Eagles vindicate claim to NFC throne by dominating in face of adversity

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A flurry of questions have accompanied every Eagles win so far this season. ‘Is Doug Pederson ready to lead this team as a play-caller? Where’s the run game? Can the Birds survive without Darby and Fletcher Cox?’ just to name a few. This was a game where there were yet more questions hovering over Lincoln Financial Field, but a game in which the Eagles put them all to rest and simply dominated.

From start to finish, the Eagles were electric. All three phases of the game played arguably their best football of the season so far against a team that should not be defined by their record. Last time the two teams met, the Cardinals gave the Eagles a beatdown that would take a while to forget. Two years later, the boot is on the other foot.

All three phases were dominant throughout. The Eagles not only ripped through the Cardinals with ease in the first half, but they had fun doing it. When looking at a performance that looked so beautifully crafted, you wouldn’t take into account the injury setbacks that the team faced at first glance.

No Ronald Darby. No Fletcher Cox. No Destiny Vaeao. No Wendell Smallwood. No Jaylen Watkins.

To hammer that nail even harder, the Eagles lost Lane Johnson due to what is believed to be a concussion during the bout, forcing sophomore tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai into the fray once again. Considering that the team were also rolling out a committee effort at left guard, allowing just one sack on Carson Wentz and paving the way for a third consecutive game of 100 rushing yards or more was pretty good going.

In the secondary, an area of weakness that has been heavily focused on by opposing offenses, the Eagles were clinical. Patrick Robinson almost intercepted three passes during the game, but instead ended his day with a flurry of pass defenses and a clean bill of coverage. As for Rasul Douglas and Jalen Mills, the duo did an excellent job of keeping the play in front of them. Across the board, the Eagles were solid…and it didn’t go unnoticed.

“I know this about our football team, and it’s been this way now for a year and a half: It doesn’t matter what happens with injury on our roster, the next guy — the coaches do an outstanding job of getting that next guy ready and prepared to play.” Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson explained. “Coming into this season, to kind of follow-up on the question, I think in the back of my mind you kinda — you hope and you want to be a good football team. Everybody aspires to be good football teams. But the way we’re doing it, with the amount of back-up players in these first five weeks, is a testament to the coaching staff and the players in that dressing room and the resiliency that they have to never quit and finish.”

The game felt like it was over before it had even started. Carson Wentz was tearing through the Cardinals secondary with ease and ended up going 11/12 on third down with three touchdown passes. It was a career game for Carson Wentz, who became the second Eagles QB in history to throw for a 50+ yard touchdown in two consecutive games. The other? Donovan McNabb.

“Personally, I feel good.” The franchise quarterback told reporters after the game. “The game’s just continually slowing down, but as a team – I said it earlier in the week – we’re just built differently. I think we’re built differently, we know what to expect, and we’re just hungry. We’re hungry. We’re never going to get too high after wins or never are going to get too low after loses. We’re just going to keep plugging along. We know we’re a special team. We just have to keep going and prove it every week.”

Whether it was calling out protections at the line of scrimmage, taking control of the offence with audibles, or simply slinging it deep relentlessly with a new found touch, Wentz took over and decimated in the battle of the Carson’s. If not for a shining run-game however, things may not have been so easy.

The Eagles backfield was without Wendell Smallwood. It was without Darren Sproles. In fact, only LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement remained of the five backs who entered the season, with the returning Kenjon Barner making up the committee effort. Barner’s first game back at the Line however would be one he will remember for a long time.

The former Oregon Duck broke out an incredible 76-yard punt return, picking up 110 overall which was a new career high. Not only that, but he picked right up where he left off in Philadelphia Wirth five rushes for 23 yards.

“Obviously, our defense played lights out, the offense put up a lot of points, [RB Kenjon Barner] broke a long return on special teams.” Said Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount. “We played really well in all three phases and it was exactly what we needed to do to beat a team like this. I know they have some injuries here and there, but all in all they’re a really good defense. They’re good at stopping the run, they’re good at everything. We studied these guys hard, we worked hard all week to make sure we were ready for these guys and we went out and got the job done.”

This is a team that’s not only firing all cylinders, but can feel every cog clicking into place.

The explosiveness and confidence on offense is surging. Nelson Agholor had a career-high 93 receiving yards as his resurgence continues, receiving a stunning 72 yard touchdown in the process. Every tight end was involved offensively, with two of them catching touchdowns from Carson Wentz. Torrey Smith ended his drought and caught his first touchdown as an Eagle and the offensive line showed shades of becoming one of the most dominant units in the league when it came to establishing the run.

“Yeah, I mean our whole team was rolling early.” Zach Ertz said. “It was probably the most complete game since I’ve been here; all three phases contributing. It was a dominating performance. Obviously at home we want to get those fans into it early. And they were rolling early in the game. So it was a lot of fun. Probably the most fun game I’ve been a part of in a long time. Just playing like that. Our offense was playing at an extremely high level against a good defense. A team that has had our number the past couple years. It was a good win for us, but we have another one on Thursday.”

On Defense, the narrative was the same. The pass rush was magnificent from the drop of the green flag and with an emphasis on finishing, was able to completely silence the run game and force Carson Palmer to the ground time after time. Vinny Curry flashed his true potential once again, wrapping all of his traits together into one killer sack on Palmer, while the combination of pass-rushers filling in for Fletcher Cox were all able to feed off the energy that was echoing around the Linc.

Even without their highest paid player, the Eagles front four ripped through the Cardinals offensive front on a regular basis. Whether it was Beau Allen, Justin Hamilton, or even Elijah Qualls, the committee helped Tim Jernigan and the thunderous defensive ends set the tone and retain it.

The Eagles are dominant. Trap game? Injuries? Play-calling? Run-game? Those questions have been obliterated. Every hurdle that this team faces, it gives every effort to leap over. Every corps plays with such intensity that It can be felt through the TV screen. Every touchdown ends with a cry of tenacity. Every sack is topped with a cherry of ferocity. This is an Eagles team that from top to bottom, injuries or not, is playing the most complete football it has in years.

Where they go from here on out will likely decide just how deep into the postseason they go. But if every player shares the same work ethic as Jalen Mills (which most do), then big things are coming.

“You have to have the same hunger, same attitude each and every day. It starts with practice and then on Sunday coming in here and letting our hair down, and just playing fast.”

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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