The Eagles are 7-1. As the rest of the NFL looks up at the soaring Philadelphia outfit, the potential of a playoff berth and beyond begins to become more and more plausible. The Eagles sent the winless Niners home packing after a 33-10 win on Sunday, but it wasn’t the tidiest game we’ve seen this season. It’s time to take a look at the report card once again.
Carson Wentz performed adequately on Sunday. He wasn’t as magical as we’ve become so used to seeing, nor was he making throws that would put his team in danger. The problem with Sunday is that Wentz wasn’t “outstanding” and that word has become the standard we associate with the Eagles quarterback. Wentz completed 18/32 passes for 211 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Making some impressive plays with his feet too, Wentz did everything asked of him to push the offense to a win.
The Eagles running backs struggled to find any traction at all early on as the Niners held Blount to just 3.0 yards per carry. Pederson opted not to abandon the run however and continued to force it down the Niners throat until the fought no more. Interestingly, Corey Clement saw more action than Wendell Smallwood and actually led the team in rushing with 54 yards on 10 carries. The backfield didn’t really benefit from the offensive line inconsistencies, but they handled their business well enough to get the job done on a slippery Sunday.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s return to a starting role wasn’t a huge cause for concern, but the overall play of the line was. Miscommunications, missed assignments on blitz pickups and a constant leak of pressure saw Wentz under fire a little too often against San Francisco. The Eagles will have to be better up front if they are to handle the defensive challenges that lie ahead.
Zach Ertz had a slightly quieter day in terms of yardage, but scored his sixth touchdown of the season. A dropped pass was answered just one play later when Wentz went straight back to the Stanford product with confidence. Ertz’s blocking ability was once again called into question however, but this shouldn’t subtract from a career year.
Trey Burton registered a pair of receptions too while Brent Celek continues to slide his way into the passing picture once again. The group had a slower day at the office than normal, but again…it’s not as if they laid an egg out there. The Tight ends still have extreme value in this offense and will continue to provide that as time goes on.
Alshon Jeffery led the Eagles in receiving yards for the second time this season after a stunning touchdown that only a number one wide receiver could make.
Elsewhere, the emergence of Mack Hollins is becoming incredibly fun to watch, with “Backpack Mack” picking up a huge first down and adding another 15+ yard reception to his resume.
Surprisingly, Torrey Smith had his lowest snap-count since being signed by the Eagles, while Nelson Agholor had three receptions on the day.
Overall, the group had a solid outing but there was very little in the way of the explosive plays we have come to expect. The Eagles receivers almost seemed smothered at times, although Carson Wentz did miss two deep shots.
And now the excitement begins. Dominant. What other word could you use to describe this rampant front four? From the constant pressure by Jernigan and Cox, to the explosiveness of Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry that continued to stuff the run and make life difficult for a rookie quarterback, the Eagles defensive line was nothing short of outstanding, putting in what may well have been their best game of the year so far.
Mychal Kendricks stepped in for the injured Jordan Hicks in explosive fashion, leading the team in tackles while Nigel Bradham lived up to his reputation as a coverage specialist.
Joe Walker stepped up to the plate when called upon despite an early lapse and registered three tackles, helping the Eagles to somewhat patch over the loss of Simba. Overall, you couldn’t have asked for a better performance from a linebacker corps in the face of such adversity.
Whether it was the relentless play of Malcolm Jenkins, the weaving Jalen Mills on his first pick-six, or the lengthy Rasul Douglas in press coverage, the Eagles secondary has found its swagger once again. Patrick Robinson missed a chunk of time due to a sustained concussion, but Dexter McDougle stepped in and ticked all the boxes for Jim Schwartz.
The defensive line is going to receive a lot of credit for the win, but make no mistake, the secondary put on a clinic on Sunday and turned in one of the most complete performances of the season.
A Derek Barnett blocked field Goal? A “Backpack Mack” appearance? Some more Jake Elliott magic? Just another day at the office for the Eagles special teams unit. Sure, there were some instances where things could have been better, including a rare missed kick from Elliott, but Donnie Longball was called on more than he has been all season and helped the Eagles gain a sizable advantage on numerous occasions.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports