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Eagles, Elliott beat Giants as time expires: The Morning After


Good morning TMA readers,


Steve O is traveling on business, so I’m stepping in this week. The last time this happened, the Eagles beat the Vikings. When I filled in the year before, the Birds upset the Patriots.


See a pattern here? Truly, I had no choice but to keep this streak alive.


And boy, did I ever (as if I have anything to do with the outcome of a football game). Yes, Jake Elliott will probably never have to buy a beer again in Philly (or at least for the next few weeks). But in order to tell the whole story, you’ve gotta start at the beginning.


Let’s get to getting…..



Early observations


The first drive seemed to be a microcosm for the lesser points of the Birds’ offense over the last two years. Don’t believe me? Let’s recap the Eagles’ initial possession:

-Carson Wentz sack

-Jason Kelce penalty

-Wentz throws to Alshon Jeffery but comes up short


These are still recurring problems, but nobody ever said the evolution of Wentz would happen overnight. There hasn’t been an NFL QB this highly touted with his size and ability since Ben Roethlisberger came into the league back in 2004. This also comes in handy during possible quarterback sneaks (which came into play on Sunday). However, Wentz still holds onto the ball too long, and when your O-Line has some question marks (see Warmack, Chance), you don’t have that luxury. As a result, you have to scramble, and it’s a good thing Wentz is able to do so.


That being said, it’s not always a Donovan McNabb-type of scramble. Sometimes, it’s more like a “Whoa, I have to run for my life, so I’d better get the hell out of dodge” scramble. In addition to not letting go of the pigskin, Wentz still overthrows a lot of balls—including the second attempted touchdown pass to Zach Ertz.


As far as Kelce goes, well, I personally believe the Eagles should’ve upgraded the Center position a few years ago. When your Center is undersized, you have to utilize his strengths. If your team actually runs the ball, which up until Sunday, the Birds hadn’t been doing much this year, this is possible, which brings me to…….



BalanceVan Halen photo: discogs.com


No, I’m not talking about Van Halen’s 10th studio album from 1995. I’m referring to Doug Pederson’s offense. That LeGarrette Blount guy. Yeah...the one who had a career year in New England for the Super Bowl champions last year…..there was truly no need whatsoever to use him last week against the Chiefs. Run the ball? What's that? 56 passes out of 69 plays? Sure, why not? What’s wrong with Wentz throwing the ball 600-plus times a year? I’m sure Dougie P. was just paying homage to his mentor, Andy Reid, whose undying love for the offensive air attack could land him an honorary spot in the U.S. Military.


Not sure what happened between last week and Sunday’s game (besides a tough loss), but maybe someone (probably Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who apparently has more say in team decisions than any owner really should) pulled him aside, gave him the business, and you know, stressed how you have to run the ball SOMETIMES?!  No matter what happened, there was a new gameplan against the New York (football) Giants, and Blount was dynamic—beating up the Giants’ defense for 12 rushes for 67 yards and a TD….. and then you didn’t see him for quite some time (more on that in a bit).


The four-headed monster of Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles (who broke his arm and tore his ACL on the same play. Hate to say it, but that's probably the end of his career.) and rookie/South Jersey native Corey Clement (who scored his first career TD in exciting fashion) all received touches, so maybe Pederson’s trying some things out. In the end, the team collectively rushed for 193 yards on 39 carries, compared to 31 pass plays. See what happens when you run the ball AND have an air attack, Doug? Good stuff! Last year, I thought you were “branching out” for a bit and adopting your own offense, but then you reverted back for a bit. Can we make this official?


As for Wentz, he was shaky at times and never got into a rhythm—not making any completions of at least 20 yards. Additionally, Ertz’s fumble/Alshon Jeffery’s penalty came at the worst times imaginable. That being said, Wentz redeemed himself with an impressive late-game drive, and Jeffery redeemed himself when he brought in Wentz’s 19-yard sideline pass, which set up the dramatic game-winner from…….



Jake who?


As we tend to do in Philly (good or bad), legends can be made out of single plays that, tending on your level of fandom, become either over or understated. In this case, 22-year old rookie Jake Elliott’s 61-yard game-winning kick as the clock expired set several records, and immediately became the stuff of legends. In just his second NFL game, Elliott, who missed two FGs the last two weeks (and is only on the roster because Caleb Sturgis is injured), kicked the longest FG in Eagles history and the longest ever made by a rookie. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the kick is just the 11th of 61 yards or more to ever be made in an NFL game. Welcome to the NFL, Jake! The Eagles needed that one. Badly.



Tenacious D (for a while)


No Ronald Darby, Jaylen Watkins and Rodney McLeod. No problem? Not at first. The interception by Rasul Douglas on Eli Manning’s pass to Brandon Marshall was impressive. Then there was that defensive line-stand after the 4th & 8 blunder by Dougie P., which was pretty awe-inspiring if I do say so myself. Jim Schwartz’s fondness for the blitz has paid off so far in the early part of this season. Was anyone else thinking of “They stop him again!” when this happened?


As we all know, it didn’t stay like this. After the Birds lost Fletcher Cox, the Giants woke up rather quickly for three fourth quarter touchdowns. Despite giving up the 20-yard run to Paul Perkins which set up a touchdown, the D still managed to hold the Giants to 2.9 yards per carry during the game.



Head Scratchers:


-Blount: I mentioned earlier how dynamic I thought he was. It was really fun watching him do the damage he did. If Sproles’ health is an issue, he should get more touches. He has to, right?


-4th & 8: Why, Doug? Just….why? If the Eagles’ D didn’t own the Giants on their ensuing possession, that could have cost them the game.


-Torrey Smith: Way too many dropped passes this early in the season. Wentz still needs a Robin to compliment his Batman. Not sure if he’s on this team yet, and I’m not sure Jeffery is the long-term answer.


-Elliott’s kick: You do realize there was a chance Dougie P. was going to go for the Hail Mary, right?



Final Thoughts:


Now that everybody has celebrated and the weekend has come to a close, it’s time for me to be the fun vacuum and put things in perspective.


As much as I was impressed by Elliott’s game-winner, was anybody else more relieved than excited? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that there is no way this game should have been that close. Some of the mistakes the Eagles made on both sides of the ball could have been costly. Pederson still looks way out of his league, and overall, this team’s inability to close games in the final quarter could seriously hurt them down the line. As for Elliott….remember Cody Parkey? Yeah, I went there.


At the end of the day however, the Eagles are a young team and are still trying to win together as a team. They’re now 2-1, 2-0 vs. the NFC East, and have pretty much ended the Giants season.


I’ll take it. For now.


Steve O will be back next week.


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com



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Van Halen photo: discogs.com