The Eagles are fresh off of a 29-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, sending them a 2-0 record ahead of their rivalry game against the Steelers this weekend. But as early as it is in the season, as easy as it is to get caught up in the whirlwind..this is a team who are not only finding an identity, but finding a reason to believe.
Under rookie Head Coach Doug Pederson, the team are unbeaten in six consecutive games including preseason. The Defense has played the fewest snaps in the league , Carson Wentz is making history and the team have a turnover differential of +34. But the narratives aren’t changing.
“It’s two games into the season.” “It’s only the Bears and the Browns.” “Carson Wentz is still a rookie yet to play a tough Defense”. These are all things that have repeatedly made their way into the media streams, from social to articles. But the Eagles can hear through the noise and continue to build on the base Pederson has planted.
The NFL released a “Mic’d Up” video after an impressive week one win over the Cleveland Browns, focusing on Doug Pederson in his first game as a Head Coach. From this alone, it’s clear to see how contrasting the environment is from this time twelve months ago.
Pederson is vocal on the sidelines, pumping up his players on both sides of the ball and congratulating them individually after a strong drive. It’s that human connection that many believed Chip Kelly lacked..and the human connection that has united this team and given them a sense of “family”.
For the Eagles to win their first game of the year, regardless of their opponent given their circumstance and everything that Pederson has had to overcome during his first few months as a Head Coach was so important.
A quarterback rollercoaster, a wide receiver dealing with a sexual abuse allegation and a franchise RT facing a ten-game suspension are just some of the problems that Pederson has had to face head on. Yet his team went out against the Browns, found a confidence in their new franchise quarterback and a trust in their Head Coach.
A week later, the Eagles fought hard under the Monday Night Lights to defeat the Chicago Bears in Pederson’s first road game as a Head Coach. A game that very much drove away the lingering doubts carrying over from week one, where Pederson’s confidence as a play-caller was highlighted and the confidence in him shown by the players was a focal point.
After the game, Pederson addressed his team with a motivational speech that captivated the locker room..and it’s easy to see why, the Eagles are starting to believe. After months of change, uncertainty and controversy, the Eagles have an identity..a strong one.
Doug Pederson knows this. His play-calling against the Bears was nothing short of impressive. Immediately going out there with an up-tempo style, without a running back on the opening six plays, allowing Wentz to go 6/6 and lead his Offense down the field didn’t just show a confidence in his system..but in his players.
The aggressive calls on fourth down contrasting with the game-management that has led to the Eagles having the most average time of possession in the league through two games have given Philadelphia an Offense that can now not only dictate the pace of the game, as it did a year ago..but also give their Defense a chance to succeed.
The Defense, as aforementioned has played the lowest amount of snaps of any unit in the league but has one of the strongest success rates. With a turnover rate of +34, the Defense ranks fourth in total yards allowed per game and fourth in penalty yards..which is incredibly surprising given the amount of penalty woes on Offense this season.
The Eagles have allowed just 24 points through two games and held Jay Cutler and the Bears to a single touchdown (Eddie Royal’s return was against the special teams unit)..ranking them second in points allowed. With this kind of Defensive momentum, the realm of possibility opens up so much.
There are certainly still weaknesses on both sides of the ball, but knowing that a Defense can stuff the run (allowing less than 100 yards per game) and thwart strong passing attacks gives a huge sense of confidence to Pederson and the Offense. The choice to go for it on fourth down becomes much easier when there’s such a strong faith in the Defense..and it’s something that works both ways.
The units, for the first time in the last few years are bouncing off of eachother. The complexity of Pederson’s Offense is showing no signs of changing for the simpler in the coming weeks, as he continues to create headaches for the Defense.
There’s a fluency and a poise felt in almost every position on this team. As the successful drives and the wins continue to mount, the bond between coach and player will only strengthen. The Eagles have found an identity they have been in desperation to find for months..and they genuinely believe in themselves..and, the direction they’re headed..and their head coach. This makes them a tough opponent for any team to face in this league, the Steelers included..and week by week, the world is starting to believe with them.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports