Pound it! Ten Takeaways from Eagles 26, Chargers 24
Sometime during the second quarter of the Eagles’ 26-24 Sunday win, a FOX producer took us to commercial break with audio of Old Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”
Oooo baby I like it raw. Yea baby I like it raaawwww!
It was an accurate foreshadowing, as the Birds raw-dogged the Chargers with a 13-play, six-minute drive to finish off the road victory.
Last year’s Eagles might have found a way to lose this one.
Instead, Doug Pederson called a great game, Carson Wentz played smart football, and a banged up defense did enough to get the job done on the “road,” which was actually a soccer stadium filled with Eagles fans.
Most important, I think, was the way they came out after an emotional home win last week. Don’t sleep on the “letdown” angle of this ballgame. Even after another shaky start to the fourth quarter, the offense rallied with a dominant drive to put away Los Angeles, or “San Diego,” as Mark Schlereth would say.
So the Birds are 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the division, with the Cowboys and Giants losing on Sunday and the Redskins probably losing tonight. They’ve won more road games this year than the entirety of 2016 and four of the next five are at Lincoln Financial Field.
It’s hard to find much to complain about at this point. Instead of wondering whether this team is any good, we’re wondering just how good they can be, though it’s fair to point out that they did start 3-1 last year.
1. Is this.. a three-headed monster?
The Birds ran for 214 yards behind a 51 to 49 run/pass ratio (sort of). There were 37 called runs and 36 called pass plays, which really skews to 35/36 because of two quarterback kneels at the end of the game.
Basically it’s as close to 50/50 as you’re going to get.
LeGarrette Blount ran it 16 times while Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement handled it 10 times each, so not only was the play calling balanced, but the distribution among the backs was very even as well.
Smallwood took the type of snaps that Darren Sproles would get, running mostly out of the shotgun. Blount was used from under center formations primarily, but they did try a couple east/west shotgun looks that obviously didn’t work.
Here’s Blount’s chart:
Notice that his least effective runs were east/west head scratchers?
Maybe most interesting was the fourth quarter usage of Clement, as he converted third downs on his 9th and 10th carries of the game. That follows up last week’s fourth quarter touchdown run. It’s strange to see Pederson go to the rookie in the final stages of these games, but he’s answered the call with success now two weeks in a row. Credit where it’s due.
2. Bend it like Jake Elliott
I haven’t seen anyone kick the ball like that since David Beckham played in this stadium!
Hurr hurr hurr! A soccer joke!
Anyway, Jake Elliott nailed kicks from 40, 45, 47, and 53 yards in this game, and not a single one looked iffy. If he finished 3/4 we’re talking about a 24-23 Eagles loss.
It looks like the kicking game isn’t going to be an issue, but let’s not get carried away:
Are we taking Jake Elliott for granted already? When he went for that 51-52 yard FG, I legit stood up and almost left to go to the bathroom
— GoBirds 🎃🦅💪🏼🧀 🇺🇦🎃 (@joslewis) October 1, 2017
3. I don’t get it
The Eagles “left guard by committee” thing continues.
Stefan Wisniewski started the game, then ended up splitting time again with Chance Warmack. From that point on, it looked like they switched every two series, but I’m not really sure what the logic is behind the move. Wisniewski was playing fine as the Eagles took a 10-0 lead on their first two drives.
We’ll see what Doug has to say about this on Monday afternoon.
4. Throw the ball down the field
Sean Cottrell wrote last week about Carson Wentz’s deep ball ability. There were a variety of reasons why he was misfiring on passes of 20 yards or more.
This week, he nailed a couple of these looks, including this seam-splitter to Zach Ertz:
Perfect trajectory and touch again by Wentz on the seam route, this time hitting Ertz in stride for 38 yds pic.twitter.com/VjgkNSFs80
— Kansas More Chaints (@AdrianFedkiw) October 1, 2017
Wentz had another great ball for Torrey Smith, which the wide receiver dropped.
It’s a clean pocket, a quick drop, feet set, and right on the money:
Smith, to his credit, acknowledged the play after the game:
Wentz finished 2/6 for 74 yards on passes in that 20+ yard range. He would have finished 3/6 for ~101 yards if Smith had made that grab.
5. Max protect and beat ’em deep
Last week, the Eagles played soft coverage underneath to protect a young secondary and keep Chris Maragos from having to deal with Odell Beckham, Jr. and company in space.
Even with Rodney McLeod back in the fold, it was somewhat similar this week, though the Chargers were much better at gaining yards after the play and the Birds’ tackling was subpar.
The only time they were really torched deep was the first touchdown, when Tyrell Williams got past Rasul Douglas:
— NFL (@NFL) October 1, 2017
You notice in that clip that the Eagles safeties are nowhere to be found.
When you rewind, you see the Chargers in max protect against a four-man rush. The safeties back off a bit but then bite on the play-action, plus the intermediate route from the second receiver, which gives Williams a chance to beat Douglas with a double move and take it to the house.
You see both safeties at the far left of that clip bite, while Jalen Mills (top left) realizes what’s happening, but can’t bail out Douglas until Williams is already gone.
6. If it ain’t broke..
Running the ball led to success with play-action, and the Eagles abused it with some really nice slants.
They ran the same play two times in a row in the second quarter for gains of 12 and 14 yards, respectively:
Later, they ran it again for a big gain and called it another time unsuccessfully, which was a less accurate pass that might have involved some pass interference against Ertz.
I’m pretty sure they ran the above play four times.
And why not? If it’s working, keep doing it. Doug did the same thing in Week 3 with a pair of back-to-back sweep plays for Smallwood.
7. Protecting the football
For the first time this season, the Eagles didn’t turn the ball over.
Outside of Carson Wentz recovering his own fumble, there really weren’t any hairy moments in this department.
The Birds have seven takeaways and five turnovers this season for a +2 margin. Detroit leads the league with a +9 while Chicago bottoms out at -7.
8. Doug’s worst call?
I didn’t like the decision to throw short of the sticks on third down during the first drive. LA bailed out the Birds with an offside call.
I’m also not sure about running Smallwood on third and 8 on the first drive of the third quarter. It seemed like Wentz may have called an audible there.
The only other thing that stood out to me was the decision to try to pound it in multiple times after Blount’s ridiculous beast mode run. They ran him twice up the middle, which was fine, but then tried to go east/west, which didn’t work. The Chargers again took a terrible penalty (hands to the face) to keep the drive alive.
9. Doug’s best call?
Big fan of the fake end-around screen play on the second drive. They tried something similar later in the series that almost blew up in the backfield, but Wentz was able to find Blount on the other side of the field for another big gain.
I thought it was the right move to punt on that fourth and short before the half. Even if LA made a big gain to start out the ensuing drive, it was a pass underneath and a poor tackle attempt, not a scenario where they were two passes away from setting up a field goal.
I also thought the hand off to Clement in the third quarter to set up the Wentz sneak was the appropriate “four down territory” type of play call.
10. “Home field” advantage
Yeah, it was great to see all of those Eagles fans in the house, but it’s sad that a NFL team is sharing a stadium with the Los Angeles Galaxy, who used to share that stadium with the now-defunct Chivas USA. Carson, California is kinda crappy anyway.
Los Angeles doesn’t need two NFL teams. Do they even need one? We’re gonna go from having teams in San Diego, Oakland, and Saint Louis, to having two in LA and one in Las Vegas. That seems kind of redundant to me.
It’s bad enough watching MLS teams like the New England Revolution share a field with the Patriots, then play on turf with football lines painted on the field. It’s another thing to see the penalty area and soccer markings in a 27,000 capacity arena that now hosts professional football (as a secondary tenant).
Surely there was a better way to handle this.
Chargers in legit trouble. Check out amount of empty seats in the best sections of StubHub Center (27,000 capacity) pic.twitter.com/2jb8GLGJSv
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 1, 2017
Struggles from the booth
I’m not gonna rag too much on Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth for continually saying “San Diego” instead of “Los Angeles.” It’s gonna take time for people to get used to the fact that the Chargers are playing in a new city.
There were some other weird moments, though, such as Alshon Jeffery being called Alshon “Jefferies” multiple times, and a moment where I’m pretty sure Stockton said “loans” when he meant to say “Lowe’s.”
Stockton also mentioned at the end of the game that a touchdown would ice it for the Eagles, but LA didn’t have any remaining timeouts, so they just took a knee instead. I swear I also heard one of the two call Carson Wentz “Carson Palmer,” but maybe I was losing it at that point.
The most bizarre moment was right after the Eagles went up 16-7, when C.S. Lewis’ fantasy world of “Narnia” was invoked.
Schlereth: “One of my favorite players, right here, Jason Peters. You watch him one-on-one, with with the defensive back that comes off the corner. Look at this right here. Look at this move. I don’t know where he went to school. I think he went to the University of Narnia, because you cannot be that big and that athletic and that smooth. I love it.”
Stockton: “I got my master’s (degree) at that school.”
Schlereth: “Did you?”
Stockton: “Third down and eight…”