The Eagles endured a tale of two halves on Sunday. On one hand, they entered the locker room down 20-7, completely unable to get off the field defensively or sustain anything offensively. On the other, 25 second-half points, red zone excellence and defensive domination. What changed?
I think anybody could see that the Eagles were their own worst enemy in the first half. Play calls were questionable, execution was shoddy and the team just seemed lackadaisical. But for many of the starters on defense who spent this offseason recovering from injury, this was their first taste of Football in months.
“We just kind of settled into the game.” Pederson explained. “Made a few adjustments at halftime, but there were some plays to be made in the first half. We just didn’t make them, offensively. Defense, we didn’t get off the field on third down in the first half, but we got off the field on third down in the second half. And then conversely, we stayed on the field and made some plays on third down. So just a matter of staying patient, trusting the game plan and the guys executed well in the second half.”
While there were several players who took time to settle, one of the biggest question marks on this team has been that of average age. There seems to be an odd debate centering around the amount of veterans on the team, which completely ignores the team’s structure for development. But one thing that’s irreplaceable with the veterans of the group is leadership. Even from players who have only just arrived.
“We came out and started off slow and struggled, but not one moment in that game I didn’t think we were going to come out and win that game.” DeSean Jackson explained following his 154-yard, 2TD outing. “I kept stressing to the boys when we came in the locker room that I have been over there before in that locker room and I know how they are. I just stressed to my teammates that I felt that at halftime, they probably thought they had the game sealed and won. I just said we were going to go out there and it is just going to take one play and play a one-play mentality. We came out and we scored and had a lot of momentum the rest of the game.”
Zach Ertz also hit on an interesting point:
“I think it’s a veteran team. We’ve played so much football together, we’ve been through so many adverse situations, and we’ve gone through a lot. Playing in this city, you’re kind of just used to it. I feel like guys aren’t going to panic, and we didn’t do that. We have a lot of really good players as an offense, as a defense, and on special teams. Everyone kind of just stayed true to who we are and I think we knew at the end of the game it was going to be a good day for us.”
The majority of players and leaders on this team have all been on the same journey. The highs of winning Super Bowl 52, the lows of losses to Tampa Bay and Tennessee to name but two in 2018. The choked leads, the decimating wins, the veterans now understand the importance of keeping an even keel, regardless of how good or bad the situation is.
“I think that nobody panicked.” Fletcher Cox said. “Nobody got out of character and everybody knows what this defense is capable of doing and we just went out and proved it. No matter what happened, we know that things happen in football games and [we had to] come out in the second half and settle down and play our style of ball.”
It may just have been a case of first-game jitters, teething problems, players finding their rhythm, or a combination of all three. But without proven vets on this team, a much younger core would’ve either got incredibly frustrated and made even more mistakes, or simply folded…just look at the Dolphins yesterday.
There may be no better example than Carson Wentz. Remember that blowout loss to New Orleans? There came a point where Wentz just started slinging deep shots for the hell of it, like a kid losing at Madden, and they resulted in picks and an even tougher pill to swallow. But Sunday saw a very different Carson Wentz.
One who on third down completed 12/13 passes for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One who methodically carved his way down the field and took what the defense gave him.
This team played in a very similar way. They didn’t get rattled (awfully flagged DJax penalty aside), came back out in the second half and took care of business. The Eagles have finally learned from the mistakes that cost them games in previous years and the veterans have made sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Liam is a 24-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.
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