CARSON, Calif. — A home game in Southern California, a team learning how to win, lots of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement, some Zach Ertz … we've got you covered in tonight's 10 observations from the Eagles' 26-24 win over the Chargers at the Linc (well, technically at the StubHub Center) (see breakdown).
1. I've never seen anything like it, and I've never heard of anything like it, and I think the reason for that is because there's never been anything like it. Eagles fans flat-out took over StubHub Stadium on Sunday to the point where if you were just listening to the game, you would have sworn you were at the Linc. A rare combination of a Chargers team in its first year in a new city with virtually no home following and easy ticket accessibility combined with the fact Eagles fans always travel better than any other fans in the NFL anyway combined to make this a truly unique experience. Walking around the concourse before the game I heard repeated chants of "EAGLES, HOME GAME," along with constant "E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES" chants and even a few "DALLAS SUCKS" chants as the Rams put the finishing touches on the Cowboys in an earlier game. I literally saw one Chargers jersey for every 50 Eagles jerseys, and I'm not exaggerating. It was definitely a special day and a unique day.
2. I said it last week and I'll say it this week: This is a game the Eagles would not have won last year. They were missing guys. They gave up big plays and long touchdowns. They committed too many penalties (nine). They let the other team back in the game after building an early lead (14-0 last week, 13-0 this week). But once again, they found a way to win, and that's all that matters. It's like Jim Schwartz says — if you beat someone in chess, nobody complains that you lost your bishop. Learning to win is one of the hardest things for a team to do. Last year, the Eagles were 1-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They've won two of those games now in the span of eight days. Forget everything else. That's the most encouraging thing I see in this football team. They're learning how to win. The rest will come.
3. The Eagles allowed 14 fourth-quarter points against the Chiefs, 24 against the Giants and 14 against the Chargers. That's disturbing. They got away with it the last two weeks, but they are now allowing the most fourth-quarter points in the NFL, and this is the first time in franchise history they've given up 14 or more fourth-quarter points in three straight games. Are they gassed? We know they're undermanned, but a lot of teams are undermanned. They escaped the Giants and Chargers — two winless teams — but against better teams, you need to know how to put a team away late in games.
4. I knew he runs tough, I knew he runs aggressive, I knew he runs violently. The one thing I never realized about Blount was that he has incredible balance. We've seen that these last few weeks, but we saw it big-time Sunday. His ability to take a big hit and keep his legs moving and stay upright is remarkable. We saw in particular on his career-long 68-yard run in the fourth quarter, the longest run from scrimmage by an Eagle in 11 years — since Brian Westbrook's 71-yarder against the 49ers at what was then known as Monster Park in 2006. I didn't love the Blount signing. I don't like older backs. Especially ones coming off the workload he had last year — 334 touches, including the playoffs. But he's been really, really good. And much more than just a tough, short-yardage back. He's just a good back. Blount finished with 136 rushing yards on just 16 carries and added a 20-yard catch where he trampled a few more guys. (That said … Doug Pederson, after a guy runs 68 yards, don't give him the ball on the next two carries. Fresh legs!)
5. In two weeks since forgetting about the running game in Kansas City, Pederson has dialed it up 69 times. Un-freaking-believable. The Eagles are going to wind up leading the NFL in rushing. We just talked about what Blount did. Smallwood added 79 yards from scrimmage on 14 touches, and Clement, the undrafted rookie, was the guy getting the key third-down runs on the game-clinching drive in the final minutes (see rookie report). In all, the three-headed monster — Blount, Smallwood and Clement — ran 36 times for 200 yards. The last two weeks, the backs have 371 rushing yards. This is a machine. I don't know what clicked in Pederson, but if the Eagles can run the ball like this and Carson Wentz doesn't throw interceptions, they're going to be a hard team to beat.
6. Another big day for Ertz, with five catches for 81 yards, including a big 38-yarder that got the Eagles out of trouble when they were on their own 11-yard line and helped set up a field goal. Four weeks in, Ertz now has 26 catches for 327 yards. I predicted 100 catches for 1,200 yards, and he's on target!
7. Torrey Smith had another bad drop Sunday, this one costing the Eagles a 25- to 30-yard gain early in the second quarter. That's Smith's fourth drop this year, and all four have been potential big plays. And Smith has only 10 catches, so four drops and 10 catches is just awful. I won't call the ball in the end zone he didn't come up with a drop, but it's a play you'd like to see him make. Smith has made a couple big plays, but he's left a lot more big plays on the field. He finished with just one catch for nine yards Sunday. He needs to be better.
8. Wentz again didn't have huge numbers — 17 for 31 for 242 yards, but for the second week, he didn't throw an interception. The Eagles are now 7-2 when he doesn't throw one (and 3-8 when he does). Wentz put up huge numbers last year and lost games. He's managing the game just fine now, running when he needs to run, hitting big third downs when he has time and getting the ball in the end zone (see report card). The numbers aren't overwhelming, but the Eagles are 3-1 and in first place in the NFC East, and that's a nice place to be.
9. Has to be some concern with the Eagles' allowing big pass plays two weeks in a row — Eli Manning's 77-yard TD last week to Sterling Shepard and Philip Rivers' 75-yard TD to Tyrell Williams Sunday. This is the first time in 52 years the Eagles have allowed a TD pass of 75 yards or more in consecutive weeks, and just for some background, the Eagles didn't allow a single touchdown pass of 75 yards or more from 2000 through 2006. Last week, Manning beat Patrick Robinson, and it looked Sunday like rookie Rasul Douglas was the victim, although it also looked like safety Rodney McLeod was late giving help, too. Rivers went after Douglas a lot Sunday, and the rookie, who played so well the last two weeks, had a rough afternoon. Rivers added a 50-yarder to Keenan Allen in the fourth quarter. Now, Manning and Rivers have hit big plays against a lot of people over the last 15 years. And certainly not having Fletcher Cox pressuring Rivers hurt. But those are excuses. This team was supposed to be better equipped to not give up big plays. They have to get this solved soon.
10. OK, I wrote the other day that once Caleb Sturgis was healthy enough to kick again, the Eagles could have a tough decision on which kicker to keep. Sturgis has actually been very good since joining the Eagles in 2015. But Jake Elliott is on the verge of ending any suspense regarding that battle. Elliott, a week after his record-setting 61-yard game-winner, made all four of his field goal attempts Sunday, including a 53-yarder that made him the first Eagle in franchise history with a field goal of 50 yards or more in consecutive weeks. In fact, in just three games, Elliott already has the third-most field goals of 53-plus in Eagles history. David Akers had three in 188 games, Sturgis had three in 30 games. Elliott? He has two in three games. Elliott became only the second kicker in Eagles history to make three kicks from 45 yards in the same game. Akers did it in 2009 against the Cowboys. The Eagles have their kicker.