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8 thoughts on the Eagles’ win over the 49ers

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles are 1-2-1 after WINNING A FOOTBALL GAME against the San Francisco 49ers. Let’s run through some thoughts from Sunday night’s action.

1 - A moment of positivity

2020 has been a long, tough year as we’ve all been navigating through a pandemic. The Eagles weren’t helping matters by getting off to such a poor start.

But, hey, they won on Sunday night! Let’s all just take a moment to appreciate that before analyzing this game further. You deserve to savor some good in the world.

2 - Doug Pederson redemption

We’ve seen it before. The Eagles have their backs up against the wall. They’re decimated by injuries. They’re counted out as underdogs.

And they pull off a win anyway.

Again, it’s pretty annoying that the Eagles often dig themselves holes they have to climb out of! But give Pederson credit for how his team responds to adversity. Resiliency continues to be a defining quality of his head coaching tenure.

Pederson got the most out of what little he had to work with. It sure wasn’t pretty but he drew up a game plan that allowed the Eagles’ offense to do enough to get the win.

I also really liked his decision to be aggressive early in the game by going for the two-point conversion. That felt like a necessary correction to last week’s cowardly decision to punt for the tie. Good point made by BGN commenter saratoga7:

“If Doug doesn’t go for two after the first touchdown, the 49ers kick the extra point after their last touchdown and San Francisco is in field goal range to send the game to overtime.”

Pederson gave his team an edge in this game. That’s what good coaching does.

It wasn’t a perfect night for Doug. Handing the ball off to Corey Clement and Boston Scott instead of Miles Sanders on the final drive was confusing. Guessing Sanders was “fatigued” again? That’s an issue, if so. Pederson’s trick plays and screens still aren’t really fooling defenses.

Still, this performance strengthened my belief that coaching isn’t the biggest issue with the Eagles this year.

3 - A performance for Carson Wentz to build on?

It certainly wasn’t a pretty outing for No. 11. It was never reasonably expected to be, though, given his lackluster supporting cast. The Eagles were down to backups at every offensive line spot except center and they were down to four wide receivers with 60 combined career catches. Far from ideal.

Wentz finished the night with the following stat line: 18/28, 193 yards (6.9 average), 1 TD, 1 INT, 81.4 passer rating. There were still too many accuracy issues. There were still moments where he held on to the ball too long.

But, not unlike Pederson, Wentz ultimately did enough to help the Eagles win. It was a tough, gutty performance. His 42-yard touchdown pass down the field to Travis Fulgham was a thing of beauty. Encouraging to see a dime like that.

It was also been good to see Wentz using his legs to compensate for his struggles throwing the ball. Wentz has gained 102 yards on the ground over the past two games after only running for nine yards during the first two weeks. More context for his running impact:

Wentz is on pace for 444 rushing yards this year. That would beat his career high of 299 from 2017. Wentz also already has three rushing touchdowns in 2020 after only having three combined over his first four seasons.

One can only hope this was a performance for Wentz to build on. This felt like it could be a step in the right direction. The $128 million man needs to be a lot better moving forward.

4 - In honor of the unheralded heroes

This game was very reminiscent of the Eagles’ winning streak late last year with guys coming out of the woodwork to make big plays. Let’s take the time to shown them some love.

TRAVIS FULGHAM

Expectations were low (read: non-existent) when the Eagles claimed Fulgham in August. He only spent nine days with the Green Bay Packers after being originally waived by the Detroit Lions. Look back at some of the comments from BGN’s article about the Eagles acquiring the 2019 sixth-round pick out of Old Dominion:

“Setting the Over/Under for days he’s on the roster at 10”

“Seems like a camp body. If the injury bug hits (hope not), he could be an option. Just a depth piece.”

“Mkay...but there’s a reason why he’s already gone through 2 teams.”

But then Fulgham did some nice things in camp to earn a spot on the practice squad. And then injuries forced the Eagles to use him as one of their top four receivers in last night’s game. And then he caught a 42-yard go-ahead touchdown on national television to help keep the Eagles’ season alive. What a ride.

It’s not a total fluke that Fulgham made a big play like this. He’s not a flat out burner (4.58 speed) but he did rank second among 2019 NFL Draft receivers in catches of 20+ yards.

Fulgham has clearly made the most of his limited opportunities so far. We’ll see if he can continue to do so. Maybe he can actually be what the Eagles hoped J.J. Arcega-Whiteside would be?

GENARD AVERY

As someone who has never criticized Howie Roseman for trading a 2021 fourth-round pick for Avery, it’s a great day for me.

Seriously, though, it’s been a strange journey for him. Avery didn’t look like he deserved to make the roster in camp. It looked like he suffered a season-ending injury during one summer practice but (fortunately) it didn’t end up being that serious. The Eagles kept Avery as a healthy scratch in Week 2 before he made minimal impact in Week 3 with just one tackle.

On Sunday night, though, Avery was a force! The Eagles used him as a stand up rusher at times and he ended up being very efficient in that role with one sack, one tackle for loss, and a whopping FIVE quarterback hits in just 16 total snaps played.

The Eagles won the trade after all. (Well, maybe. Can’t have him going invisible again.)

ALEX SINGLETON

The Eagles originally signed Singleton to their roster in January 2019 after he excelled in the Canadian Football League. He’s mostly played special teams for the Eagles but he finally got a chance at some defensive snaps with T.J. Edwards getting hurt. Singleton got a real gift of a pick six from Nick Mullens:

Not sure if a really bad play from the 49ers indicates Singleton having success moving forward but he could warrant some more playing time anyway with the Eagles’ linebackers struggling.

CRE’VON LEBLANC

We should all know who Strap is by now. Still wanted to mention him here since his strip-sack was big and the Eagles have slept on him too much. They brought in Nickell Robey-Coleman to play over him and they even cut LeBlanc to temporarily open up a roster spot in September. They’re lucky another team didn’t swoop in and manage to steal him away. Keep playing Strap.

RICHARD RODGERS

Dick Rod! He didn’t light the world on fire or anything but he was solid with three receptions for 35 yards. He would’ve had even more if Wentz didn’t underthrow him down the field for a 20+ yard gain. Looking like a capable No. 2 tight end behind Zach Ertz while Dallas Goedert is out.

5 - Defensive line dominance

First two games: 4 sacks, 12 quarterback hits.

Last two games: 13 sacks, 33 quarterback hits.

As you can see, the Eagles’ high-priced defensive line has really come alive. That’s crucial for this team. They’re going to have a chance to win games when they’re playing this well.

It was encouraging to see a strong performance from Derek Barnett. The 2017 first-round pick was very active; he finished with half a sack and two quarterback hits while going up against seven-time Pro Bowl selection Trent Williams. Williams was Pro Football Focus’s third highest graded offensive tackle in pass protection heading into Week 4. Josh Sweat also notched a sack — his third in four games — while going up against Williams.

Malik Jackson had two quarterback hits and this very important contribution:

Javon Hargrave finally made the stat sheet with half a sack and one quarterback hit. Hassan Ridgeway had one sack, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit.

Just a overall great performance by the d-line. Kudos to them.

6 - Jim Schwartz: Kyle Shanahan’s kryptonite?

Schwartz’s defense has now been on the winning side of six out of his seven meeting against Shanny’s offense. Schwartz’s units have only allowed an average of 16.1 points per game. That’s pretty good stuff against a guy that’s revered as a top offensive play-caller/schemer in the NFL.

There’s no question Schwartz can be frustrating. It was concerning to see C.J. Beathard come in off the bench and immediately have success against Philly’s defense late in the game.

But you have to give Schwartz credit for how the defense has rebounded since a bad showing in Week 2. He very much remains a good defensive coordinator.

7 - Jordan Mailata might be good?

He certainly didn’t submarine the game, at the very least. The Eagles clearly gave him extra help in his first NFL start. Still, encouraging to see positive signs from him. The Eagles might be able to mitigate Andre Dillard potentially being a bust (too early to definitively say but some concerning signs) if Mailata can be any good.

8 - Questions remain about the Eagles’ 2020 outlook

This win hardly quelled all concerns about the Eagles. I can’t help but wonder to what extent Sunday night’s success was sustainable. Give me the debbie downer award if you must.

  • Again, Wentz needs to be MUCH better moving forward. The guy still owns the NFL’s worst passer rating.
  • The offense is just so laborious and not in tune with the rest of the league. Watching other games on Sunday made me feel like the Eagles are playing a different sport.
  • The Eagles’ defense looks good but the linebackers are probably going to be an issue all year.
  • It’s going to be hard to rely on the unsung heroes to step up like they did in this game every week.
  • The Eagles aren’t going to be facing a team that’s even more injured than they are each week. And one that’s starting a former undrafted rookie free agent at quarterback.
  • It’s fun to see the Eagles first in the NFC East after such a rough start. But it won’t be fun if they only hang around in the division because their rivals are so bad. Such an outcome could be a false positive that’s bad for their long-term outlook.

Ideally, the Eagles’ win over the 49ers will serve as a springboard for them to go on a run. That’ll be tough, though, as they have the NFL’s most difficult remaining schedule. Upcoming games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens could easily drop the Eagles down to 1-4-1. This Week 4 win might soon look like a blip on the radar.

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