The Eagles defeated the Washington Redskins on Monday, 28-13. Here’s a look at the things we learned from Philadelphia’s big divisional win.
1 - The Eagles are capable of winning back-to-back games
Well, the Eagles’ last two wins sure haven’t been pretty, but they have been wins, so they’ll take it. It took until Week 13 but Philadelphia is finally on a winning streak.
The most important thing is that the Eagles have found a way to keep their season alive after things weren’t looking so good coming off a blowout loss to the Saints that dropped them to 4-6. Now the Eagles are 6-6 heading into a HUGE NFC East battle against the Cowboys.
It’s hard to definitively claim “the Eagles are back!” given how this team has often disappointed this year. It’s difficult to fully trust a team that’s only managed to beat the following quarterbacks this year: Matt Ryan, a rusty Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles, Eli Manning (twice), and Colt McCoy/Mark Sanchez.
But maybe the Eagles are finally turning a corner. Maybe.
2 - The offense is showing signs of life but there’s still room for improvement
Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson did some good things on Monday night.
Wentz made some really nice throws on the move.
Using #NextGenStats' chart & adding my own tracking, "On the Move" Carson Wentz went 4/4, 77 yards, & 1 TD in Week 13. pic.twitter.com/Hdec7pcS6y— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 4, 2018
He finished the game completing 69% of his attempts (nice) for 306 yards (7.8 average), two touchdowns, one horrible interception, and a 98.9 passer rating.
Pederson, meanwhile, kept the offense relatively balanced with 39 passes to 33 runs. He stayed aggressive (love the two-point conversion call to go up by two possessions) and even infused some new ideas to the offense.
Wentz and Pederson also did some bad things on Monday night.
Wentz’s aforementioned red zone pick was terrible. He took full responsibility for that poor decision after the game. That wasn’t his only bad play, though. Wentz left a number of plays on the field due to inaccurate throws. One play saw Nelson Agholor WIDE OPEN for a potential touchdown on a screen. Instead of finding the receiver’s hands, Wentz threw at the dirt near his feet. Wentz missed another throw to a wide open Dallas Goedert on a screen play. It would’ve been a big gain at least and potentially even another score.
Wentz will see these mistakes when he goes through the tape. The Eagles need him to correct these issues and be much sharper down the stretch.
As for Pederson, there were some questionable usage decisions. Maybe give Wentz a chance to make a play on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line instead of putting the ball in the hands of an undrafted running back. Maybe don’t give Darren Sproles his first carry on a 3rd-and-4 situation. Look, not every play call is going to be perfect. Pederson was largely fine on Monday. But not unlike Wentz, there are some areas where he could afford to tighten up as the team faces some critical games in the final quarter of the regular season.
3 - The offensive line gives this team hope
How about this Eagles offensive line?
This group didn’t get off to a good start this year but suddenly they’re resembling something closer to last year’s version.
The Eagles’ pass protectors only allowed four hits and zero sacks. They also opened up holes for a running game that finished with 29 carries for 134 yards (4.6 average) and one touchdown.
Jason Peters is still playing at a high level. Jason Kelce was dominant out on the move. And Lane Johnson shut down notorious Eagles Killer Ryan Kerrigan.
.@eagles @DarrenSproles scores his 1st TD of season with XXX blocks from #Kelce & Ertz. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/xQuuYkslFS— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 4, 2018
.@Eagles @jasonpeter takes one of the ‘BamaBoyz for a “LYFT” ride. Still, after all these years, is the best run blocker in the @NFL. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/nt6oCBKgrT— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 4, 2018
.@eagles OL/TE looked like the OL that won SB52 last night. Welcome Back. Never too late in this business to get in a roll. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/C0187OgcZG— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 4, 2018
If the Eagles can continue to dominate up front, you have to feel better about the state of this offense.
4 - The second half defense is encouraging
The Eagles’ second half defense against the Giants: three points allowed, 51 yards allowed on 22 plays (2.3 yards per play).
The Eagles’ second half defense against Washington: zero points allowed, 16 yards allowed on 20 plays (0.8 yards per play).
That’s a total of three points and 67 yards on 42 plays (1.59 yards per play). That’s dominant.
Of course, it unquestionably helps that the Eagles were facing Eli Manning and Mark Sanchez. I’m not saying Jim Schwartz’s unit is suddenly one of the best defenses in the league.
But given that the Eagles have a number of injuries on defense, namely in the secondary, it’s encouraging to see they’re not getting beat up by crappy quarterbacks.
There’s some hope this unit can at least be respectable down the stretch. Just gotta cut down on allowing 90-yard touchdown runs to 33-year-old running backs. Also gotta hope the defensive line can keep this strong play up: three sacks, NINE tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits against Washington.
5 - The Golden Tate trade was totally worth it
OK, so not really. (Yet, at least.)
But it was good to see the Eagles actually get some production out of him. Tate lead the team in receiving with seven receptions for 85 yards (12.1) and one touchdown. He was uber efficient as he caught all of his seven targets. Oh, and he even nabbed a successful two-point conversion catch.
It was nice to have Tate a little more organically incorporated into the flow of the offense instead of trying to force feed his touches. We finally got to see Tate make use of his elite YAC ability after shedding a tackle on an out route. That’s a pattern where he can be really dangerous as he turns the corner.
Hopefully Tate continues to stay hot down the stretch.
6 - There was no need to rush to shut down Darren Sproles
The skepticism regarding Sproles’ ability to stay healthy following his hamstring injury setback in Week 10 was understandable.
The skepticism regarding Sproles’ ability to help this offense assuming he could somehow stay healthy was not.
Sproles might be at end of his career but he can still help this team as a role player. The 35-year-old managed one touchdown and 22 yards on his five carries (5.5 average) and returned three punts for 19 yards (long of 14).
The stats aren’t otherworldly but Sproles did flash ability to be dangerous in space since he can still make people miss and fight through contact.
The Eagles shouldn’t become too reliant on him but there is rightfully a role for Sproles on this team.
On a related note, it was great to see how genuinely happy his teammates and coaches were for him following his touchdown. There’s a ton of respect for Sproles in the locker room.
7 - It’s Beat Dallas week
The Eagles can very much still win the NFC East but they’ll need to beat the Cowboys this Sunday to do it.
It won’t be easy. Winner of their last four games, Dallas is playing well. Their defense figures to be tough to crack. The Cowboys have the rest advantage given they play on Thursday and the Eagles will have to travel after playing on Monday night.
With their backs up against the wall, it’s truly time for the Eagles to do-or-die this weekend.