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15 final thoughts from the Eagles’ flawless victory over the Giants

On Carson Wentz, Boston Scott, Travis Fulgham, and much more.

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles are 2-4-1 following their win over the New York Giants. Let’s run through some final thoughts after having some time to stew on the game.

1 - They just keep fighting

The 2020 Eagles certainly aren’t a good football team. But you can’t say they lack heart.

Down 11 points with 6:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, a loss felt certain. Philly had failed to score on their previous seven drives, four of which were three-and-outs.

The Birds were staring 1-5-1 right in the face. They were about to drop to a sub .500 record (20-21-1) since winning Super Bowl LII.

And yet, for the third straight year, the Eagles found a way to overcome a double-digit deficit to the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Resilience continues to be a defining trait of the Doug Pederson era.

Of course, the Eagles coming back to win wasn’t entirely in their control. It must be noted that Evan Engram dropping a third down pass while wide open on the Giants’ penultimate dive was a very fortunate break for Philly. That play could’ve sealed the game.

Alas, it did not. Kudos to this team for refusing to give up.

2 - The Eagles continue to own the Giants

It’s pretty impressive how the Eagles are now 21-4 in their last 25 games against the Giants. Eight straight wins. This domination shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The Eagles are now up to 89-86-2 all-time against the Giants. It’s a series they never previously led at any point prior to last December. Now they’re cushioning their lead.

Nice to know that no matter how bad the Eagles might be, they can always at least beat the Giants.

3 - Carson Wentz ... far from perfect, but clutch

Wentz got off to a hot start on Thursday night.

He completed all four of his passing attempts on the Eagles’ first drive for 45 yards. He picked up a first down conversion on 4th-and-1 with his legs before later scoring his fifth rushing touchdown of the season.

It looked like Wentz was potentially in line for a real big game.

That didn’t exactly happen. Wentz led the Eagles to only three points on their next nine drives. His passing numbers from that stretch: 16 for 32, 238 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT. The red zone pick was just irresponsible. A terrible decision to not throw a ball away potentially wiped at least three points off the board. Wentz also continued to struggle with some accuracy issues, as represented by a mere 50% completion rate. He invited extra pressure and didn’t get rid of the ball as quickly as he should've on a number of plays.

But ... who cares about that when the guy showed up big in the clutch?

Wentz completed nine of his final 11 attempts for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Including a friggin’ dime to Boston Scott:

That play was shades of Wentz’s 2017 touchdown pass to Corey Clement, one of the best throws he’s ever made.

For whatever reason, Wentz has often saved his best for late in games this year:

There used to be an overrated talking point that Wentz wasn’t “clutch.” That shouldn’t be a thing anymore.

This is hardly to say Wentz is above criticism. “Clutch” can be overrated in that if he plays a cleaner game, which could’ve been reasonably expected, the Eagles beat an awful Giants team much more easily and don’t need to claw from behind. There isn’t going to be as much room for error against higher quality opponents.

Wentz’s struggles can be maddening. And they can’t all be explained by his subpar supporting cast, though that certainly factors in. But his bright spots make it impossible to write him off as a lost cause. Hopefully he can continue to improve as the season goes along.

...

Side note: Wentz continues to be a more willing runner than ever. 5.0 attempts per game is the highest mark of his career, just above 4.9 in 2017. His 26.4 rushing yards per game also rank ahead of the 23.0 mark from three years ago. Wentz has five rushing touchdowns in seven games this year after only having three in his first 56.

4 - Let’s take a moment to appreciate Brandon Graham

I love Brandon Lee Graham. I’ve previously written about how he’s my favorite player on the team. It was great to see BLG come up with the game-clinching strip-sack on Daniel Jones despite being double teamed.

Graham is an all-time Eagle and he deserve to be recognized as such.

  • Made the biggest play in team history by strip-sacking Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII.
  • Fourth in all-time Eagles sacks.
  • Two-time team captain.
  • Extremely tough and durable.
  • Just “brings it” every week and plays harder than anyone.e
  • Overcame “bust” label from earlier in his career.
  • Great family man.
  • Super funny and incredibly positive-minded.
  • Fantastic initials.

Graham is up to six sacks this season. Only Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett currently have more.

Graham needs just four more sacks through the team’s final nine games to reach double-digit sacks for the first time in his career. That was a stated goal for him last year but he fell 1.5 short. Looks like he’ll get it this year instead.

There should really be more No. 55 Eagles jerseys out in the world. He’s a guy you can be proud to root for.

5 - Boston Scott: Giants Killer

Scott stepped up as the Eagles’ top running back with Miles Sanders out. He finished with 12 carries for 46 yards and three receptions for 46 yards and one touchdown.

A touchdown catch that just happened to be a fantastic grab for the game-winner! Great job by The Secret Code. The Giants clearly do not have an answer for BoSco. Check out these career splits:

Scott vs. Giants: 41 rushing attempts, 159 yards (3.88 average), 4 TD … 13 receptions for 199 yards (15.3 average) and 1 TD … 0 fumbles

Scott vs. non-Giants: 53 rushing attempts, 199 yards (3.75 average), 1 rushing TD … 21 receptions for 99 yards (4.7 average) and 0 TD … 4 fumbles

6 - More Travis Fulgham appreciation

Anyone still doubting that he’s legit? I don’t actually think so but allow me to convince you further anyway.

Fulgham had five receptions for 73 yards in this game. He could’ve been even more productive if he didn’t drop two passes and Wentz didn’t miss a couple of open throws to him. Fulgham also drew two penalties for first downs on the Eagles’ final drive, which was important.

Fulgham is now up to 23 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns through his first four games with the Eagles. Thus, his 16 game pace would be: 92 for 1,428 yards and 12 touchdowns. For perspective, the great Mike Quick (friend of BGN) leads the Eagles in single-season receiving yards with 69 catches for 1,409 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1983. That’s nuts! Fulgham is on pace to finish the 2020 season with 52 receptions for 816 yards and seven touchdowns.

Even more context for how impressive Fulgham has been:

The Eagles are targeting Fulgham a lot but honestly it’s still not enough. The guy is great; Wentz has a 127.9 passer rating when targeting him.

Feed Fulgham all game long!

7 - This was a bad Doug Pederson game

This is how you repay me for recently defending you, Doug?!

Obviously wasn’t all bad. The opening script was great. He made the right calls towards the end of the game.

But poor coaching almost cost the Eagles from winning this one. The sequence that led to a turnover on downs from goal-to-go territory was truly wild.

  • Corey Clement 2-yard run on first down.
  • Direct snap to Jalen Hurts for no gain on second down.
  • Carson Wentz quarterback draw up the middle for four yards on fourth down.
  • And then, on fourth down ... the Eagles THROW A FADE PASS TO HAKEEM BUTLER?! A guy who’s literally never played an offensive snap in the NFL before and only joined the team a few weeks ago?! So far away from being a high percentage play. Sure, there could’ve been a defensive pass interference penalty. Wentz also could’ve thrown the ball higher and Butler could’ve done a better job fighting for it. But that can’t seriously be your best play call in a crucial 4th-and-goal situation.

Circling back on the Hurts thing, it feels like the Eagles aren’t being as totally creative as they could be with him. His two runs didn’t trick anyone and only went for two yards. Maybe get Hurts involved throwing the ball a little more often than never. In fairness, there was a nice design where the Eagles brought Hurts in motion and then threw a screen to Scott in the area that Hurts had vacated for a 15-yard gain.

Pederson also failed to successfully throw the challenge flag in time to force the Giants into a 4th-and-1 on New York’s final touchdown drive.

I will maintain that Pederson hasn’t been the biggest reason why the Eagles are having a bad season. But the head coach had a bad game on Thursday night.

8 - Red zone struggles

The Eagles’ defense allowed the Giants to score touchdowns on both of their red zone trips.

The Eagles’ offense only managed 22 points despite appearing in the red zone on eight different drives. Philly also failed both of their two-point conversion attempts.

Needless to say, the Eagles need to be better than this.

9 - Offensive line concerns continue

The Eagles started their sixth different offensive line combination in seven games on Thursday night.

LT - Jordan Mailata
LG - Sua Opeta
C - Jason Kelce
RG - Nate Herbig
RT - Lane Johnson

And Johnson had to miss time after picking up a knee injury, forcing Matt Pryor to fill in for him.

The Giants were able to notch three sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, and eight quarterback hits against this unit. They limited the Eagles to 3.7 yards per carry.

Pro Football Focus has Mailata graded as the Eagles’ worst offensive player from this game. He allowed five total pressures and struggled as a run blocker. Opeta ranked second worst and Pryor was fourth worst.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Eagles handle the offensive line moving forward. Johnson could miss time and Jack Driscoll is expected to be out for at least one more game. That could mean Pryor starting at right tackle in Week 8. Pederson said Jason Peters might be back soon ... but it would be disappointing to see him replace Mailata at left tackle. Maybe he could be an option at guard on the right side, with Herbig shifting back to left guard again? There’s been no word on Isaac Seumalo’s potential return.

10 - Mixed bag for the defense

They did force three turnovers, which is good. And it’s unfortunate that the offense failed to score while trying off the first two.

On the downside, Jim Schwartz’s unit allowed 22 points to a Giants team that was averaging 14.5 offensive points per game heading into this week. They went on two very long touchdown drives, including the 97-yard one that gave New York an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.

11 - Not Really Confident in NRC

Nickell Robey-Coleman was brutal in this game. He was the Eagles’ worst defender graded by PFF. NRC missed four tackles, allowed three receptions for 51 yards, had a penalty that wiped out a 3rd-and-goal stop, and seemingly stopped running hard on Daniel Jones’ 80-yard rushing gain.

Prior to the season, ESPN reported that the Eagles viewed NRC as a top five nickel cornerback in the NFL. He’s had to play on the outside at points, which isn’t ideal, but he clearly isn’t coming close to living up to the team’s expectations for him. They got this evaluation wrong. NRC is graded 103rd out of 123 corners this year. Quarterbacks have a 121.9 passer rating when targeting him.

The Eagles’ other free agent signings also failed to impress against the Giants. Will Parks was trailing Engram on that crucial third down catch he dropped. PFF had him as their second worst graded defender. Javon Hargrave was fourth worst and hasn’t come close to justifying his pay day.

Darius Slay did a good job of shutting down Darius Slayton, to be fair. But more misses than hits for the Eagles’ front office.

12 - How about Dick Rod?

Richard Rodgers looked pretty solid! He’s nothing fancy but he can get open and produce. Targeted eight times and caught six for 85 yards.

Dick Rod is up to 18 targets for 15 receptions and 184 yards on the season. Zach Ertz, by comparison, has been targeted 45 times for only 24 receptions and 178 yards. Rodgers has been a much more efficient target for Wentz. Perhaps the offense is better off with Ertz?

13 - Yes, it is time to worry about Jake Elliott

This is an answer to last week’s “Time to worry about Jake Elliott?” question.

Elliott missed a 29-yard chip shot in this game.

Elliott has only made 19 of his 26 attempts (73% — would rank 27th out of 33 kickers last year) since signing a November 2019 contract extension that made him the NFL’s ninth highest paid kicker annually. His deal also contains the third highest guarantee of any kicker. As such, the Eagles can’t even realistically move on from him until 2022 at the earliest.

That contract could be yet another front office failure if Elliott doesn’t turn it around.

14 - More injuries

Wouldn’t be an Eagles game without the team suffering even more injuries!

DeSean Jackson finally returned to action only to suffer a serious ankle injury on a late hit that will keep him out “indefinitely.” There’s talk that Jackson could return late in the season but we’ll see. Not like he’s been a quick healer. On the bright side, his absence opens up playing time for John Hightower, who has shown he can open down the field. Made the key 59-yard catch to spark the Eagles’ comeback.

The combination of Lane Johnson’s new knee injury and old ankle injury might keep him out until after the bye.

Hassan Ridgeway suffered a season-ending bicep injury. That leaves the Eagles with just Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave as healthy defensive tackles on the 53-man roster since Malik Jackson is expected to miss another game. The Eagles will probably look to sign practice squad veteran T.Y. McGill to the roster after putting Ridgeway on injured reserve.

15 - First in the NFC East, baby!

The 2-4-1 Eagles are in the driver’s seat in the division.

They’re in first place! Temporarily, at least. The Dallas Cowboys can regain their lead if they beat the Washington Football Team on Sunday afternoon.

I think the Football Team can actually beat Dallas because that Cowboys offensive line is so bad ...

LT - Greg Senat
LG - Connor Williams
C - Tyler Biadasz
RG - Connor McGovern
RT - Terence Steele

... and Washington’s defensive line might be able to take advantage. Also, Ron Rivera is a better coach than Mike McCarthy, who has players anonymously criticizing him.

If Washington wins this week, the Eagles can manage to beat the Cowboys at the Linc next week, the division could look like this heading into Philly’s Week 9 bye:

Eagles: 3-4-1
Football Team: 2-5
Cowboys: 2-6
Giants: 1-7

Beat the Giants after the bye and the Eagles can reach .500 at 4-4-1.

Things will get tougher from that point. And there’s no guarantee the Eagles will even win their next two after barely beating an awful Giants team. But hopes of winning the NFC East are very much alive for now.

Despite being alive in the playoff picture, multiple reports indicate the Eagles are more likely to be sellers than buyers at the deadline. Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery have specifically been mentioned, though Ertz is actually now reportedly ineligible to be dealt and Jeffery’s deal feels unmovable.

In any case, it’s refreshing to see the Eagles are being honest about their situation. They’re probably not winning the Super Bowl this year. The primary focus should be building for the future at this point. Sell (or at least don’t buy any short-term pieces) and play the young guys. If the Eagles happen to win the division along the way, so be it.

In the meantime ... it’s Dallas Week!