Another win, another masterpiece from Carson Wentz, another glowing 10 instant observations.
The best team on Earth put a stranglehold on the NFC East with a 34-24 win over the Redskins Monday night at the Linc. The only one-loss team in the NFL improved to 6-1 and continued its drive to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
In tonight's 10 instant observations, we marvel at Wentz, lament the loss of Jason Peters, look at some remarkable run defense and much, much more.
This is fun, isn't it?
1. Best thing about this game was that it showed how the Eagles can fight through adversity. And they sure faced plenty of it early with a turnover, penalties on their first four plays, bad field position, three Redskin sacks and a 10-3 deficit midway through the second quarter. When the Redskins took a 10-3 lead, they had out-gained the Eagles 178-32. And we all saw how they responded. The offensive line, struggling badly early, regrouped and gave Wentz the time to throw a 64-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mack Hollins and — after a three-and-out — a 46-yard strike to Zach Ertz 1½ minutes later and then a TD pass to Ertz, and just like that the Eagles had turned a TD deficit into a TD advantage and eventually a double-digit win. That ability to stare adversity in the face and power through it is a really special trait.
2. Was very rough to see Peters go down in the third quarter. That man is so revered and respected in the Eagles' locker room, and in his 14th season he's been playing at a very high level. Seeing a guy we all look at as Superman lying on the Lincoln Financial Field turf near tears and grabbing his knee was very tough to watch. Peters has never played in a postseason win, and this team really wanted to end that streak. But this team will honor Peters by playing the kind of tough, aggressive, physical type of football that Peters has been playing since he got here in 2009. I can't think of any better way to honor Peters than continuing to play the kind of football they've been playing.
3. I'm running out of ways to marvel at Wentz. He's now doing things in his second year that Donovan McNabb — a Hall of Fame candidate at the very least and the greatest quarterback in Eagles history — never did. Three touchdowns in three straight games is something no Eagles quarterback had done since Bobby Thomason back in 1953. With 6:20 left in the first half, Wentz was 2 for 5 for 24 yards, had been sacked three times, had fumbled, had thrown an interception, and his team trailed 10-3. And by the middle of the third quarter, he had thrown three touchdowns and the Eagles led 24-10. Wentz finished 17 for 25 for 268 yards with four TDs and one interception. He already has 17 touchdown passes — more than all of last year and the most ever by an Eagles QB after seven games. He is simply magical right now. Squeezing out of a near sack to throw a touchdown pass to Corey Clement. Diving for 21 yards instead of sliding after getting the first down. Bombing away to a rookie fourth-round pick with five career receptions. We are seeing the birth of a superstar in front of our eyes.
4. The Eagles continue to dazzle against the run, and once again they forced an opponent to essentially give up the running game because it just wasn't working. The Redskins' backs ran just 13 times for 39 yards and ran just four times in the second half. Part of it was the Eagles extended their lead later in the half but the ‘Skins also just couldn't do anything on the ground, and that's a top-10 rushing offense. Kareem Hunt remains the only running back this year to rush for more than 35 yards against the Eagles, and that's insane. The Eagles have held five straight opponents to 80 or fewer rushing yards, the first time that's happened since 1992. Really impressive stuff for Fletcher Cox and Co.
5. I've been a Hollins fan since I first saw him in OTAs. He's just so smooth and makes everything look so effortless. He's fast and has good size and great hands. I’m not an NFL scout but I have no clue how this kid was a fourth-round pick. Back in the spring, Hollins was basically the eighth receiver on the roster behind guys like Bryce Treggs, Dorial Green-Beckham and Shelton Gibson. But he never worried about any of that and just continued to shine and work his way up the depth chart. Now he's emerging as a real weapon. His 64-yard TD Monday night was the longest by an Eagles rookie since Hank Baskett's 89-yarder from A.J. Feeley against the Falcons in 2006. He's got six targets, six catches, five first downs, one TD and 134 receiving yards. I don't know what the future holds for Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but I do know that Hollins is going to be a productive, dynamic receiver for this team for a long time.
6. One thing that impresses me tremendously about the Eagles is their ability to win in a lot of different ways. The last month, they've run the ball real well, averaging 158 rushing yards during their four-game winning streak coming into the Redskins game. But that wasn't happening Monday night. The Redskins stuffed the run virtually the entire night — LeGarrette Blount, who's been so good, ran 10 times for two yards before a late 21-yard run just before the two-minute warning. Even with that carry, the backs ran 25 times for 64 yards (2.6). So Wentz made plays through the air and made plays on the ground, and the Eagles won a game without much help from the running game. This team's ability to find different ways to win football games makes them very tough to beat.
7. Another huge game for Zach Ertz, with five catches for 89 yards and his career-high fifth touchdown. Through seven games, Ertz now has 39 catches for 494 yards. He and Wentz have such a remarkable connection. I feel like he can connect with the fifth-year tight end any time he wants.
8. I thought this was a really outstanding day for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The Redskins gashed the Eagles early, netting 178 yards, eight first downs and 10 points on their first four drives. They had plays of 17, 20, 31, 32 and 32 yards on those drives. That was the first 21 minutes of the game. Most of that just disappeared during the span the Eagles outscored the Redskins 31-7 over the next 33 minutes. On the ‘Skins' six drives after that hot start, they netted 100 yards (17 per drive), six first downs and seven points with no plays of 17 yards or more. Coaching is adjusting, and Schwartz was very, very good at it Monday night — even without Jordan Hicks.
9. You know what, Malcolm Jenkins has been in the news a lot lately for his community work, his political views and his efforts to communicate with Commissioner Roger Goodell on behalf of the NFL players. So much so that you can forget what an exceptional safety he is. Jenkins was terrific again Monday night, with nine tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and a hurry. Whatever you think of his activism, you can't question his ability, his effort and his value to this defense and this football team.
10. Was great to see rookie Derek Barnett break out with two sacks. That made him the Eagles' first rookie with a two-sack game since Trent Cole in 2005 and only the sixth to ever do it. Barnett now has 2½ sacks, and you just see him growing more and more comfortable. He's in a great situation, surrounded by so many talented defensive linemen. The Eagles are getting contributions from a lot of rookies right now, and I think you'll see Barnett just continue to improve.