-4 right in the face. It might be time to stick a fork in them.
I’d like to take the time to remind you that the Eagles continue own the Giants.
The Eagles are 15-4 in their last 19 games against the Giants. The Eagles own them. https://t.co/oP5izurjy6— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 24, 2017
Eagles have outscored the Giants by a total of 105-50 in their last four home games against NYG. #dominance— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 24, 2017
3 - The Eagles overcame major injuries to win this game
Look, I know this wasn’t a pretty win for the Eagles. But that shouldn’t take away from the victory too much. The Giants were playing for their season here. Expecting a cake walk isn’t realistic.
In addition, the Eagles were dealing with a lot of major injuries. The Eagles’ best running back and of the team’s biggest playmakers, Darren Sproles, left the game early with what appears to be a broken arm. The defense lost two of their best players in Jordan Hicks and Fletcher Cox. Two more of the team’s best defenders, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod, did not play. The Eagles were down to their fourth string safety with Chris Maragos starting since top backups Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins were also out.
Every team deals with injuries during the season; this isn’t unique to the Eagles. But these were some real key absences for Philly. The fact that they were able to win without a number of the team’s best players is impressive.
4 - Not Carson Wentz’s best game, but he showed up when it counted the most
The stats: 21/31, 176 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 92.9 passer rating.
Just not a great game from Wentz. He didn’t turn the ball over, which is obviously good, so it’s not like he was dreadful. But the second-year quarterback certainly left some plays on the field.
Wentz continues to struggle with his deep ball accuracy. He should have been able to hit Alshon Jeffery, who was open, for a touchdown. Instead the ball the pass ended up being majorly overthrown.
The sack Wentz took on the 4th-and-8 play was pretty unacceptable. Just can’t do that there. Throw it away or try to make something happen.
In fairness to Wentz, it’s important to remember the Giants do have some talented secondary players. It’s not like quarterbacks have been carving up New York’s defense this season. Dak Prescott managed a 90.5 passer rating in Week 1. Matthew Stafford threw for a mere 122 yards in Week 2.
Wentz also stepped up when it counted the most. Elliott’s miraculous field goal make doesn’t happen without his pass to Alshon Jeffery along the sideline. That play is funny because neither Wentz nor Jeffery were having a great game but they both earned redemption with that one completion.
5 - Doug Pederson gets too much crap sometimes
Based on what I’ve seen in the comments and on Twitter, I know this isn’t going to be a popular take. I really don’t have a major problem with Pederson in that game.
I really think some people jump on Pederson way too quickly. This signals to me that they just don’t like him and they’ll take any opportunity they can to criticize him.
The play everyone is talking about is the failed 4th-and-8 call. First, it’s ridiculous that that’s even been harped on in a win since it didn’t even cost the Eagles any points. But I understand that it easily could have.
That doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. Pederson defended his decision by citing analytics. He’s not wrong. BGN’s James Keane will have a more detailed post on this later, but here’s a quick look at the numbers.
The feeling here is that it’s much better to have a coach who’s willing to be aggressive than it is one who’s gutless (see: Chip Kelly).
I’m not going to say this was Pederson’s best game by any means. It’s certainly fair to criticize him.
Still, the Eagles did enough to win. And it’s funny because Pederson won’t receive any credit for the fourth down conversions he did attempt which ultimately led to 14 points. Those situations were shorter than the 4th-and-8, yeah, but that doesn’t mean every coach will go for it. Look at New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. He punted it on 4th-and-short from the Giants’ 38. Sproles fielded the ball at the 10-yard line for a net difference of 28. That’s just dumb.
6 - The running game came to life
It’s funny how there was a ton of criticism for Pederson last week for not running the ball but then he does it this week and people still aren’t satisfied.
The Eagles finished with two touchdowns and 193 rushing yards on 39 carries -- an average of 4.9. It was good to see the Eagles be able to take the pressure off Wentz’s arm for once.
LeGarrette Blount ran hard after not taking a single carry last year. Wendell Smallwood finally showed something. Corey Clement only averaged 3.7 yards per carry but his touchdown run was nice. You obviously have to give credit to the offensive line for blocking well.
Now, the run game was aided by a bad Giants run defense. New York allowed 267 rush yards in the first two weeks combined. So I wouldn’t get carried away in thinking the Eagles suddenly have a dangerous running game now.
Still, it was a nice showing.
7 - Stefen Wisnieski should be the Eagles’ new starter at left guard
The whole left guard situation is bizarre. The Eagles named Isaac Seumalo the unquestioned starter early in training camp. Then they were going to cut Allen Barbre before the Broncos gave up a conditional seventh-round pick for him. Then Seumalo got benched in Week 2, and not even because the Eagles felt great about one particular guy behind him. They benched him so that they could rotate between Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski.
While guard rotations certainly aren’t the norm in the NFL, it’s not like it never happens. After the game, Lane Johnson said he talked to Barbre recently and his former teammate told him he’s in a rotation with the Broncos.
But there should be no more reason for rotation moving forward. Wis is clearly better than Warmack. A look at the numbers, via The Athletic:
Not counting penalties, the Eagles gained 3.9 yards per play on Warmack’s 30 snaps and scored 14 points. They ran for 3.5 yards per carry and gained 4.8 yards per pass play (counting Wentz scrambles on called pass plays). They ran the ball 57 percent of the time. With Wisniewski at left guard, the Eagles gained 5.8 yards per play over 41 plays, rushing for 6.3 yards per carry and gaining 5.2 yards per pass play. They ran the ball 45 percent of the time.
Plus there’s this from PFF.
8 - The Eagles cornerbacks are battling out there
No one will be mistaking the Eagles’ cornerbacks for one of the best tandems in the NFL. I think it’s safe to say they’ve held up well, though, especially relative to expectations that they’d be a disaster.
Mills was targeted a total of 21 times, which is the most of any cornerback in a single game in 10 years. It’s not a good sign when a team is willing to pick on a player like this and it’s not the first time it’s happened this season. Washington really went after Mills in Week 1. To his credit, though, Mills really battles out there. He “only” allowed nine receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns to Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ’s longest catch of the day was 14 yards. And even on those touchdown plays, Mills was playing him pretty close. OBJ simply made some spectacular catches that would be nearly impossible to defend. Mills finished the game with two pass deflections, including one that forced a third down stop.
Rasul Douglas is in a similar boat to Mills. He’s not going to be without his mistakes; he missed some tackles and wasn’t perfect in coverage. But he battles on every snap. His interception was great and an example of the good ball skills he possesses.
Patrick Robinson had another strong game. It’s amazing how much better he is at slot corner instead of playing on the outside. It’s not a surprise, though, if you read BGN’s post about him this offseason.
9 - The Eagles’ defensive line forced the Giants’ hand
What happened to the Eagles’ defensive line? No sacks? Only four quarterback hits? Weren’t they supposed to dominate New York’s shaky offensive line?
The pass rush didn’t suddenly get bad, although losing Cox didn’t help matters. Here’s why the Eagles weren’t able to sack Manning:
Holy heck. Eli Manning got rid of the ball on average in 1.86 seconds on Sunday, per PFF. Crazy fast, almost .40 faster than any other QB.— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 25, 2017
Allowing explosive plays is worse than making the team try to dink and dunk their way down the field. Sometimes you’re going to tip one of those short passes, as Mychal Kendricks did, and come up with an interception, as Robinson did.
The point here is that even if the Eagles aren’t generating pressure, their defensive line is still having an impact on the game. It forced the opponent to play a certain way.