Eagles

Eagles 20, Colts 16: Defense holds up, Birds win in Carson Wentz's return

Eagles 20, Colts 16: Defense holds up, Birds win in Carson Wentz's return

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This is one of those games where you're not sure how the Eagles won it, but after you catch your breath, you're sure that somehow they did.

Which is the sign of a good team.

Here are my 10 observations from the Eagles' sloppy but ultimately impressive 20-16 win over the Colts on Sunday at the Linc. 

1. This is the kind of game a championship team wins. There were so many opportunities for the Eagles to lose this one. So many times where sloppy play, turnovers, penalties and mistakes gave the Colts opportunities. But when the clock read zero, somehow the Eagles had done enough to win. Despite two Carson Wentz turnovers deep in his own territory, despite 10 penalties for 110 yards, despite terrible field position all day, despite letting the Colts drive inside the 5-yard line in the final minutes, the Eagles escaped the Linc with a win and found their way to 2-1 despite not yet playing a complete game on both sides of the ball. This was an impressive win because of what the Eagles had to overcome. Nothing came easy Sunday. But one thing we learned about the Eagles last year is that if you fight and battle for 60 minutes, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win, and the Eagles did exactly that Sunday afternoon.

2. The strange thing about Carson Wentz’s performance in his first game in 9½ months is that he didn’t show any rust in the first half, but he looked out of sorts in the second half. You’d think it would be the other way for a guy coming off an ACL rehab who hadn’t played since December. Wentz, in the first half, looked comfortable and nimble, and even with a depleted corps of skill guys, he was 14 for 20 for 165 yards a touchdown and no INTs before halftime. It was after halftime that he made a couple very bad, very uncharacteristic plays, turning the ball over twice deep in his own territory in the third quarter on a terrible interception and a bad fumble. You would think it would be the other way. But the bottom line is Wentz wasn’t perfect, and maybe he was a little rusty, but he clearly trusts the knee, wasn’t thinking about the knee, moved around beautifully in the pocket and looked every bit like a healthy quarterback. Everything else can be fixed. 

3. The Eagles’ tackling was much better Sunday than last weekend, and that was huge. The Colts are a team that likes to dink-and-dunk and try to get the ball quickly into the hands of their receivers with high-percentage passes, then looks for mismatches and missed tackles. You have to tackle well to stop an offense like that, and the Eagles did.

4. Loved the production from the running backs. Here are the Eagles without Jay Ajayi and without Darren Sproles and they run the ball 35 times for 152 yards and added six catches for 54 more yards. Duce Staley really did a beautiful job mixing up Wendell Smallwood (52 rushing, 35 receiving), Corey Clement (55 rushing, 19 receiving) and Josh Adams (30 rushing). To get that kind of production out of a decimated position group on a day when your quarterback is playing for the first time in 9½ months is remarkable.

5. How about Dallas Goedert? This was the Goedert we’ve been waiting to see, and he was as advertised. The rookie caught seven passes for 73 yards and his first NFL touchdown and just looked really solid in every aspect of the game. This kid is the real deal.

6. I know a lot of people were looking at this game as kind of a referendum on how much Doug Pederson misses Frank Reich. Beyond the fact that it’s not really fair to base any sort of conclusion on one game, I think what the Eagles were able to do Sunday — control the clock for 40½ minutes, pile up 379 yards, scored 20 points and win the game without Ajayi, Sproles, Alshon Jeffery, Mack Hollins and Mike Wallace — speaks volumes about Pederson and his ability to tailor the gameplan to the weapons he has .

7. It was encouraging to see Jason Peters get through the game healthy and very productive in the run game especially. After he left that Bucs game early and coming off a season-ending injury last year, he needs to string together a series of healthy, productive games, and this was a real positive start for him. 

8. Seeing the Colts open the third quarter with a 29-yard pass to a wide-open T.Y. Hilton a week after the Bucs opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown makes me wonder about the Eagles’ mental prep at the start of halves. Those are both uncharacteristic type of plays and I just wonder if the Eagles are coming out of the locker room with the intensity they need. In both games, the defense played better as the game went along. But those initial plays are something to look at.

9. Nelson Agholor finished with just four catches for 24 yards, but I don’t care what his numbers are. He is such a competitor, and the play he made to dive over Malik Hooker and past the sticks for a six-yard gain on 3rd-and-5 on the game-winning drive was just huge. One of the biggest plays of the game. Agholor makes such an impact even when he’s not putting up huge numbers. He’s a winner.

10. Despite the win, these penalties are getting to be a problem. The Eagles were called 10 times Sunday for 110 yards and that’s 27 penalties for 266 yards after three games. That’s way too many. I know the league is calling a lot of things closer this year, but that number has to come down.

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Eagle Eye podcast: Eagles still not ready to invest at linebacker

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Eagle Eye podcast: Eagles still not ready to invest at linebacker

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank is joined by a tired Dave Zangaro, still in Indianapolis at the combine. 

They guys break down Howie Roseman’s recent comments about the linebacker position and Howie’s radio remarks about the Jadeveon Clowney hit. 

The latest on Malcolm Jenkins, the proposed CBA and Rich Scangarello’s role in the Eagles’ offense. 

• Still not ready to spend on linebackers 
• Howie speaks out about Clowney’s hit
• Latest on the Malcolm Jenkins situation 
• A closer look at the proposed CBA and why it’s going to pass 
• Figuring out Rich Scangarello’s importance to the offense 
• And what if the Eagles bring back Alshon Jeffery? 

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NFL Free Agency: Eagles could face Jadeveon Clowney next year on NFC East rival

NFL Free Agency: Eagles could face Jadeveon Clowney next year on NFC East rival

Jadeveon Clowney is Public Enemy No. 1 for Eagles fans right now, after his dirty hit in the Wild Card round injured Carson Wentz and ended the Birds' playoff hopes.

Can you imagine facing Clowney twice in 2020? That might end up a reality, according to a report from none other than ESPN's Josina Anderson, another villain from the Wentz hit fallout.

Anderson reports that Clowney is opening to returning to the Seahawks in 2020, but is also open to other opportunities, and could be courted by an Eagles rival:

Ignoring the football implications for now - Clowney, antics aside, is good at football - let's think instead about the absolute mayhem that would meet Clowney when the Giants visited The Linc.

It would probably be... a lot. For a fanbase willing to boo its own guys, that's nothing compared to the wrath Philly fans unleash when they feel they've been wronged by a player, justified or not. Just ask Sidney Crosby how his last decade-plus of visits to this side of the state have been, without anything nearly as malicious on his rap sheet.

The entire organization was angry about the play, from guys like Jason Peters in the hours after the hit to Howie Roseman talking about its lingering effects just this week (see story), which means we'd likely see a fired-up team take the field in that first Giants game, especially if it happened to be at home, emotions swirling in the South Philly winds.

Roseman encapsulated most fans' feelings when he spoke at the NFL Combine on Wednesday:

We thought that was a foul. We’re sick to our stomach about the way our season ended for our team and Carson in particular. (...) Doug’s sick. Jeffery’s sick about it. Our whole organization is sick about it. We’re there, we have a home playoff game, eight plays in? Come on.

Luckily for Eagles fans seeking to voice their frustration, even if Clowney goes back to Seattle, he'll still visit the Linc next year. But it would be doubly satisfying to beat him while he plays for a division rival.

Can you imagine the roar of the crowd as Wentz spins out of a Clowney sack attempt, rolls to his right, and rifles a pass to Dallas Goedert to go up by two scores? The Linc might not survive.

We'll see what happens.

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