Eagles

Eagles-Panthers: Roob's 10 observations

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Eagles-Panthers: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Eagles are the best team in the NFC.

They just went into Bank of America Stadium and beat a playoff-savvy 4-1 Panthers team on national TV. That's four wins in a row, that's a 5-1 record, that's an elite team that you watched Thursday night.

So no more talk about who they've played or haven't played. You wanted a signature win? You got one. 

The Eagles have arrived.

The Eagles got another magical performance from Carson Wentz, intercepted Cam Newton three times, shut down the Panthers' rushing attack and got out of town with a 28-23 win (see breakdown).

What a great night for 10 instant observations!

1. Wentz took such a beating Thursday night, especially in the first half, that for him to come out in the second half and make the throws he did is nothing short of astonishing. Wentz got hit snap after snap. He was sacked three times early. When he ran, he got clobbered. The Eagles missed Lane Johnson big time. A lot of quarterbacks can put up big numbers when they have great protection and they can just stand back there and find the open guy and fire away. What Wentz did Thursday night is just remarkable. To get leveled that many times early and just shake it off and pick apart the No. 9-ranked pass defense in the NFL in a deafening stadium on the road on national TV on a short week … just scary what this kid is doing now just 22 games into his NFL career. Wentz threw 16 touchdowns in 16 games last year. He already has 13 in six games, seven in his last two. His TD-to-INT ratio is now 13 to 3. The kid is flat-out money. There isn't a player in the NFL I'd rather have. Nobody.

2. How much fun is it watching the Eagles' run defense? Goodness gracious. Sound in its gaps, physical, swarm to the ball and sure tacklers. That's a very potent combination, and it's no surprise only one running back has rushed for over 35 yards against the Eagles this year — Rookie of the Year candidate Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs. Getting Fletcher Cox back was huge (see story), but even when Cox was out, the Eagles were stout against the run, which is impressive. What an advantage forcing teams to play left-handed all the time. Newton ran for 71 yards Thursday night, but just talking running backs, the Panthers got one yard on 13 carries Thursday. That's less than three inches per carry. As long as the Eagles keep running the ball and stopping the run, they're going to be almost impossible to beat.

3. Huge moment in this one for me was the goal-line stand early in the third quarter. The Panthers had a 1st-and-goal on the Eagles' 5-yard line, but tremendous pressure forced Newton into back-to-back incomplete passes and then Nigel Bradham made something like his 587th big play of the night, stopping Christian McCaffrey short of the goal line, and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal. It was a huge momentum swing, and although the Panthers stayed in the game, they never recovered.

4. Speaking of Bradham, he played out of his mind in this one (see story). He threw Jonathan Stewart for a six-yard loss, he knocked down three passes, he had 10 tackles, he was all over the field. Really tremendous play by the veteran linebacker, especially after the Eagles lost Jordan Hicks to another ankle injury. Bradham is your Defensive Player of the Game.

5. Let's put Jake Elliott's achievements into some perspective: David Akers is the greatest kicker in Eagles history and is even going into the Eagles Hall of Fame later this season. He never made three 50-yard field goals in a season with the Eagles. Elliott has played five games in his career and has already made three field goals of 50 yards or more. In fact, only six kickers in history have made more 50-yarders in an Eagles uniform than Elliott has in five games. Elliott added a 48-yarder later in the game and will take a streak of 10 consecutive made field goals into the Monday night game into Washington. To think that they flat-out stole this kid from the Bengals' practice squad is incredible. Oh, and Randy Bullock? The kicker the Bengals kept instead of Elliott? His last 50-yarder was in 2014.

6. Let's talk about LeGarrette Blount. Are you kidding me? What he's been able to do in these last four games since his mysterious zero-carry game against the Chiefs is virtually unprecedented in NFL history. Blount ran 14 times for 67 yards Sunday — I wish that 14 were closer to 20 — and he's now put together four straight games with 12 or more carries and an average of 4.8 or higher. He's only the second player in NFL history in his 30s with four straight games with at least a dozen carries and an average that high. The only other one was James Brooks of the Bengals in 1989. Blount has a really unique combination of power and moves and balance and vision. He's a different kind of runner, but, man, he's fun to watch. I had no idea how good he was. I don't think anybody did. He's been dazzling.

7. I should have mentioned higher up what an incredible job Doug Pederson is doing with this team. The Eagles have scored at least 20 points in every game this year and, in fact, in 10 straight games going back to last year, which is the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. The Eagles are rolling on both sides of the ball and special teams, and Pederson deserves a world of credit with the way he has this group playing. He's not only in the Coach of the Year conversation, I'd say he's the leader with 2½ months to go.

8. Rasul Douglas makes mistakes. All rookie cornerbacks make mistakes. But I really see something special there. He picked up his second interception Thursday night (see rookie report), and he's the first Eagles cornerback with two INTs in his first five career games since Eric Allen. I have no idea what the Eagles are going to do once Sidney Jones is back and Ronald Darby is back, but they have some really talented young corners. 

9. And let's not forget Jalen Mills, who picked up his second interception as well Thursday night. Douglas is 22, Mills is 23. They have four interceptions, and it's Week 6. The smartest thing the Eagles did this offseason was finally go young at cornerback. 

10. I never complain about officiating. Ever. But 10 penalties for 126 yards against the Eagles and one penalty for one yard against the Panthers is hard to believe (see Gunn's bullet points). According to Pro Football Reference, this was only the third game since penalty yards started being tracked in which one team had at least 100 penalty yards and another had one or fewer. That's outrageous. For the Eagles to overcome that, as well as everything else they were up against, shows just how far this team has come.

Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

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Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

Rasul Douglas made a huge play during the special teams portion of Wednesday's practice. Going 1-on-1 against veteran special teamer Najee Goode, the Eagles' rookie plowed through him and sent Goode to the turf inside the practice bubble. 

Goode bounced up and locked down the next rep, but for a few seconds, there was pure exuberance on the practice field. A bunch of Douglas' teammates ran toward him and celebrated, while coaches gave him kudos. 

A couple hours later, Douglas didn't even remember it. 

"What play?" the rookie asked. 

After making sure he was serious, out came an iPhone to show Douglas this video: 

"Oh, I don't even remember that," he said. 

While Douglas might have been locked in and focused enough to forget about the most exciting play during the open portion of Wednesday's practice, it was the kind of play that got the whole team going. 

Without remembering the specific instance, Douglas rightly guessed that it was his defensive back teammates, who ran over to congratulate him and celebrate. 

"We get so happy when one of us makes a play because we work hard and we know our goals in our room," Douglas said. "And we know our energy transforms and just passes along to other people. You can get somebody energized and they get somebody else energized." 

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to have his team in pads Wednesday in an effort to keep the team's intensity and physicality high as the team gets ready for the NFC Championship Game. 

That play helped. 

"I think Coach Pederson talks about it all the time; match his intensity," linebacker Nate Gerry said. "So when you see something like that, I guess that's matching the intensity. It just kind of sets the tone for practice."

During the Eagles' first-round bye, the team's players council went to Pederson and asked for an extra day in pads. Pederson planned on one leading into the divisional round game against the Falcons, but his veteran leaders didn't want to go an extra week without that intensity, so the Eagles strapped on their pads. 

They did it again last week and they did it again Wednesday. 

All season the Eagles have believed they're going to play the way they practice, so it shouldn't be much of a shocker. Pederson and the Eagles — despite all the hoopla around the championship — tried to treat Wednesday like any other Wednesday. In part, that meant getting the pads on and going through a tough practice. 

"We ain't going to play on Sunday without pads, so you just have keep in tune with what you do," Douglas said. "I think pads are good." 

Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

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Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has moved into the top 10 in NFL jersey sales this week, according to national sales figures from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

This week’s Dick’s Jersey Report shows Ertz making the biggest jump in the top 10, moving up 22 spots from No. 29 last week to No. 7 this week.

“There must have been a lot of women’s soccer fans buying jerseys this week,” Ertz said jokingly, referring to his wife Julie, a member of the U.S. Olympic soccer team.

Could be. It’s not like Ertz had a huge game Saturday. He caught three passes for 32 yards in the Eagles’ 15-10 win over the Falcons in the conference semifinal playoff round at the Linc. But he did make his first Pro Bowl this year and finished the season with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight touchdowns.

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught the miracle last-second pass from Case Keenum to send the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia on Sunday, also made a huge jump, moving from No. 23 to No. 4.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz remains in the No. 2 position in jersey sales, despite not playing since he tore his ACL Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Only Tom Brady’s jersey sold better over the past week.

The rest of the top 10 is Rob Gronkowski third, Antonio Brown fifth, Leonard Fournette sixth, T.J. Watt eighth, Julio Jones ninth and Le’Veon Bell 10th.

Wentz remains the top-selling jersey this year, according to Dick’s after finishing last year at No. 3. Tom Brady, the top-selling jersey last year, is No. 2, followed by Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Gronkowski.

There are no Eagles other than Wentz and Ertz in the top 50.