Eagles dominate Cardinals from start to finish for 3rd straight win

Eagles dominate Cardinals from start to finish for 3rd straight win


That was a beatdown.

Carson Wentz was great, the defense was stifling at times and Dave Fipp's special teams' group showed why it was it's considered one of the best in the NFL.

The Eagles simply crushed the Arizona Cardinals in all three phases Sunday at the Linc. The final score was 34-7 (see Roob's 10 observations)

And it wasn't that close.

With the win, the Eagles improved to 4-1 on the season. The Cardinals dropped to 2-3.

If fans weren't expecting the Eagles to make the playoffs before the start of the season, expectations might have changed now. Of the 339 teams to have four wins through five games, 234 have made the playoffs. That's 69 percent.

But nothing is guaranteed.

This is the first 4-1 start for the Eagles since 2014 — they did not make the playoffs that year.

Still, it would be hard for Eagles fans to not be encouraged by the first five weeks of the season (see report card). Their only loss came to the Chiefs, who many consider being the best team in football.

Sunday's game was the biggest win for the Eagles since their 34-3 win over the Steelers early last season.

Turning point
We'll just say the first drive. After a nice punt return from Kenjon Barner, the Eagles went 54 yards on 10 plays in 5:26.

The Eagles have now scored on their first possessions in four of five games this year, including three touchdowns. They never trailed Sunday.

Key stat
The Eagles came into Sunday as the second-best team in NFL on third down conversions. They kept it going against the Cardinals. They finished the game 9 for 14 (64 percent) after going 5 for 7 in the first half.

Offensive stud
Wentz came to play Sunday. He finished the game 21 for 30 for 300 yards, four touchdowns and one interception — a passer rating of 128.3. It was the best passer rating of Wentz's career.  

He became the first Eagles' quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a game since Nick Foles had his seven-touchdown game in 2013. Wentz was absolutely brilliant on third downs.

With touchdown passes of 72 and 59 yards, Wentz threw the second- and third-longest passes of his young career Sunday. 

Offensive dud
Another lackluster performance from Alshon Jeffery. It just didn't matter much.

Defensive stud
Vinny Curry picked up his first sack of the 2017 season and played well in the run game too. Brandon Graham was also a wrecking ball once again. Tim Jernigan had himself a game too. Credit the entire defensive line. They were difference-makers on Sunday.

And on the back end, Patrick Robinson had another good game. He had three pass breakups and probably should have had a couple interceptions.

Defensive dud
No one really had a bad game. Jalen Mills gave up the touchdown but made plenty of plays too.  

Special teams update
Barner filled the role of punt returner, setting up the Eagles with good field position a few times. The coverage units didn't give up anything. And Jake Elliott made two more field goals. He's made eight straight (see rookie report).

The Eagles' special teams unit is still really good. It made a difference Sunday.

Key plays
• The Eagles took 9:14 off the clock late in the game to ice it. They got the ball with over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter and got the game all the way to the two-minute warning with the 13-play drive to send the capacity crowd home happy.

• On 3rd-and-19 in the third quarter, Wentz delivered a 72-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. After catching the ball, Agholor juked safety Budda Baker bad before falling backward into the end zone. Ballgame.

• Wentz completed a 17-yard pass to Agholor on 3rd-and-11 in the third quarter on a drive that eventually led to a field goal. Wentz missed on a third-down throw to Zach Ertz a little later.

• Robinson got his hand on a 51-yard field goal attempt to keep the Cardinals from cutting even more into the Eagles' lead. A big blocked field goal.

• The Eagles had a chance to get another score toward the end of the first half but Wentz threw a bad interception in the end zone to Antoine Bethea, who got both feet down to give the Cardinals the ball back.

• Curry picked up his first sack of the season in the second quarter to force a long third-down situation for the Cardinals. They punted away.

• Carson Palmer hit Jaron Brown on a slant for a 13-yard touchdown pass. On the play, safety Rodney McLeod was blitzing but it looked like Mills might not have known. He let Brown past him; it looked like he thought he had help. The Cardinals converted three third downs on the drive.

• Wentz hit Torrey Smith for a 59-yard touchdown pass for a long touchdown. Coming into the week, Smith had really been struggling with four drops in four games. But Wentz kept going back to him. It was the second-longest pass of Wentz's young career.

• Barner had a huge 76-yard punt return that gave the Eagles great field position. Barner rejoined the team after Darren Sproles was lost for the season. Three plays later, Wentz hit Ertz for 11 yards and a touchdown.

• Wentz hit Trey Burton for a 15-yard touchdown on a fade. The Eagles converted on three third downs on this drive, including two 3rd-and-11s.

Lane Johnson didn't come back out for the second half because of a head injury. Halapoulivaati Vaitai filled in. With the short week, it seems likely Big V will get the start Thursday.

Fletcher Cox (calf), Ronald Darby (ankle) and Wendell Smallwood (knee) all missed Sunday's game.

Up next
The Eagles have a few days to prepare for their Thursday Night Football game against the Panthers in Carolina. These turnarounds are always difficult and it won't be an easy game.

NFL fines Carson Wentz for low hit on DeMarcus Lawrence

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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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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.”