He's North Dakota Tough: Ten Takeaways from Eagles 34, Redskins 24
Carson Wentz’s 64-yard touchdown pass got the attention of my snoozing wife.
“Who the fuck is Hollins?” she said from the couch.
“He’s new babe, a rookie wide receiver. He rode his bike to the game.”
“I think Wentz just saw a green shirt and threw it,” she replied. “I don’t think he knows who Mack Hollins is.”
Maybe my wife is right. Maybe Wentz was just tossing it up to green shirts. He connected 17 times to eight different players for 268 yards and four touchdowns in the 10-point win. Whatever Carson we saw in the first quarter later morphed into the “North Dakota tough” version of the Eagles quarterback, who put on a second-half performance that impressed even his biggest critics:
Wentzylvania. Wentz in a lifetime. Carson Wins. That's it: 2017 belongs to Carson Wentz. So far.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 24, 2017
So far… at least until Dak Prescott plays again, which is what Skip is saying there.
Wentz was the biggest reason for the win, but a slow-starting and injury-wracked defense did the “next man up” thing for the 5th or 6th consecutive week, holding Washington to 75 rushing yards and a 33% third down conversion rate. Jim Schwartz game-planned around the weak spots, the offense overcame a grotesque first quarter, and Doug Pederson continued his coach of the year campaign.
1) Just like we drew it up
This game had nightmare written all over it when the following happened in the first five minutes:
First defensive series:
- Jordan Hicks injured
- Washington goes 8 plays and 66 yards for a field goal.
Hicks was carted off the field as Lincoln Financial Field went dead silent. Patrick Robinson then bailed out the Birds with a really nice third down tackle to force the FG.
On the first offensive drive:
- penalty (offensive pass interference)
- penalty (block in the back)
- penalty (holding)
- penalty (12 men on the field)
- 2 yard run
I was waiting for the Reuben Frank Tweet to determine whether or not a team had ever committed four penalties in a row on offense at any point in a game, but it never came. I’ll have to look it up myself.
Thing is, all of those calls were probably legit– the Birds just weren’t ready to play.
2) Linebacker back-up
Hicks was replaced by Joe Walker and Najee Goode was already covering for an injured Mychal Kendricks. Nigel Bradham, who was phenomenal against Carolina, rounded out the linebacking corps.
I don’t want to say anything bad about a fellow Mountaineer, but Goode had a lot of trouble in pass protection. On this play, he and Walker were all over the place, allowing Vernon Davis to pick up a huge chunk right down the middle of the field:
Davis finished with four catches for 67 yards while Jordan Reed snagged eight for 64 and two touchdowns. Washington’s tight ends and running backs caught 20 of Kirk Cousins’ 30 completions. The wide receivers were a total non-factor.
On the first touchdown pass, Goode again got lost in the middle of the field and didn’t slide over to pick up Chris Thompson coming out of the backfield:
Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you see the backups try to do the job.
3) Papering over the cracks
Because of those issues in linebacker pass coverage, Schwartz dialed up a couple of all-out blitzes on third down. If your guys are struggling in the middle of the field, let ’em bring the heat instead, right?
They ended the second and third Washington drives with key sacks:
They did the same thing again to end a third quarter drive.
Cousins struggled when pressured last night. There was a point in the second quarter where he was 10/10 for 129 yards and a 118.8 passer rating when he was throwing from a clean pocket. That changed by the end of the game when the Birds were able to hit him 10 times.
4) Losing contain
This happened a couple of times on Washington’s first touchdown drive.
On this one, Vinny Curry got sucked in and allowed Cousins to sneak by on bootleg action:
And later in the drive, Derek Barnett bit on it, too:
Great block by the left guard there, which I circled in blue. The Birds’ secondary did a good job to minimize the damage on that play.
That’s one thing about the Eagles’ aggression on defense. Sometimes it can used against them with play-action, deception, and misdirection, and that’s how I’d game plan against them if I was an offensive coordinator. But I’m not, I’m just a writer.
5) A big loss and a big V
You know you’re respected when opposing players come over to say a few words while you’re being carted off the field. That’s what Trent Williams did when Jason Peters went down in the third quarter:
Emotional moment as Eagles players come to show their support for an injured Jason Peters while he's carted off the field. pic.twitter.com/4SmzT6e6GG
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 24, 2017
It looked like the entire Eagles team also came over, but that’s no surprise.
Peters is a huge loss, but Hali Vaitai covered for him well enough. He held his blocks on both second half touchdown passes and I didn’t hear his name called outside of an early false start penalty that I’d chalk up to a lack of reps. I found it interesting that the Eagles did a straight swap at left tackle instead of moving Lane Johnson over. That seems like the right call, but we’ll see if they change their minds going into Week 8.
6) Wentz wizardry
There was a point in this game where Carson Went had a passer rating of 8.6.
I don’t know where to go with the Wentz section, since everything has already been said, but I think I was most impressed by his in-game ability to shrug off a bad start and look more like himself. He took some bad early sacks, seemed a little indecisive at times, fumbled it twice, and failed to throw the ball away a couple of times.
Wentz hasn’t had a clunker this year, not like Donovan’s McNabb’s boy, Jared Goff. Even in the Kansas City loss, Wentz probably played well enough for the Eagles to win that game. I think the takeaway is that the physical tools are complemented by an incredibly advanced mental capacity, something you really shouldn’t see from a guy who has played 23 NFL games.
This is the release point on that Corey Clement touchdown pass. How many quarterbacks are staying in the pocket to get rid of this ball while they’re about to be clobbered by not one, but two guys?
7) Thanks Chip
Ho hum, just five more catches for 89 yards and a touchdown for Zach Ertz.
Lemme just go down the list with some stats:
- tied for 8th in the NFL with 494 receiving yards
- leads all tight ends in receiving yards, touchdowns (5), receptions (39), targets (58), and receiving first downs (26)
- only three players with more touchdown catches (Jordy Nelson, Michael Crabtree, DeAndre Hopkins)
- already eclipsed his career high for single season touchdown catches: 2013 (4), 2014 (3), 2015 (2), and 2016 (4)
If Chip Kelly did anything right, it was drafting Ertz. He just needed a franchise quarterback to unlock his talent.
And in case you didn’t know, Ertz’s wife is a really talented soccer player. Add that to the rotation of mandatory mentions in a Philadelphia Eagles broadcast, along with cheesesteaks, Rocky, and the Liberty Bell.
8) Doug’s worst call?
It’s becoming harder and harder to find things to place in this category.
Did I see an east/west LeGarrette Blount run in the third quarter? I still think they could use him better.
Maybe the biggest issue was not challenging this spot, which clearly was not a first down:
To be fair, Pederson needs somebody in his ear telling him to throw the flag. The Birds got screwed on that call and Washington ended up scoring on the drive to cut the lead to seven points.
For what it’s worth, the refs did the same thing to Washington in the fourth quarter, when Clement got a questionable first down before going out of bounds. The Skins didn’t challenge that one either.
The officiating was pretty annoying overall, but not nearly as bad as the Carolina game. I don’t have another place to put this tweet, but I wanted to get it in the story somewhere, so I’ll drop it here:
— Robert Henderson (@hendersonrob) October 24, 2017
9) Doug’s best call?
I really liked the Wentz read option on that 3rd and three in the second half:
Gotta say, though, that the decision to keep Lane Johnson at right tackle and finish the game there was probably Pederson’s best move of the night, more than any specific play call.
10) Not awful announcing
No clue why, but Jon Gruden makes me laugh. He’s got this weird blend of being excitable and goofy at the same time, then he’ll drop some amazing football knowledge to sort of reel you back in, like the North Dakota State play design he noticed on the Clement touchdown pass.
Yea, he called Jordan Reed “Josh Reed” and pronounced Najee Goode’s last name wrong on two different occasions, but it’s nothing Dick Stockton wouldn’t do. I also think I heard Gruden drop “Bullies of Broad Street” to refer to past Eagles squads. Was that a misplaced Flyers reference? I did a double take when I heard that.
Also, I loved that clip at the end of the game where he was out on the field with the Pennsaken, Lenape, and Vineland kids. I’ll take that any day of the week versus some goober who sits in his hotel room doing non-preparation for a national broadcast.
The Redskins have no answers for Purple Jelly Bean Slant 88 Z Tire Pump Sand Wedge. Wentz ran that play to perfection, man. I love it
— Football Reels 📽 (@TheFBReels) October 24, 2017