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.

Why Eagles' play in trenches is behind 8-game win streak

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Why Eagles' play in trenches is behind 8-game win streak

The strength of the Eagles is built on fundamental, sound pay on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Yes, the play of Carson Wentz is the biggest reason the Birds are 9-1, but the play of the defensive line and offensive line are also major factors.

There was no question coming into the season that the DL would pull its weight. I doubt if knowledgeable football minds could argue against the D-line being ranked the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz centered his defense around the play of his D-line's ability to generate constant pressure on opposing offenses, whether that's in the run game — the Eagles are the NFL's best run defense — or creating havoc on quarterbacks in the pocket. The defensive line has allowed the young secondary to catch up and perform well above expectations, and then Ronald Darby returned Sunday in Dallas (see story).

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' offensive line has also become a top-five unit in the NFL, and that's without future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. I know Carson Wentz wouldn't argue that.

In Sunday's 37-9 win over the Cowboys, the Eagles' O-line, against a pass rush with featuring a stout defensive front that includes NFL sack leader DeMarcus Lawerence (11 1/2), didn't allow a sack. A lot of credit goes to Lane Johnson for his work on Lawrence.

With no real individual leader to hold this Eagles' offense's hat on, it's a total team effort in which the Eagles go about their about their business. This is just a shining example of why this O-line is so good and underrated. At 9-1, there has not been a wide receiver over 100 yards in a game. If my memory serves me right, the Birds have had a 100-yard rusher twice, both by LeGarrette Blount. So, even with the absence of the all-world Peters, I am secure in rating the Eagles' OL as the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Fundamentally speaking, football is won in the trenches. I was privileged to be a part of a Super Bowl team with the same formula the Eagles are using to win eight straight games: A young franchise QB (Ben Roethlisberger), a really good defense and a very good O-line.

The Eagles are just scratching the surface with their potential. Like these young players — guys like Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Derek Barnett — develop in the trenches, the sky's the limit for the core of this team.

Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

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Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

One kicker is getting better. One kicker just got hurt. One kicker isn’t even a kicker at all. Who’s going to kick Sunday? Maybe Caleb Sturgis, maybe Jake Elliott, maybe someone else. Definitely not Kamu Grungier-Hill. 
Does that clear everything up?
Head coach Doug Pederson revealed Monday that Elliott, the rocket-legged rookie, will be the Eagles’ placekicker long-term moving forward, but he also said he doesn’t know whether Elliott — who suffered a concussion Sunday night during the win in Dallas — will be available for this Sunday’s game at home against the Bears.
"We haven't made any decisions yet," Pederson said. "We still have a couple days before we have to make a decision."
Elliott replaced Sturgis, who suffered a quad strain in the opener against the Redskins and has been on injured reserve since. 
Ideally, the Eagles want Elliott to be cleared through the NFL’s concussion protocol and be able to kick Sunday so they can keep Sturgis on IR. 

If Elliott isn’t ready, they could activate Sturgis, who Pederson said is "close," but that would mean they would have to clear a spot on the 53-man roster for a guy who they don’t plan on keeping long-term. 
"He's continuing to rehab, he's begun a kicking regimen," Pederson said. "He's getting himself back to where he was prior to the injury. He's close. He's close."
If neither Elliott nor Sturgis is able to go, the Eagles could add a third kicker for a week or two, although that would also require keeping two kickers on the 53 (and another on IR).
"Again, you're talking about roster spots and making moves and things of that nature," he said. "We're not there yet. We'll continue these discussions the next couple days."
Most importantly, Pederson said despite Sturgis’ excellent track record since joining the Eagles, Elliott will be the team’s kicker once everybody is healthy. 
"I think so," Pederson said. "If he's healthy and he can play. You hate to disrupt that right now. I'd have to say yes to that one."
Sturgis is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Elliott is under contract through 2018, and the Eagles control his rights through 2019.
Elliott, whom the Eagles signed off the Bengals’ practice squad in September, is 17 for 21 this year. He missed from 34 yards against the Cowboys Sunday night, although that miss came after he apparently suffered the concussion. 

Pederson said the concussion symptoms weren't discovered until after Elliott had attempted the field goal.
Elliott has made five of six attempts from 50 yards and out, including the franchise-record, game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants.
Sturgis is 7 for 11 as an Eagle from 50 yards and out. Including his years with the Dolphins, he's an 81.0 percent kicker, although with the Eagles he's made 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts — third-best in franchise history behind Cody Parkey (87.5 percent) and Alex Henery (86.0 percent).
"I think moving forward, as we continue to evaluate this week, we'll find out more in the next couple days with Jake, and I don't want to put myself in a box, but we'll keep all the options open," Pederson said.
"It kind of goes back to the same old thing. We still have a couple days here today and tomorrow to evaluate Jake and see where everybody's at. There's still a little while before we play Sunday."
There's one other option.

No, not letting Grugier-Hill kick. Going for two all the time.
Pederson — who's 9 for 12 as Eagles head coach on two-point conversion attempts — admitted he's thought about it.
"Yeah, I have," he said. "You always go into a game with a few (plays) in your pocket. You never expect that situation again like we had last night. But, yeah, you look at the numbers. If you're around 94, 95 percent on the extra point from the 15-yard line, your conversion rate should be in that 47, 48, 49 percent on a two-point conversion. So we look at all of that.
"We keep a couple extra plus-five red zone plays in our pocket for that situation. It just worked out, I think 3 for 4 last night. It's something we'll look at going forward."