Instant analysis: Rookie kicker comes through in the clutch and propels Eagles to victory

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Phew, have you got your breath back yet? No? Neither have we. The Eagles were victorious in their home opener against the Giants, with rookie kicker Jake Elliott connecting with a 61-yard field goal as time expired to seal the deal for Philadelphia. The game was anything but run-of-the-mill, and there is bound to be plenty of discussion over the next week.

 

JAKE ELLIOTT IS GOING TO CANTON…probably:
This narrative in itself is remarkable. For a rookie kicker who was on the Bengals practice squad just two weeks ago, to come in and miss a field goal in the first half, to then hit a 61-yard field goal with just one second remaining and all the pressure in the world on his shoulders is just absolutely remarkable. Clutch has been redefined in the dictionary ladies and gentleman…and replaced with a picture of the new Eagles hero.

 

Attrition nearly forces collapse:
Two Odell Beckham Jr catches inside 106 seconds very almost swung what was looking like a shutout back into favor of the Giants. New York squeezed out a minor lead in the fourth quarter as the points poured in from all angles. No Jordan Hicks, no Fletcher Cox, no Ronald Darby and no safety except Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos. But SOMEHOW…SOMEHOW this Eagles Defense held on by a thread. Manning was phenomenal in absence of a ground game (sound familiar?) but the makeshift secondary stood its ground in the face of adversity, bending but never really breaking.

 

Wentz plays smart:
In a game where Eli Manning’s turnovers tilted the balance, Wentz’s ability to thread the ball cleanly stands taller than ever, There were near misses, but his incredible athleticism, strong arm, and high football IQ were all on show as he threw for 176 yards, 1TD and no interceptions.

 

Left guard roulette:
Nothing says stability like a combination of three players slotting into a starting left guard position. With Seumalo benched, the Eagles rode with Chance Warmack to begin with…only to then rotate between the former Titan and Stefen Wisniewski throughout the game. Wentz was only sacked three times and hit four, but it’s hardly a strong sign.

 

THE ROOKIES:
Okay let’s get straight to the good stuff. I predicted in my five bold predictions article that Clement would rush for his first NFL touchdown and Douglas would record his first interception…DING. The former Wisconsin Badger rushed for 22 yards in his first taste of offensive action and showcased why he was so quickly snapped up as an undrafted rookie, running angrily and with pace as LeGarrette Blount did all game. Rasul Douglas shined once again in a back-against-the-wall situation, hauling in his first interception against veteran Brandon Marshall. Oh, and did we mention THE ALMIGHTY JAKE ELLIOTT?

 

Balancing the run:
The Eagles had 193 rushing yards against the Giants, which is strangely more yards than Carson Wentz threw for today in a bizarre turn of events. The Eagles stuck with the run, rushing 39 times in total and completely dominating the Giants with a flurry of talent. Blount was rushing like a man possessed, leading me to believe that maybe he simply needed to recharge the batteries or to be faced with a stark look at reality. The backfield exploded on the one-year anniversary of their breakout against the Steelers. Is this a sign of things to come? We can only hope.

 

Play-calling blunders:
It wouldn’t be an Eagles game without them, but Doug Pederson was once again placed into the firing line after some strange calls. Aggressive in the wrong times, conservative in the wrong times. It felt as if both Pederson and McAdoo couldn’t get it fully figured out today. One man who could however, was Jim Schwartz. Playing soft against the Giants wideouts, letting his pass-rush work their magic and taking the pressure off the Safeties, Schwartz executed a perfect gameplan to bend and not break. How Pederson will respond to the criticism should make for an interesting week however.

 

Character:
I said before the game how this game will define the Eagles character, and it did. With even MORE starters lost to injury, the Eagles fought with everything they had in a low-scoring affair until attrition set in. With the momentum swinging back and mistakes creeping out of the woodwork, the Eagles showed true grit and determination on both sides of the ball. That’s the difference between a team and a group of individuals. Regardless of what you think of Doug Pederson, he has created an incredibly driven unit with one goal in mind.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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