Eagles

Eagles-Broncos: Roob's 10 Observations

Eagles-Broncos: Roob's 10 Observations

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How good is this team?

Super Bowl good. Believe it.

The Eagles are just rolling now after a 51-23 demolition of the Broncos, and they go into the bye week at 8-1 with a seven-game winning streak (see breakdown).

They're destroying teams. They've outscored their seven victims during this winning streak by an average of 33-19.

Just a shame we have to wait two weeks to see them play again.

Here we go with this Week's 10 Observations.

1. This is what a Super Bowl team looks like (see report card). Seriously, I don't want to get ahead of myself, but the Eagles are just steamrolling through the NFL right now, and the level they're playing at is what you expect from a legit Super Bowl contender. Now, the opponents will get more difficult after the bye. That stretch against the Cowboys, Bears, Seahawks and Rams — all but the Bears on the road — will tell us a lot. But right now, the Eagles are just better than anybody else in the league. And they're making it look so easy. And they're doing it in all phases. This is a Broncos team that came to town with the No. 1 defense in the NFL and the Eagles just shredded it, scoring 31 points in a 20-minute stretch of the first half on their way to half a hundred and one. They're winning so routinely and so convincingly it's really astounding. And they're doing it despite a pretty significant rash of injuries to key guys. If they keep playing like this, I don't know how you beat them.

2. Carson Wentz. He's now beyond having one of the best seasons ever by an Eagles quarterback or a young quarterback. He's having an all-time season. He's at the point where when the Eagles go three-and-out or have an ugly series, you're just surprised. Wentz threw four more touchdowns Sunday without a turnover. He's now got 23 touchdowns and five interceptions through nine games, and that puts him on pace for 40 TDs and nine interceptions. The only QBs in NFL history to do that in a season are Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. That's the level Wentz is playing at. That's where he's at in his career. That's who Wentz is. He's 24. He's started 25 games in his life. He was backing up Chase Daniel 15 months ago. And he's literally having one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. Howie Roseman could have drafted 100 Danny Watkins and it wouldn't matter. Finding a way to get this kid into an Eagles uniform makes up for everything.

3. I absolutely love the way Doug Pederson has been calling games, and this one was a masterpiece of offensive balance. The Broncos had been unreal against the run, allowing just 3.0 yards per carry and 72 yards per game through seven games. And they hadn't allowed a rushing TD all year. But instead of just deciding to chuck it every snap, Pederson challenged his offensive line to dominate one of the NFL's best defensive fronts, and the OL did just that. It hammered the Broncos up front, and did it without Jason Peters and even without Lane Johnson for a spell. The Eagles ran 37 times for 197 yards and three TDs against a run defense allowing 73 yards per game and no TDs. Incredible.

4. And how about Jay Ajayi? The dude was a Dolphin on Monday, got traded Tuesday, arrived here Wednesday, practiced three times and went out and ran eight times for 77 yards against a team that had only allowed two guys to rush for more than 46 yards this year. What were the Dolphins thinking? Who knows? Who cares? They're idiots. All I know is the Eagles got another weapon on a team already loaded with them, and all it cost them was a fourth-round pick. #Howie.

5. OK, this defense. What a performance. What a season. Their level of consistency is remarkable. They're smart, fast, physical, athletic and tackle better than any Eagles team since Jim Johnson was here. So much fun to watch this group just make opposing offenses miserable. And it all starts with their insane ability against the run. The Broncos came in with the ninth-ranked running attack in the league at 123 yards per game and seventh at 4.4 yards per carry, and the Eagles just stuffed them early, then forced them to pass all the time by building that big second-quarter lead. The Broncos finished with 19 rushes for 35 yards, and that's seven straight teams that have failed to rush for 100 yards against the Eagles.

6. Being able to run the ball and stop the run is one heck of a formula to win a lot of football games, and the Eagles have now gone seven straight games rushing for over 100 yards and holding the opponent to fewer than 100 yards. That is tied for the fifth-longest such streak in NFL history.  

7. I continue to be dazzled by Corey Clement and just amazed that 253 players were taken in this year's draft and he wasn't one of them. Here's a kid who was productive at a major college, works his butt off, can run the ball (eight carries for 43 yards Sunday), catch the ball (15-yard TD), block and is also a quality locker room guy. Clement had three TDs Sunday and now has five in his first nine games (see Rookie Report). As an undrafted rookie! He just seems to help the offense every time he touches the ball. I'm not sure what NFL teams are looking for in a running back if it's not a kid like Clement.

8. Was great to see big contributions from both Brent Celek and Trey Burton in the absence of Zach Ertz, who was unable to play after experiencing hamstring tightness at practice Thursday. Celek and Burton combined for five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, and you can't ask for anything more from your second and third tight ends. Great depth at that position.

9. It's so impressive how prepared this team always is. Never looks past an opponent. Always ready to play. That's just so rare. And so hard to do. Even great teams have a letdown here and there, that one game where they're just looking ahead or not quite on their game. Such a credit to Pederson and his staff. Since those three ugly games last year — losses to the Seahawks, Packers and Bengals by a combined 43 points — the Eagles have played 13 games, gone 10-3 and their worst result was a seven-point loss at Kansas City to a Chiefs team that was unbeaten at the time. Just remarkable focus and maturity.

10. Two solid games in a row from Alshon Jeffery, who finally seems to be developing some chemistry with Wentz. Jeffery had two grabs for 62 yards with a 53-yard TD last week against the 49ers and followed up with six catches for 84 yards with two TDs Sunday against the Broncos. Not Pro Bowl numbers, but he's catching the ball when it comes his way, getting in the end zone and helping this offense shine. Good enough for me.

NFL fines Carson Wentz for low hit on DeMarcus Lawrence

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USA Today Images

NFL fines Carson Wentz for low hit on DeMarcus Lawrence

Carson Wentz helped the Eagles pick up another big win last Sunday, but his wallet is a little lighter after it. 

Wentz was fined $9,115 for a low hit on Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence in the fourth quarter Sunday. 

The low block came after Zach Ertz fumbled the ball before he crossed the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt. The Cowboys recovered the ball and started to return it the other way. Wentz was trying to tackle Justin Durant, who was returning the ball, but Lawrence got in his way and the Eagles' quarterback went low. 

The Eagles went for two-point conversions after all four of their second-half touchdowns because kicker Jake Elliott was concussed. This was the only one they didn't convert. 

Eagles' run defense faces toughest test yet vs. Bears' attack

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USA Today Images/AP Images

Eagles' run defense faces toughest test yet vs. Bears' attack

The Eagles may boast the No. 1 run defense in the NFL these days, but that ranking will be put to the test Sunday by the Chicago Bears (see matchups to watch).

“If we can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a long day,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said this week. “Let’s not get that mistaken.”

Few teams are as committed to the ground attack as the Bears, and even fewer are more productive. Since rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky became the starter in Week 5, Chicago ranks seventh in the league in rushing attempts. For the entire 2017 season, the offense is fifth with 131.8 rushing yards per game.

The Eagles are limiting opponents to nearly half that total at 71.0 yards per game. They’ve also faced only a smattering of backfields as talented as Chicago’s, if any. Plus, many offenses have abandoned the run — a strategy the Bears aren’t likely to attempt regardless of the score.

“We know they’re going to run the football,” Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “They even run the football a lot of times on third-and-long. It’s something they’re going to do.

“There’s a reason why they’re fifth in the league in rushing.”

Given the nature of their passing attack, the Bears’ best shot at pulling off an upset at Lincoln Financial Field is to keep the Eagles' offense on the sideline.

“Even if it’s not getting you a whole lot," Jenkins said, "if you can slowly move the chains and control the game, I think that’s something that they’ll continue to do.”

Trubisky, selected with the second-overall pick in the draft, has begun making strides in recent weeks. He completed 60.0 percent of his passes and avoided throwing an interception in each of the last two games, both one-possession losses. In fact, the Bears haven’t lost any of Trubisky’s six starts by more than eight points, and are 2-4 since he’s taken over.

Trubisky wasn’t asked to throw the ball much in those two victories, either — a combined total of 23 pass attempts. Instead, Chicago was able to lean on running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

“It’s kind of like a thunder and lightning situation," Bradham said, "kind of what we had here at the beginning of the season with (LeGarrette Blount) and (Darren Sproles).”

Howard is the workhorse back and is often overlooked as one of the NFL’s bright, young stars due to the quality of his team. The 23-year-old was the runner-up to the rushing champion as a rookie in 2016 with 1,313 yards. Ten games into his second season, he’s up to 841 yards with a 4.4 average and five touchdowns.

A fourth-round pick from FCS school North Carolina AT&T in 2017, Cohen has immediately emerged as one of the league’s scariest change-of-pace/receiving backs. The 5-foot-6, 181-pound ball carrier has 537 total yards from scrimmage and leads the team with 33 receptions.

The duo is featured prominently in just about everything the Bears do on offense.

“They put both backs on the field at the same time a little bit, too,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “Sometimes it's two-back sets, sometimes it's one.

“Traditionally there's a fullback back there in two-back sets, but not so much with the Bears. They can put two guys back there. It spreads you a little bit thin. You have to be very assignment-sound. It'll test us in the run game.”

Cohen, in particular, has caused defenses some problems because, much like Sproles for the Eagles, he can line up all over the formation. Some teams have even opted to roll coverages to his area of the field, though that might be as much about Chicago’s dearth of receivers as it is respect for the 22-year-old.

Whatever the case, Jenkins doesn’t expect the Eagles to roll coverages, adding that’s not something they’ve done all season. Regardless, with three run or pass plays of 35 yards or more this season, Cohen is a home run threat — although the Eagles aren't giving up many home runs (see story).

“He’s definitely a matchup issue, and they put him all over the place,” Jenkins said. “He’s at receiver, he’s in the backfield, he’s in the slot. Everybody is going to have to hold up. Whether he’s on a linebacker or a safety or a corner, we’ve seen him make plays at every position.

“He’s running post routes on corners and making the play. Then they’re able to line up and run the ball at pretty much anybody, so we’ll have our hands full with that.”

Howard is a threat to rip off long gains on the ground as well, with three runs of 50 and over. Then Trubisky is capable of taking off, too, with 163 yards rushing.

“His ability to make plays with his legs has been a positive,” Jenkins said. “He’s a mobile guy. When all else fails, he can escape the pocket and extend the play.

“Whether it’s scrambling for a first down, or scrambling to get somebody open, that’s always tough on the defense.”

Up until last week, it was beginning to look like there may not have been a running game in the league that the Eagles needed to fear. Then the Dallas Cowboys posted 112 yards last Sunday — tied for the most the Eagles have allowed all season and the most since Week 2. And Dallas was without All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is suspended.

Then again, if the Bears are only able to muster 112 yards rushing this week, the Eagles might consider that a victory in itself.

To put those numbers in perspective, exactly half of the league is allowing more than 112.0 yards rushing per game this season. In other words, the Bears are probably going to have to fare a lot better than that to knock off the Eagles.

“I think we set that bar awful high,” Schwartz said. “Some people might get a pat on the back for that.

“It's a tribute to the players in the locker room that that's a poor performance for them, and they consider it a poor performance.”