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8 thoughts on the Eagles’ much-needed win over the Bills

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Turns out that winning is cooler than losing.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles are 4-4 after beating the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, 31 to 13. I checked with some people and it turns out being 4-4 is better than being 3-5.

Here are some more thoughts on the game.

1 - The Eagles are still capable of playing some good football

Appropriate meme:

After playing some pretty garbage football en route to getting outscored 75 to 30 over the past two weeks, it was comforting to be reminded that the Eagles can actually do some good things. That’s not to suggest they were flawless in their win over the Bills but at least this game wasn’t as frustrating as most of their outings have been this year. It was probably the most fun since they’ve been since the second half of Week 1?

2 - Orlando Scandrick saved the season

Ha, not quite.

But the Eagles sure did play like a team that was galvanized by all the criticism headed their way among losses and off-field drama. The team played with much more urgency and inspiration on Sunday than the past two weeks.

This was an important game for the Eagles in gauging if the team was truly fractured or not. As it turns out, they’re not a total mess.

Resiliency has been a defining quality of the Doug Pederson era. Going back to 2016, this team has found a way to bounce back from some really bad losses. They’ve never just completely quit and mailed it in. The adversity the Eagles face can too often be self-inflicted but, still, credit to Pederson and the players for showing admirable fight. You can’t truly ever count this group out.

Beyond Pederson’s motivation ability, I thought he called a strong game today. The start was still slower than you’d like but there was a good amount of creativity. He surely outschemed Sean McDermott.

3 - The Eagles became the Broad Street Bullies once again

A big reason why the Eagles upset the Packers in Week 4 was because Philadelphia just kicked Green Bay’s asses in the trenches. The Eagles similarly bullied their way to a win in Buffalo.

The Eagles’ offensive line deserves a ton of credit for opening holes for the running game. As a team, the Eagles finished with 41 carries for 218 yards (5.3 average) and three touchdowns. Quality stuff.

Jordan Howard took the bulk of the workload with 23 carries for 96 yards (4.2 average)and one score. It’s too bad he finished JUST short of becoming the first Eagles running back to go over the century mark since ... LeGarrette Blount in Week 4 of the 2017 NFL season. Howard is fun to watch since he rarely accounts for negative plays and he’s so hard to tackle. He’s also apparently a pretty good lead blocker!

Howard, who turns 25 this week, is set to be a free agent after 2019. The Eagles aren’t ones to invest a lot of resources into the running back position but they have to have some level of interest in keeping Howard depending on the price.

Miles Sanders only took three carries but that’s all he needed to have a major impact. The rookie finished with 74 rushing yards and one score thanks to his explosive 65-yard touchdown run. For an Eagles offense that often makes moving the ball and scoring points much more difficult than it has to be, it was so refreshing and exciting to see Sanders make that play. It’s been too long since the Eagles have had a runner with that kind of home run ability.

And this isn’t even to mention Sanders’ receiving ability. The rookie running back logged three receptions for 44 yards against the Bills. As friend of BGN Noah Becker pointed out, Sanders already has more NFL receiving yards (230) than he had at Penn State (193). It’s hard not to be encouraged by Sanders’ outlook after a game like today.

Sanders said his injured shoulder should be “fine [...] hopefully.”

Yes, hopefully that IS the case.

But back to the bully narrative!

The Eagles’ defensive line showed up with four sacks and nine quarterback hits. The sack count should really be five sacks — including three strip sacks — but unfortunately Brandon Graham stripping Josh Allen was considered a run play.

Still, that was a huge swing for the Eagles. They were down 7 to 3 and Buffalo could’ve been in position to drive for another score. Instead, Graham set up the Eagles’ sluggish offense with great field position and they capitalized to take an 11 to 7 lead.

Fletcher Cox showing up from the jump was great to see and encouraging for the Eagles moving forward. He’s looking healthier after a slow start to the season. He didn’t have a sack until Week 7 and now he has 2.5 in the last two games, including two forced fumbles. The Eagles especially needed Cox to step up given that they were playing practice squad call-up Bruce Hector and undrafted rookie free agents Anthony Rush and Albert Huggins playing next to him.

The Eagles won the Super Bowl in large part to how they dominated the trenches. It’s no coincidence their two most impressive wins in 2019 have followed that same formula.

4 - Carson Wentz continues to play better than the stats show

Wentz’s numbers were hardly eye-popping: 17/24 (70.8%), 172 yards, 7.2 average, 1 TD, 0 INT, 104.9 passer rating. But, as has often been the case with him this year, the box score stats don’t tell the whole story.

First of all, it must be noted that the intense winds at New Era Field clearly impacted the passing game. Wentz was able to make use of his strong arm to deliver some strong throws into the gusts. His opposite hash throw to Alshon Jeffery for a first down conversion stood out in this regard. Wentz also had a great ball to Jeffery for a 38-yard gain.

Wentz also made good use of his mobility by picking up 39 yards on five carries (excluding end of game kneel downs). The most impressive play was when Wentz fake a screen throw and took off running.

It seemed like that might’ve been a designed run ... but it wasn’t. It just was Wentz making a great play.

This conversion was part of the 8:17 minute touchdown drive the Eagles went on in the fourth quarter to essentially win the game. Wentz gets knocked for not being clutch but this was pretty clutch the way I see it.

Pederson said Wentz’s performed “extremely well” and that’s a fair assessment when you look at how other quarterbacks have performed against Buffalo’s tough defense this season. Wentz’s performance clearly stands out as the best showing.

Week 1 at Jets - Sam Darnold: 28/41 (68.3%), 175 yards (4.3 average), 1 TD, 0 INT, 84.9 passer rating

Week 2 at Giants - Eli Manning: 26/45 (57.8%), 250 yards (5.6 average), 1 TD, 2 INT, 62.3 passer rating

Week 3 vs. Bengals - Andy Dalton: 20/36 (55.6%), 250 yards (6.9 average), 1 TD, 2 INT, 63.4 passer rating

Week 4 vs. Patriots - Tom Brady: 18/39 (46.2%), 150 yards (3.8 average), 0 TD, 1 INT, 45.9 passer rating

Week 5 at Titans - Marcus Mariota: 13/22 (59.1%), 183 yards (6.8 average), 0 TD, 0 INT, 86.0 passer rating

Week 6 - BYE

Week 7 vs. Dolphins - Ryan Fitzpatrick: 23/35 (65.7%), 282 yards (8.1 average), 1 TD, 1 INT, 88.0 passer rating

Week 8 vs. Eagles - Carson Wentz: 17/24 (70.8%), 172 yards (7.2 average), 1 TD, 0 INT, 104.9 passer rating

5 - Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby have helped to stabilize the secondary?

Way too early to definitively conclude this. Allen isn’t the most threatening passer and the windy conditions probably helped the Eagles’ secondary. Still, Mills and Darby seem preferable to playing Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones at this point. Darby had that huge pass breakup on 4th-and-10, which I didn’t know was allowed to happen. Mills didn’t stand out ... in a good way.

Douglas, meanwhile, whiffed on Devin Singletary’s touchdown reception and failed to scoop and score on Derek Barnett’s blocked extra point. Jones, who took some nickel cornerback snaps, got absolutely roasted by Cole Beasley on 3rd-and-8 conversion during the Bills’ second touchdown drive.

Mills and Darby are far, far from lockdown corners (ya think?) and it might not be too long before they infuriate everybody. But for all their faults they do at least offer some level of competency, sometimes!

6 - The Eagles will likely be buyers at the NFL trade deadline

Here’s what NFL insider Chris Mortensen said about the Eagles prior to their win over the Bills:

Well, the Eagles won, and the buzz has already begun.

I maintain my stance from last week that the Eagles shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking they’re one piece away. They shouldn’t be investing valuable resources into a pure rental player, like they did with Golden Tate last year.

What Howie Roseman should be looking for is to acquire a piece (or two) who can help the team in 2019 and beyond. Robby Anderson and Leonard William seem like logical fits given Philly’s needs and Roseman’s relationship with Jets general manager Joe Douglas.

I’d still argue a speed wide receiver is the Eagles’ biggest need. The Eagles are hoping to get DeSean Jackson back ... but can they really count on that? And it’s quite okay for the Eagles to have both Jackson AND another fast wideout on the team!

It’s a passing league and the Eagles need to give Wentz another quality receiving option to work with. The receivers Wentz currently has outside of Alshon Jeffery aren’t really cutting it! Just look at this utter lack of production over the last five games.

Alshon Jeffery: 25 receptions, 268 yards (10.72 average), 2 TD

Nelson Agholor: 11 receptions, 93 yards (8.5 average), 0 TD, 1 fumble

Mack Hollins: 1 reception, 13 yards

JJ Arcega-Whiteside: 0 receptions

7 - Jake Elliott should be cut

He’s no longer perfect on all his kicking attempts this season after missing an extra point. Get him out of here.

Just kidding. Tough break for Elliott as he had to kick in really windy conditions. I was impressed he made the 37-yard kick in that weather.

8 - The Eagles’ season is very much alive

The Eagles are 4-4 and they get the 3-4 Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field next week. The Bears’ defense is still pretty tough (6th in DVOA heading into Week 8) but boy does Mitchell Trubisky really stink. Chicago’s starting quarterback is sporting a 82.8 passer rating this season, which ranks 26th out of 34 qualified passers.

If the Eagles can win a winnable Bears game, they’ll be 5-4 heading into their Week 10 bye. From there, things get pretty tough as they’ll host the currently undefeated New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks in back-to-back weeks.

But then things get easier as the Eagles close out the season like so:

at Miami Dolphins
vs. New York Giants
at Washington
vs. Dallas Cowboys
at New York Giants

Meanwhile, this is how Dallas closes out the year following their Week 8 bye:

at New York Giants
vs. Minnesota Vikings
at Detroit Lions
at New England Patriots
vs. Buffalo Bills
at Chicago Bears
vs. Los Angeles Rams
at Philadelphia Eagles
vs. Washington

The Eagles are hardly a lock to make the playoffs but the path to 10-6(ish) and an NFC East title is there for the taking.

Sunday’s win over the Bills was a step in the right direction. Now let’s see if they can keep the positive momentum going in Week 9.