No, this wasn’t an instant classic, but the Eagles found a way to get it done, and they did it while leaning on a quarterback that hadn’t played in nine months who also did not have the services of his top receiver and top running back.
When you put things in perspective, a four-point comeback home win against a middle-of-the-pack team looks pretty damn good. The defense essentially shut down the Colts in the red zone, guys like Dallas Goedert and Wendell Smallwood stepped it up, and Carson Wentz did enough to make up for two turnovers while playing his first game since the ACL tear suffered last December.
They got it done without executing anything close to their best game, and that’s really been the modus operandi of this Eagles team during Doug Pederson’s tenure. Good teams find ways to win, which sounds like a big bullshit cliche – and it is – but it also happens to be true. This team just comes up with big plays and big drives at critical times, and the Birds did it again on Sunday to improve to 2-1 on the year.
1) Carson Wentz
Some good, some bad, and a couple of 2017-esque scrambles from the franchise QB.
I thought Doug Pederson did a great job on that first drive of going four and five-wide with a no-huddle tempo to get Carson in an early rhythm. He got the ball out early, didn’t try to do anything too fancy, and eased his way into the game with some simple pitching and catching.
Twelve plays out of the shotgun with a 7 to 5 pass/run balance was the perfect way to get him going, and it resulted in a touchdown on the first drive. Wentz used Zach Ertz, he used Dallas Goedert, and he even hit Josh Perkins on a completion while Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement ran the ball. It was a balanced drive and went a long way towards unlocking an offense that had started slow in weeks one and two.
Obviously the interception was a bad play, and Wentz said post-game that he just needs to be “smarter with that one.” The fumble I think you give a lot of credit to Margus Hunt, who had a great day on the Colts’ defensive line.
On the third series, I feel like Wentz made a bad decision on the third down play that ended the drive, going deep for Clement while I felt like he had Kamar Aiken wide open at the sticks. There were a few instances where it seemed like he was “pressing” a bit and trying to do too much, but they were infrequent.
The two touchdown drives really defined his day, the first one going 12 plays for 79 yards over five minutes and 11 seconds. The game-winning drive went 17 plays for 75 yards over 11:18, featuring a critical 3rd and 9 conversion and a Colts penalty that moved the sticks after a failed 4th and 5 attempt.
I like this quote from him about the final drive of the game, regarding how he kept the team moving down the field:
“Just in the middle of the drive, especially in that situation – we had the sack and then the holding I think it was – it was all of a sudden second-and-30 or something like that. I just told the guys, ‘Let’s get half of this. Let’s get at least half of this. Get us in third-and-manageable. Just stay together.’ Everyone was kind of all up in arms over the holding or whatever it was. And I said, ‘Just stay together. Stay on track.’ And the next play we had the defensive holding, picked up the first down and then we were rolling.”
Wentz finished 25-37 on the day with one touchdown, one interception, and a fumble. He was sacked five times for 28 yards and didn’t push the ball down the field too often, but instead relied on his tight ends to pick up steady gains on sustained drives:
2) Personnel usage
Good on Doug for going heavy with his tight ends and getting Dallas Goedert involved early and often.
That was probably the biggest offensive complaint from fans and media over the course of two weeks – the fact that Goedert had been mostly AWOL while the Eagles struggled in the receiving department without Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace.
Jordan Matthews had a pair of grabs yesterday but was not a frequent target. Wentz threw 21 of his 37 passes to Goedert, Ertz, and Perkins:
Here’s what Doug had to say about the usage of the tight ends and the reliance on 13 personnel early on:
“Just by scheme, just we felt like, with our three tight ends, that it gives us a little bit of a personnel advantage. Teams want to play a base defense. They eventually went to nickel defense. We still had some success doing that. Then we began to run the ball. Just bigger people, athletic people on the field. It really worked for us on the opening drive and just wanted to get the quarterback in a rhythm too with that. Part of the plan, part of this game plan was to do some of that in this game.”
Running back Josh Adams looked decent enough backing up Smallwood and Clement with six carries for 30 yards.
Here’s how the offensive snaps played out:
33 snaps for Matthews, 45 for Aiken, and 1 for Shelton Gibson. Perkins and Goedert both got a ton of run for their respective roles.
Agholor did not feature prominently Sunday but came up with a couple of crucial 3rd down conversions.
21 total in this game for 187 yards.
The Eagles were flagged 10 times for 110 and Jalen Mills himself was good for 51 yards of pass interference.
It’s been a problem this year for the team, which was penalized 17 times for 156 yards over the first two games.
Some of Sunday’s penalties were excusable. No issue with a rusty Carson Wentz taking a delay of game. Jason Peters thought he could draw an offside when he moved on the non-neutral zone infraction. But the pass interference plays were easy calls and the Eagles probably got lucky with the no-call on Jordan Hicks for the lowered helmet hit he put on Nyheim Hines in the fourth quarter. I’m not sure why officials picked up the flag there.
4) Auxiliary wins
The Eagles wiped out those penalty yards, a missed Jake Elliott field goal, and the -2 turnover differential with the following:
- a 40 minute to 20 minute time of possession advantage
- limiting Indy to 2/12 on third downs
- holding the Colts to under 70 rushing yards
- keeping Andrew Luck to 3.3 yards per pass and limiting big plays
- allowing points on just one of five Indy red zone trips
The third downs, specifically, were crucial. Indy came into this game having converted 20 of 33 tries for a 60.6% rate. Sunday’s 2-12 was just a 16.6% mark and a huge win for Jim Schwartz’s unit.
Also, that time of possession number is the most lopsided the Eagles have posted dating all the way back to 2011.
5) Wendell Smallwood
Hard running all game long and a deserved touchdown.
I’m not entirely sure why people were seemingly down on Smallwood. No, he wasn’t a world beater, but he wasn’t a bust either. He gave the Eagles some decent backup minutes last season when Darren Sproles was injured and before LeGarrette Blount got rolling. Then, dealing with a lingering knee issue, he took a backseat when the Birds figured out their running game from week five on.
Smallwood was the Big 12 rushing leader in 2015. He came into the NFL having ran for 1,519 yards as a junior, and while he wasn’t knocking guys ten yards backwards or breaking out for 75 yard runs, he was just always very reliable and steady in a pass first WVU offense.
That considered, I think he and Corey Clement did the nice job sharing the load, with Josh Adams chipping in those 30 yards of his own. 16 runs for Clement, 10 for Smallwood, and six for Adams is a really nice split of the carries on a day in which Doug Pederson ran the ball almost as much as he threw the ball.
Said Smallwood of his game-winning score:
“I felt like that was almost one of the easiest touchdowns I’ve had. Kelce and Wisniewski worked up the double team and I knew it was coming. We practiced that play all week, so I just hung in there. I think they had two safeties, and they blew those guys off the ball and I ran it in behind them.”
I honestly think Jason Peters, who just clobbered some guy here, had the best block on that play:
6) Pass rush and red zone
Two sacks on the day, the most important a game winner from Derek Barnett.
Beyond that, four QB hits was a season-low. They put up 15 on Matt Ryan and 8 on Ryan Fitzpatrick and really underwhelmed in that department Sunday. I don’t have the “hurry” stats in front of me. Pro Football Focus does those and you have to pay something like 30 bucks a month to access that data. Pass rush is one of the harder stats to measure without going back and watching the film again.
Anyway, if it feels like the pass rush wasn’t really there, I don’t think your wrong. The front could do a better job of getting to the QB. But they are shutting down opponent running games and stuffing almost everything at the line of scrimmage, so we’re just splitting hairs as we talk about a defense that allowed 17 yards on 18 plays in the red zone yesterday.
Malcolm Jenkins had two good quotes about the team’s red zone stoutness after the game:
On what it says about the mental toughness of the defense having stopped the Colts three times in the red zone today:
“I think we’re more comfortable in the red zone than anywhere else to be honest. I think you get what you work on. Like I said, we spend a lot of time on tasks when it comes to our red zone defense and coverages and communications and matchups. We know if we can keep teams out of the end zone really what happens between the 10-yard lines is irrelevant. Once we get down there tight and we can hold them to three, we feel like we can outscore anybody.”
On whether he was being facetious or if the defense really feels more comfortable in the red zone than anywhere else:
“I’m just being a little facetious. But I do think that when we do get to the red zone, everybody is completely comfortable. It’s not like a panic situation. We always feel like even if a big play happens, as long as it doesn’t go for a touchdown, we‘re fine playing the red zone defense. We’re completely confident with the game on the line. We’ve been in the situation too much and have been successful not to be completely confident. It’s something that we’ll continue to improve on. We’ll see new ones every week as people attack us in different ways and we’ll continue to adjust.”
Yep. They’ve been here before. They have tons of experience defending at the goal line, and that’s where the confidence comes from. That’s two red zone stands in three weeks, and it’s the difference between 2-1 and 0-3.
7) Special teams
Missed field goal, couple of muffed punts from Corey Clement, who was lucky not to lose at least one of them. I’m still not a fan of Clement returning punts. He’s a great offensive player and doesn’t need to be back there in the first place. Let Shelton Gibson or somebody else do the job with Sproles unavailable.
They also had two holding calls on punts yesterday, one on LaRoy Reynolds and one on Avonte Maddox. Mostly sloppy stuff all around, but props to Cameron Johnston, who had a steady day punting the ball in difficult conditions.
8) Doug’s best call?
4th and 5 from the 42 yard line with six minutes remaining in the 4th quarter? That’s Doug’s territory, and even thought they didn’t convert, they got the penalty to extend the game-winning drive.
More than any individual decision, his choice to go no-huddle with Wentz and heavily involve the tight ends made a big difference in this game. And he went exclusively with the shotgun on the first drive but mixed in a lot of under center looks later on to add some depth to the play calls and keep Indy off-balance. On the game-winning drive, the Eagles went with 6 runs and 11 called passes on 8 shotgun looks and 9 under center looks.
9) Doug’s worst call?
Not sure about a 55-yard field goal attempt in the rain.
Yeah, Jake Elliott got plenty of leg on it, but hooked it. After a strong opening series for your defense, I don’t like giving Indy the ball back at their 45 yard line with a bit of confidence. In turn, they went 55 yards in six plays for their only touchdown of the game.
10) Boring broadcasting
It felt like the crew of Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, and Laura Okmin was a true reflection of the game itself, which is to say that they were just sort of “there.” The broadcast just sort of happened.
That’s not to say it was bad, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t super exciting or energetic, and Myers’ sleepy call on the Hail Mary at the end of the game made it seem as if he had just rolled out of bed after a Saturday night at Evil Genius brewing. Or maybe that was me.
My only true gripe was that he pronounced Corey Clement’s name incorrectly for the entirety of the game. Johnston was saying it the correct way. Not sure how that goes on for four quarters and why a producer wasn’t in his ear telling him the proper way to say the dude’s name.
That’s really all I’ve got on the broadcast, so I’m gonna give the last word to guard Brandon Brooks:
WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN FUCK EVERYTHING ELSE WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN!!! 🔊🎼🎧 #FlyEaglesFly
— Brandon Brooks (@bbrooks_79) September 23, 2018
He’s right. Win win win win win, fuck everything else, win win win win win.