Eagles

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.

Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is concerned enough about the NFL's new rule banning tacklers from lowering their head to initiate contact that he held a defensive meeting Monday specifically so his guys could study film of exactly how the league is calling the new rule.

Through two preseason weekends, the Eagles have been cited a league-high five times for personal fouls for lowering the head.

“The instructions we’ve given guys is, try not to lower your head and try to take your head out of it, and I think our guys are trying to do that,” Schwartz said.

“I can confidently say we don’t have any guys that are trying to play outside the bounds. We don’t have any guys that are head hunting, that are being selfish. They’re trying to play within the rules.

“I think you can see Nigel [Bradham’s] play, he’s trying to get his head out. I think even Rodney [McLeod’s] play, he’s trying to get his head across and get it out. The problem is they’re dealing with world-class athletes who are moving targets. A little bit easier said than done. 

“And those fouls have hurt us in those first couple preseason games and we’ve got to get to a point where they don’t hurt us in the regular season.”

Cornerback Sidney Jones was called for a lowering-the-head penalty on Steelers receiver Damoun Patterson in the preseason opener, and tight end Richard Rodgers was also cited in the opener for an illegal hit on Justin Thomas on a punt return.

Last Thursday night, McLeod was called for a hit on running back James White, Bradham was cited for a hit on receiver Julian Edelman and safety Jeremy Reaves was penalized for a hit on running back Mike Gillislee.

“It’s going to be very important work over the next couple weeks, not just learning from our own mistakes but learning from other teams,” Schwartz said.

“There’s some other good feedback. We get clips from the league that show not just penalties that were called but penalties that should have been called. So there is a learning process.”

Eagles veteran defensive end Brandon Graham said it’s going to be tough to eliminate these penalties simply because the game moves so fast, and even if your intention is to use perfect form tackling, it doesn’t always end up that way.

“It’s tough because sometimes the runner’s ducking his head just as much as you’re ducking,” he said. “But they just don’t want to see the crown of your head hitting his crown or hitting his facemask.

“Just really try to keep your eyes up. You’re going to get ran over sometimes. Hey, you’re going to get ran over. But some people do like to use the crown of their head and it’s just to protect them because you don’t want to be paralyzed from hitting someone the wrong way. 

"So I try to keep my face up and hit with my facemask and this will force people to start doing stuff like that.”

One challenge Schwartz noted is getting his guys to play hard, fast and aggressive without thinking about how they’re tackling.

“You want to play fast,” he said. “You want to play confidently on the field. But any time there’s something new, there is going to be an adjustment. 

“It’s a difficult thing. We're trying our best to work through it, but it does add a layer of difficulty to what we're trying to do.”

According to penalty stats on NFLgsis, an official league statistical web site, there have been 48 lowering-the-head penalties called in 32 preseason games or 1½ per game.

Eight of the 32 teams haven’t been cited at all. The Eagles and Titans have been called a league-high five times each.

“It’s real sensitive right now, but as professionals, we’re going to adjust,” Graham said.

“They want to make it an emphasis in preseason, and I’m happy it didn’t cost us a real game. We’ve just got to continue to keep our head out of things and I think we’ll make that adjustment."

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: Bet your money Carson Wentz starts vs. Falcons

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Eagle Eye: Bet your money Carson Wentz starts vs. Falcons

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Carson Wentz participating in 11-on-11s. Why Barrett would put money on him starting the regular-season opener. Brandon Graham is back at practice and Gunner got a chance to talk to him recently. Also, the Redskins sign Adrian Peterson and the guys think it's a great fit for the veteran running back.

1:00 - Gunner and Barrett's weekend update.
4:30 - Wentz is back on 11-on-11s. Why it's a significant step.
9:30 - Graham is back practicing. Gunner had a chance to talk with him.
13:00 - Peterson signs with the Redskins.

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