Eagles 51, Broncos 23: Studs, duds, turning point and more

Eagles 51, Broncos 23: Studs, duds, turning point and more


The Eagles are heading into their bye week as the best team in football.

They proved it again Sunday.

Without arguably their biggest offensive playmaker in Zach Ertz (hamstring), the Eagles simply dominated one of the NFL's best defenses on their way to a 51-23 win over the Broncos at Lincoln Financial Field (see Roob's observations).

They put up over 50 points on the NFL's best defense.

Sunday was just the Eagles' seventh 50-point game in franchise history.

Carson Wentz was dynamic, Jay Ajayi had a tremendous debut and the Eagles' defense suffocated a Brock Osweiler-led Broncos offense. It was another big all-around team win (see report card).

With the win, the Eagles improved to 8-1 and are the frontrunners to earn the top seed in the NFC. The Broncos fell to 3-5.

The Eagles scored more points and gained more yards against the Broncos than any team this season.

The most points the Broncos had given up in a game before Sunday was 29. The Eagles scored 51.

The most yards the Broncos had given up in a game before Sunday was 276. The Eagles had 419.

The most rushing yards the Broncos had given up before Sunday was 148. The Eagles had 197. The Eagles had more than double the rushing yards six teams had against the Broncos this season.

It was an absolutely dominating performance by the best team in the NFL. 

After losing to Kansas City in Week 2, the Eagles have rattled off seven consecutive wins. This is their longest winning streak since 2003-04 and their longest winning streak during a single season since 2003.

Turning point
The game was close until Patrick Robinson's first-quarter interception. His nice return gave the Eagles great field position, and they capitalized, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Wentz to Corey Clement to take a 17-3 lead.

Key stat
The Broncos hadn't allowed more than 29 points in any game this season before Sunday. The Eagles scored 31 in the first half on their way to 51 on the game.

Offensive stud
Wentz had never thrown three touchdowns in a game before the Arizona game. He's now done it in four of the last five weeks. He continued to play at an MVP level in Sunday's win. 

He completed 15 of 27 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 118.7.

Wentz now has three four-touchdown games this season. Only Donovan McNabb has had more in a single Eagles season. He had five in 2004.

Offensive dud
Torrey Smith didn't have a huge impact. He had one catch for 11 yards.

Defensive stud
Robinson gave up a play but then came up with a huge interception in the first quarter. He's been the best surprise of the 2017 season.

Defensive dud
Joe Walker got caught in coverage against Emmanuel Sanders in the first half and gave up a big play. Not really his fault though.

Key plays
• The Eagles added a late touchdown to put them over the 50-point barrier for the first time since 2013.

• The Broncos scored their first touchdown in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 44-16 and then got a defensive score to cut the lead even more. But the game was already in hand.

• Rodney McLeod intercepted a pass from Brock Osweiler and returned it 50 yards to put the Eagles deep in Denver territory. Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown, putting the Eagles ahead 44-9.

• The Eagles went for it on 4th-and-1 inside the Denver 5-yard line, got it, and then scored another touchdown on a little pitch to Clement to go up 38-9.

• Jay Ajayi busted out for a 46-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. It was his first as an Eagle and was the first rushing touchdown the Broncos had given up all season. The Eagles took a 31-9 lead into halftime.

• The Broncos got the ball all the way down to the Eagles' 5-yard line but the Eagles' defense held and forced a third field goal. Brandon McManus hit a 24-yarder to cut into the lead, 24-9.

• Wentz threw a beautiful 27-yard touchdown pass to Trey Burton in the near left corner of the end zone to put the Eagles up 24-6 in the second quarter.

• Denver punt returner Isaiah McKenzie returned a punt 44 yards to give the Broncos great field position. Corey Graham saved a touchdown with a shoestring tackle. The Broncos got three on a 53-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-6.

• Robinson jumped an Osweiler pass for an interception and returned it to the Broncos' 15-yard line. On the ensuing series, Doug Pederson dialed up a brilliant screen pass on third down and Wentz got the ball to Clement for a 15-yard score (see rookie report). It put the Eagles up 17-3.

• Brent Celek caught his second pass of the young game and took a few tacklers for a ride, picking up 15 yards. That catch helped the Eagles get in range for a 45-yarder from Jake Elliott.

• Wentz hit Jeffery with a beautiful touch pass over Aqib Talib to give the Eagles the lead. On the play, he faked the handoff to Ajayi, rolled right and hit Jeffery in stride. The play before, Talib was called for a huge defensive hold on third down to keep the drive alive.

• Robinson was able to cover Emmanuel Sanders on third down on the first drive of the game to force the Broncos to settle for a 52-yard field goal.

Injury report
The Eagles had to play Sunday without tight end Zach Ertz, who was out with a hamstring injury. He had some tightness in his hamstring during the week and was unable to go after pregame warmups. Ronald Darby (ankle) missed his seventh straight game. Maybe he'll finally return after the bye.

Up next
The Eagles are off next weekend. After the bye, they'll be traveling to Dallas for a Sunday Night Football matchup on Nov. 19.

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

Rick Lovato

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

After the Eagles beat the Patriots, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII, there will be a Vince Lombardi Trophy living in Philadelphia permanently. 

There will also be one on Rick Lovato forever. 

On Wednesday, the Eagles' long snapper tweeted out a photo of some new ink, a huge Lombardi Trophy on the left side of his torso. Lovato isn't the only Eagles player or fan to get a tattoo after the Super Bowl, but it looks like his tattoo might be one of the biggest. 

On Thursday, Lovato went back on Twitter to explain why he decided to get the trophy tattooed on himself. 

Two years ago, in April of 2016, Lovato visited the grave of Vince Lombardi, which happens to be in his hometown of Middletown, N.J. He said that's also where his grandfather is buried. 

"I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave," Lovato explained in his tweet. 

A couple months before Lovato's visit, MMQB's Jenny Vrentas took a trip to Mount Olivet Cemetery to learn a little bit about the legendary coach's unassuming grave.

When Lovato visited Lombardi's final resting place, the long snapper was still playing for the Packers. After a college career at Old Dominion, Lovato spent that first summer with the Bears but didn't make the team and wasn't signed by the Packers until December of 2015 when their long-snapper suffered an injury. 

Lovato spent the rest of the season with the Packers and was with them for the next whole spring and summer. But just a few months after his visit to the cemetery, he was released. 

During the 2016 season, he was signed by Washington to fill in for 10 days before he was again cut. Lovato was back working at his family's restaurant, "Joyce's Subs and Pizza" in Lincroft, N.J. after that, but Jon Dorenbos got hurt and the Eagles needed a replacement. Lovato did a good enough job at the end of last season to warrant a position battle this past summer. He won the competition and was the Eagles' long snapper in their Super Bowl season. 

It seems like the tattoo is a reward for finally making it to the pinnacle. 

Here's Lovato's full explanation of his new ink and what it means to him: 

"For those who want some more background on my tattoo, 2 years ago I visited Vince Lombardi's grave in my hometown of Middletown, NJ where my grandfather is buried. Not having a full time job in the NFL yet and not knowing where this career would take me, I trusted my passion and faith to keep reaching my dreams. Since then I was cut two more times and could've given up on those dreams, but it made me want it more than ever. After a heated battle with my friend Jon Dorenbos in training camp I had finally found my place in this league. Through the ups and the downs of my first full season in the NFL, I have fulfilled my dream of playing and winning the Super Bowl. It has brought me more joy in my life than I could've ever imagined. I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave. This tattoo means much more than just winning a Super Bowl. It represents my journey, everyone who's supported me and my faith in God." 

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

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Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

As we continue our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks, Part 3 was Billy Brown to Vinny Curry. Today is Ronald Darby to Zach Ertz. 

Ronald Darby
Roob: I’m still not completely sold on Darby. He made some big plays but also needs to be more consistent. That’s probably true of every young cornerback, and Darby certainly has all the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. He just turned 24, he’s got world-class speed and when he gets his hands on the ball he’s always a threat to go the distance. The Eagles have a whole stable of young corners, and he’s in a similar position to Jay Ajayi in that he has one year left on his rookie four-year deal with another team, an AFC East team — in this case the Bills — and 2018 will give the Eagles a long look at him with a full training camp and season in an Eagles uniform. Darby will definitely be here in 2018. Beyond that, we’ll see.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: When you think about Darby's road to becoming a Super Bowl champion last season, it's pretty crazy. He gets traded to the Eagles during training camp, has to catch up and learn the defense and then dislocates his ankle in Week 1. He eventually came back as the Eagles' starter and never looked back. He's still just 24 and is really talented. Darby is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, so the Eagles are going to have a decision to make about him soon enough. But for now, this is a no-brainer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Rashard Davis
Roob: Davis came and went on the practice squad throughout the year, but he was along for the Super Bowl ride in Minneapolis as a practice squad receiver, so the Eagles must like him. Davis had a decorated career at James Madison, where he was a record-setting punt returner, and that’s something the Eagles could be looking for depending what happens with Darren Sproles. Davis remains a long-shot, but he is an interesting guy. Stranger things have happened. Especially around here lately. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Davis didn't even spend all year on the Eagles' practice squad in 2017, but the team did bring him back and he'll be with them this spring. An undrafted receiver out of James Madison University, there's not a ton of people who even know about him. His best chance to make the Eagles' roster is as a returner, especially if Kenjon Barner isn't back. Not completely out of the question, but he has a steep uphill climb. 

Verdict: GOES

Rasul Douglas
Roob: I really like Douglas. What he lacks in pure speed he makes up for with intelligence and preparation. He’s a physical corner, likes to support the run, a sure tackler. He started five games while Ronald Darby was out and played surprisingly well for a rookie third-round pick, even picking up two interceptions in the first month of his pro career, both in key situations in close games. Whether or not he eventually moves into the slot or even safety remains to be seen, but I expect Douglas to be around here for quite a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Douglas had a pretty weird year. He was a third-round pick and would have had the opportunity to win a starting job but struggled some early during training camp. If he didn't, the team might not have made the move to trade for Darby. But when Darby went down, Douglas became a starter and played really well, finishing with two interceptions. He's not the fastest guy, but his length and ballhawk skills make up for it. With Darby and Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones all in the mix, how does Douglas fit in? That's not clear yet, but he'll be back for his second year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dannell Ellerbe
Roob: Ellerbe gave the Eagles functional linebacker play after joining the Eagles late in the season to provide defensive depth in place of Jordan Hicks. He was solid against the run and provided veteran leadership during the postseason run. He essentially did exactly what the Eagles brought him in to do. But Ellerbe is 32 and has nine years under his belt, and the Eagles will no doubt go younger at linebacker moving forward. Whatever happens, Ellerbe now has two Super Bowl rings — one with the Ravens and one with the Eagles. Not a bad career!

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles were looking for a veteran to play on base downs, so they went out and got Ellerbe from the street in November. The 32-year-old eventually became a starter, but never played much. He then missed the NFC Championship Game with an injury and played just a few snaps in the Super Bowl. The Eagles need to upgrade and get younger at linebacker. Ellerbe shouldn't be back. 

Verdict: GOES

Jake Elliott
Roob: Yeah, he missed too many PATs, but the positives sure outweigh the negatives with Elliott. If Elliott didn’t prove his worth with the 61-yard game-winner against the Giants, he sure did with fourth-quarter field goals of 42 and 46 yards in the Super Bowl. Those are incredibly tough pressure kicks with the whole world watching, and Elliott crushed them. Caleb Sturgis is a very good kicker. Elliott is a potentially great one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This time last year, Elliott was still at Memphis getting ready for the draft. A lot has happened since then. He went in the fifth round to the Bengals, but he lost the competition in Cincinnati, was placed on their practice squad, and stayed there until Sturgis got hurt in the first week of the season. Elliott came to the Eagles and in his second game, he became a hero when he made a 61-yard, game-winner against the Giants. The crazy thing about it is, if Elliott missed the 46-yarder just before the game-winner, he would have been 2-for-5 and in jeopardy of getting cut. But that didn't happen and now it's his job for good. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Roob: Ertz has established himself as a top-three tight end in this league, behind Gronk and probably a little behind Travis Kelce, although it’s close. As good as Ertz was during the regular season, earning his first Pro Bowl honor, he was massive in the postseason, with 8-for-93 against the Vikings and 7-for-67 with two huge catches in the Super Bowl — the two-yard gain on a fourth-quarter 4th-and-1 with the Eagles trailing by one at their own 45 and his go-ahead touchdown a few moments later. Ertz has the sixth-most catches by any tight end in NFL history after five seasons and the 10th-most yards. He’s already the greatest tight end in Eagles history, and he just turned 27. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There's no question about it. Ertz has grown into one of the best and most complete tight ends in the NFL. He's one of the best weapons on the team and he's going to have a chance to continue to grow his already-impressive chemistry with Carson Wentz. 

Verdict: STAYS