The Eagles didn’t have it easy on Sunday. In fact, they haven’t had it easy all season. But you could take away any setback over the last month or so and there still would’ve been enough today to crumble a mediocre team. However, that’s not Philly. Maybe this is what it took to relight that underdog fire…but the Birds are back.
Where do we even begin? It took just two plays before Jason Kelce hobbled off the field, sending a wave of nervousness throughout an 85,000 strong crowd. Kelce later returned, but oh that was just the beginning. injuries to Lane Johnson (who is now out for a month with a torn ACL) and Jason Peters forced Isaac Seumalo into the game as a tackle with Vaitai on the other side? That line helped pave the way for 133 yards of rushing against one of the league’s most ferocious run defenses in what should’ve been their home game. Not bad…not bad at all.
Considering that the Eagles were criticized for not running the ball anywhere near enough last week, Pederson found a way to balance his offense in a nearly perfect 50/50 split. Carson Wentz spread the ball around as if he was giving out gifts at Christmas with 10 receivers (including Wentz on an alley-oop to himself) catching at least one pass. This was the Eagles offense of 2017 that demolished everyone in their path and the UK fans loved it. Although, we should’ve seen that coming. More on that later…
On defense, the pass-rush finally exploded, hitting Bortles 9 times forcing 2 fumbles and sacking him 4 times. The Eagles front four ran rampant all day long which helped a secondary that was previously struggling to find their footing. Avonte Maddox had a fantastic game an Malcolm Jenkins was doing Malcolm Jenkins things. Oh, I almost forgot, the defense had adversity too.
Jalen Mills went down with an injury early on and Rasul Douglas stepped up to the home plate, knocked a home run out of the park, ran and caught it, brought it back and dropped it in front of Jim Schwartz. Douglas played brilliantly all afternoon, proving once and for all that regardless of whatever the reasons are keeping him sidelined in an hour of need, he is a ballhawk who can help tilt the game in favor of the Birds.
Then, there were penalties. Nigel Bradham ended up being flagged on a ridiculous call that halved the distance to the goal for Jacksonville and then there was a strange call on D.J Alexander on special teams that again, wasn’t really his fault as he played until the whistle. But alas, the Eagles defense bent but never broke.
The Jags were held to a single touchdown all afternoon despite some wobbles from the defense early on and inside the red zone and in tight situations, they were dominant.
Of course, this was all helped by a roaring crowd of British and American fans who insisted on drowning out every Jags fan in the stadium. Every defensive third down shook Wembley to its core, every Eagles first down was welcomed with a cheer and the players were feeding off it.
After one touchback, players ran past the end zone to pump up the crowd who were already on their feet. Receivers, corners, linebackers, all fed off this insane amount of energy brought to them by Eagles fans. The Jags, who were playing at home, were booed onto the field and met with hostility. It was an insane atmosphere and one that I won’t forget in a hurry.
There’s plenty of time for analysis on the key breakout stars, the game changing moments, the new narratives and of course the inevitable trade rumor, but for now let’s just soak it up. The Eagles marched into London coming off of a dream crushing loss to Carolina and sucker-punched a wobbling Jags team straight between the eyes. They didn’t let up, they didn’t back down. This was the Eagles team that were able to win a Super Bowl…and the NFL may not be ready foe what comes next.
Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports