10 observations

Eagles-Cardinals: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Cardinals: Roob's 10 observations

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Third-down insanity from Carson Wentz, strong stuff from the secondary, big touchdowns from Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod's effort on a meaningless play and much more from the Eagles' third straight win — 34-7 over the Cards at the Linc (see breakdown).

Enjoy the 4-1 start and enjoy Roob's Observations!

1. I was thinking Sunday morning that, by any measure, the Eagles were the superior team and should blow out the Cards and that this was a game that would really show me how far the Eagles have come. I've seen signs the past few weeks that this group has really matured and really developed into something special. But lose to a bad Cards team at home and I knew I'd have to reevaluate. But I picked Eagles 30, Cards 10 because I just sensed that this team had grown to the point where, when faced with a clearly inferior opponent, they would pounce. And pounce they did to the tune of 21-0 after the first quarter, only the ninth time in franchise history they've led a game by 21 or more points after the first quarter. The Eagles showed me a lot Sunday. They got up early, then they pounded the Cards and finished them off. They're now 4-1 with three straight wins, and they've got to be mentioned in any conversation about the best teams in the NFC. You know what I like best about this team? They've been ravaged by injuries — from Darren Sproles to Fletcher Cox to McLeod and played much of the game Sunday without Lane Johnson — but you haven't heard one person in that locker room whine about it or try to use injuries as an excuse. This team is mature, it's serious-minded, it's together, it's driven. It's a beautiful thing to see.

2. Wentz's third-down work Sunday was astonishing (see report card). He was already among the best in the NFL coming into this weekend — his 107.2 passer rating before Sunday was sixth-best in the NFL. Then he went out and went 10 for 11 for 207 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions just on third down in the first three quarters Sunday, with nine of those 10 completions resulting in first downs. His third-down numbers now on the season: 36 for 51 for 573 yards, with six TDs, one INT and a passer rating of 138.8. Insane. This is a guy who ranked 28th in the NFL last year on third down. Wentz said when last year ended he wanted to focus on improving on third down, and his third-down numbers are now off the charts. Spectacular stuff.

3. Wentz was pretty good on the other downs, too. In fact, this was his best game as a pro. Other than one ill-advised interception deep in Cards territory just before halftime, Wentz was brilliant Sunday. He became the first Eagles QB with four TDs in a game since Nick Foles in Oakland back in 2013 and the first to do it here in Philly since Donovan McNabb against these same Arizona Cardinals on Thanksgiving Day in 2008. And Wentz hit the deep ball, becoming the first Eagle QB to throw two TDs of 50 yards or more in a game since McNabb had a 55-yarder to Correll Buckhalter and an 84-yarder to Donte Stallworth in a game against the Redskins in 2006. Wentz was 21 for 30 Sunday (70 percent) for 304 yards with four TDs and an INT. Five games in, Wentz has completed 62 percent of his passes with 10 TDs, three INTs and a passer rating of 97.7. This is your quarterback.

4. Let's talk the Eagles' secondary. The last three weeks, they've faced three quarterbacks who've combined to throw for more than 140,000 yards and nearly 1,000 touchdowns. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer are all potential Hall of Famers. And it wasn't always pretty, but the Eagles got through that minefield of high-powered All-Pro quarterbacks with a spotless 3-0 record. Say what you will about the Eagles' secondary. They've given up some yards, given up some touchdowns. But out-manned, out-gunned, banged-up, young, inexperienced — they made the plays they had to each week against some pretty darned good QBs. And trust me, that would not have been the case the last eight years. Even Eagles killer Larry Fitzgerald was just another guy Sunday, with six catches for 51 harmless yards and nothing longer than 15 yards. Palmer threw 44 times Sunday but didn't have a single completion of 30 yards or more. Really strong stuff from this secondary.

5. One guy in particular who really stood out Sunday was Patrick Robinson, who was just making plays all over the place. His progress from struggling veteran in training camp to the Eagles' best cornerback right now has been so impressive. He just gets better and better. This is a 30-year-old guy who's with his fourth team in four years and who really I thought this summer was in jeopardy of being out of the league. But once he grew comfortable in Jim Schwartz's defense, he just started making plays, and Sunday he was the Eagles' best defensive player. Remarkable performance.

6. I wasn't crazy about Doug's play-calling late in the second quarter. I understand he loves being aggressive, and that's fine, but be smart too. You're up 21-7, you're already in field goal range, take the three points and be happy with a 24-7 halftime lead. That doesn't mean just run the ball, but run high-percentage stuff mixed in with the running game. Try to score but don't put the ball up for grabs. I'm big on momentum. Wentz's pass intended for Zach Ertz that Antoine Bethea picked off in the end zone really had very little chance of succeeding. As it turned out, Robinson bailed out the Eagles, blocking a Phil Dawson field-goal attempt just before halftime. But it never should have gotten to that point. There's a time to be aggressive. And a time to just be happy with a 24-7 lead.

7. Gotta give big props though to Pederson for running the ball in the second half once the Eagles built a big lead. Arizona is very good against the run. The Cardinals came in with the NFL's No. 10 rush defense and were allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and 88 rushing yards per game. But for the third straight week, Pederson showed a real commitment to the run. The backs had just 10 carries for 44 yards in the first half but had 16 carries for 114 yards in the second half, and that's the most success any team has had on the ground against the Cards this year. LeGarrette Blount, with just two carries for six yards in the first half, finished with 74 rushing yards on just 14 carries.

8. How about Kenjon Barner setting up a touchdown with a 76-yard punt return a week and a half after being out of work and living in Southern California hoping for another chance to play professional football? Barner is a veteran and knows how to take care of himself (he reported in tremendous shape) and despite not even being with a team the first few weeks of the season, he turned in a pivotal big play in that 21-point first quarter that got the Eagles going. The Eagles were down three running backs Sunday — injuries to Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood left Barner in a key role, and he responded with five carries for 23 yards rushing and three punt returns for 110 yards. Props to the Eagles' pro scouting staff for plucking Barner out of Orange County and to Duce Staley and Dave Fipp for getting him ready.

9. Great to see big contributions from Agholor and Smith. Agholor had the biggest game of his career, with four catches for 93 yards, including that career-long 72-yard touchdown, the longest TD catch by an Eagles wide receiver since Jordan Matthews' 78-yarder from Sam Bradford against the Cards two years ago. Agholor doesn't make that play last year, catching the ball and then putting some moves on a couple defenders on his way to the end zone. And Smith, who's been plagued by drops this year, finally showed what kind of player he is, with three catches for 70 yards, including a 59-yard TD of his own. On a quiet day from Alshon Jeffery (three catches for 31 yards), it was great to see Agholor and Smith pick up the slack.

10. You know what I flat-out love? McLeod's play to save a touchdown on what was a meaningless play late in the game. With the Eagles up 34-7 and Cards receiver J.J. Nelson about to score along the left sideline in the final seconds, McLeod ran across the field and blasted Nelson like inches before he hit the end zone. The ball came loose and bounced into and then out of the end zone, which makes it a touchback. McLeod could have easily given up on the play and nobody would have ever known. The Eagles would have won 34-14. But this is what I love about this team. McLeod didn't care about the score or how much time was left or what the situation was. He just made a play because he's programmed to make a play. He made a play because that's what he does.

Eagles-Giants: Roob's 10 Observations

Eagles-Giants: Roob's 10 Observations

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I don't know what is a bigger surprise — 33 carries for the running backs or a 61-yard game-winning field goal by a guy who just got here two weeks ago.

Wow!

The Eagles became only the ninth team in NFL history to win a game despite allowing 24 fourth-quarter points, beating the Giants, 27-24, at the Linc (see breakdown).

So here you go: 10 observations from another wild Eagles win over the Giants!

1. This is what happens when you run the football.  

2. OK, and onto Jake Elliott. Goodness, gracious. This kid, playing in his second NFL game, made the sixth-longest field goal in NFL history to cap another wild Eagles-Giants game. He broke the Eagles' record of 59 yards — set in 1979 by Tony Franklin at Dallas — and his 61-yarder as time expired is the third-longest game-winner ever and the longest since — get ready — Matt Bryant's 62-yarder against the Eagles in Tampa in 2006. Elliott, who nailed a big 46-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter, may become the greatest kicker ever or he may go down simply as a footnote in team history. But for one afternoon, he was Bobby Thomson, Michael Jordan and Kris Jenkins all in one. Unforgettable moment.

3. On a day when the passing game never really got going, Doug Pederson finally committed to the running game, and, not surprisingly, the running game answered. The Eagles' running backs on Sunday combined for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. Including Carson Wentz's 22 yards, the Eagles piled up 193 rushing yards, and they needed every one of them. After last week's debacle in Kansas City — 13 carries for the backs the entire game, just five in the second half — Pederson finally recognized what sticking to the running game can do for an offense and for a team. It moves the chains. It takes pressure off the quarterback. It keeps the defense on the field. It lets the offensive line tee off on the defensive line. It gets the backs into a rhythm. It's not that complicated.

4. That said, the Giants had scored one touchdown in their first two games and they hadn't scored more than 20 points in their last eight games — the equivalent of more than half a season. Then they scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, and I don't care how many guys you're missing, that just can't happen. Yes, the Eagles lost Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks and yes, they were down three defensive backs. But 24 points in a fourth quarter can't happen.  

5. Jason Kelce has been criticized a lot, but he was excellent Sunday. He was a big reason the Eagles were able to run the ball so well, getting out ahead of LeGarrette Blount and using his athleticism. It was Kelce that sprung Corey Clement on his 15-yard TD run. It was also Kelce out in front of Wendell Smallwood's 20-yard gain with three minutes left. Kelce may not be a prototypical massive 320-pound center, but when the Eagles run the ball like they did Sunday — 30 carries for the backs — Kelce is an effective center.

6. Wentz did not have a good day Sunday (see report card). Wasn't clicking. He hit on 21 of 31 passes, but for only 176 yards and without a completion of 20 yards — the first time the Eagles haven't had a 20-yard pass play in a game in 16 years. He never looked comfortable. Never got into a rhythm. That said, with seven seconds left, he fired a laser to Alshon Jeffery that gave the Eagles a chance. That's what I love about this kid. What happened in the first 59 minutes, 53 seconds of the game didn't matter. He found Jeffery for 19 yards — his longest pass of the day — to set up the ridiculous ending. It wasn't always pretty, but the kid is something special.

7. I hated going for it on 4th-and-8 from the Giants' 43-yard line with 2:29 left before halftime. Hated it. That's maybe a 15 percent play. Punt 'em deep and let your defense go to town and maybe you get the ball back with good field position before halftime. You have field position and you have momentum. Why give up both? You gave life to a Giants team that at that point had scored one offensive touchdown in 2½ games. What was Doug thinking? As it turned out, the defense bailed Pederson out with a brilliant goal-line stand. But that could have cost the Eagles the game.

8. Zach Ertz has 266 career catches and three fumbles, and that's an exceptional ratio. That said, that fumble, coming in the fourth quarter right on the heels of a Giants touchdown, simply can't happen. Ertz had a first down, but he was carrying the football out away from his body with one hand, and Landon Collins is too good a safety to not make a play there. Ertz, who also dropped a touchdown (before catching one on the next play), did have eight catches for 55 yards, but he has to be better in such a key spot.

9. Love the way all the running backs ran the football finally given a chance to shine. Blount, who didn't get a carry last week, ran 12 times for 67 yards and Smallwood finally got a chance to get into a rhythm. After getting just five carries in the first two games, he was 12 for 71. I think he's a really good back, and we finally saw that Sunday. And let's not forget the undrafted rookie, Corey Clement, whose 15-yard touchdown tied the game at 21. All it takes is a commitment to the running game, and we finally got that. We all saw the result.

10. There's really something special about this team. I don't think it's the most talented Eagles team in recent years, but they really believe in themselves and believe in each other, and that can make up for a lot of deficiencies. They're 2-1 now, 2-0 in the division. They've knocked the Giants pretty much out of the race, and they're in a really good position here three weeks into the season. There are definitely issues here, but there's a lot to like about this group.

Eagles-Chiefs: Roob's 10 Observations

Eagles-Chiefs: Roob's 10 Observations

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was exciting for a while. You could feel an upset brewing. And then the Chiefs just overwhelmed the Eagles. They solved the Eagles' pressure, finally got their running game on track, forced a huge turnover and got two late fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Bad game for the Eagles' offensive line, which allowed six sacks and generated just 52 rushing yards from the running backs.

Carson Wentz did everything he could humanly do, passing for 333 yards and two touchdowns — one of them with eight seconds left in the game — and running for a team-high 55 more. But his fourth-quarter interception deep in Eagles territory in a tie game was damaging.

So here we go with 10 observations off the Eagles' 27-20 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (see breakdown):

1. Kareem Hunt's 53-yard go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter really illustrates what a dynamic running back can do for a team. That's something the Eagles haven't had since LeSean McCoy, and it's something they really miss. I love Darren Sproles. Don't get me wrong. Seeing him do what he's done since joining the Eagles at his size is inspirational. He's been a tremendous Eagle the last few years. And he's still productive. He ran 10 times for 48 yards Sunday in K.C. But what does it say about the roster you've built when a 34-year-old running back who's already announced that he's likely retiring after this season is your best option as a ball carrier? LeGarrette Blount hasn't shown himself to be anything special this year and actually didn't get a single carry Sunday, fourth-round rookie Donnel Pumphrey is out for the year but wasn't going to play anyway, second-year running back Wendell Smallwood has been a non-factor so far and had three yards on four carries Sunday. Two games in, it just looks like a bad group of running backs.

2. By halftime Sunday, the Eagles were down three defensive backs from the start of opening day — Ronald Darby, who got hurt last week, and then Rodney McLeod and Jaylen Watkins, who got hurt in the second quarter Sunday. So they're out there minus three guys and still acquitted themselves as well as you could hope for, considering that they were getting tons of reps from Rasul Douglas, in his first NFL game, and Corey Graham, who didn't join the team until after training camp began. It really speaks volumes about secondary coach Cory Undlin that this patchwork group was able to perform as well as it did.

3. For the second straight week, the Eagles' biggest offensive play was a broken play. Last week, it was Carson Wentz's scramble bomb to Nelson Agholor, and this week it was Wentz's bomb that Chiefs cornerback Terrance Mitchell deflected into the air that Zach Ertz controlled for a 53-yard gain. Really heads-up play and great focus and concentration by Ertz, who finished with five catches for 97 yards and now has 13 catches for 190 yards in two games. Ertz and Wentz have such an uncanny connection now. It's just going to be fun to see where this goes as they continue to play together.

4. How about rookie Mack Hollins with the first three catches of his career for 32 yards, including two for first downs? Very nice start for Hollins, who didn't play much on offense in Washington. Hollins is just so smooth (see rookie report). He does everything so effortlessly. You never see any wasted motion or movement. He just catches the ball cleanly and runs. It really seemed that once Wentz started throwing to Hollins, the offense found some rhythm. 

5. Vinny Curry has been playing better and has even been a factor against the run this year. But the problem last year showed up again Sunday. He's not finishing when he gets his arms around the quarterback. He had Alex Smith wrapped up on a crucial 3rd-and-4 in the middle of the fourth quarter Sunday but couldn't bring him down and Smith ran for a first down. Two plays later, Smith's TD pass to Travis Kelce gave the Chiefs the lead for good. Curry has six sacks in his last 36 games. He has to be better.

6. Let's talk Wentz. There's a lot to be excited about with him, but his Achilles' heel has been interceptions, in particular, untimely ones. I think it's partly a product of him trying to do too much sometimes, and that's understandable when things are breaking down around him. But Sunday's INT, deep in Eagles territory in the fourth quarter was awfully costly, leading to the Chiefs' winning touchdown. Wentz now has 16 INTs in his first 18 games, second-most in Eagles history by any quarterback in his first 18 games (Mike Boryla had 23 in the 1970s). Wentz played well much of the day Sunday and he did it playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the country and despite poor protection at times and a few drops — two by Torrey Smith, one by Nelson Agholor. He got the Eagles out of trouble with athletic runs and he was very good on third down. But he's got to cut down on the interceptions. He now has 15 INTs in his last 13 games going back to last year, and at least one in eight of his last nine games. I love Wentz and his toughness, his spirit, his flair. I can't think of another young quarterback I'd rather build around. But he's got to reduce those turnovers.

7. The Eagles need to consider a change at left guard (see report card). Isaac Seumalo struggled in Washington, gave up three sacks Sunday and it was his missed block on a Daniel Sorensen blitz that led to Wentz's fourth-quarter interception. Obviously, Chance Warmack hasn't done much to impress the Eagles — he's been inactive the first couple games — but Stefen Wisniewski was solid in six starts in place of injured Allen Barbre last year at left guard. If it were my call, I'd get Wiz in there.

8. Looked like the Eagles' defensive line wore as the game went on. It was a very hot, humid day in Kansas City, and it may have had an effect on some of the big guys. But in the first half, they had four sacks and allowed 2.8 yards per rush, and in the second half, they had one sack and allowed 8.8 yards per carry. The Chiefs netted 130 yards in the first half and 214 yards in the second half and scored touchdowns on their last two real drives. And that's even with Jim Schwartz rotating the second group on and off the field. The Eagles pride themselves on being one of the best-conditioned teams in the league, and they certainly spend a lot of time and resources on conditioning. But at least this week, they weren't the fittest team on the field.

9. How about Blount with zero carries for only the fourth time in his career and first time since 2014 when he was with the Steelers. I understand Pederson wanted to give Sproles a healthy workload, but Blount didn't get a single carry Sunday after being the Eagles' featured back in Washington and getting 14 carries along with a TD catch. I understand that the running back rotation is going to change week by week, but not a single carry for a guy who had 18 touchdowns for a Super Bowl winner last year? I never liked the signing in the first place, but how does he go from the featured back seven days ago to zero carries this week? I just don't get the concept at running back (see video). And I want to see Corey Clement with the football in his hands.

10. Finally this: The Eagles have scored two or fewer offensive touchdowns in 14 of their last 15 games, with the Dallas game on the last day of last season — when the Cowboys played their scrubs most of the second half — the only exception. So the last time the Eagles scored three offensive touchdowns against an opponent's starting defense was Week 3 of last year vs. the Steelers. That's not good.