The Eagles defeated Mark Sanchez at Lincoln Financial Field.
It’s a huge win for the Birds, who have now beaten:
- Matt Ryan at home
- a rusty Andrew Luck at home
- Blake Bortles on a neutral field
- Eli Manning at home
- Eli Manning on the road
- and Mark Sanchez at home
Talk about murderer’s row.
We should all be jumping for joy after running through that gauntlet. It’s a super impressive Eagles’ resume, featuring thrilling victories over the 6-6 Colts, the 4-8 Falcons, the 4-8 Jaguars, the 4-8 Giants, and now a lame duck Washington team on their third string quarterback.
I’ll be honest with you; I really struggled to find any inspiration to write about this game. I did the sardonic angle last week, so I didn’t want to repeat that again this week, but I just don’t know how else to approach the Eagles right now. They’re a banged-up 6-6 football team that just beat a couple of loser squads at home. They took care of business, as they should have.
The bright side, I suppose, is that they’ve given themselves another chance. It wasn’t long ago that they had a crack at Dallas while sitting at 4-4, a game they choked away on their home field. So you claw your way back to .500 and get another shot at the Cowboys, who have won four games in a row but ain’t exactly the 1985 Chicago Bears. Stranger things have happened in the NFL, and if the Eagles knock off Dallas at Jerry World, then they pull level with the Cowboys at 7-6 and things at least become interesting heading into week 15.
But what then? They’ll certainly get squashed by the Rams to fall to 7-7 before coming home for a tough game against the 9-3 Texans. I don’t know if there’s a guaranteed win on the schedule until the season finale in Washington.
I see a lot of Eagles fans on Twitter this morning bending over backwards to convince themselves that this team is somehow gonna go on a miraculous run and rip off a few more victories and win the division at 9-7 and slide into the playoffs. What would make you believe that? Because they beat the Giants and the Redskins at home?
I just don’t see it. If you want to reprise the underdogs theme from last year and play the disrespect card and talk about what can happen on “any given Sunday,” knock yourself out, but my eyes and my brain are telling me that is a .500 football team and nothing more.
1) Opening drives
Really nice drives to start not just the first half, but the second half as well.
This was the first time the Eagles scored on the opening drive since the first Giants game way back in week six, and they did it with this play selection:
Five straight runs on that drive, finished off by a Carson Wentz scramble and step-up to pick out Golden Tate in the corner of the end zone for his first Eagles touchdown.
In the second half, it went something like this:
Wentz threw the interception at the goal line to end that drive, but everything looked pretty up until that point. He hit three different receivers and the Eagles worked both Corey Clement and Josh Adams into the possession.
Some good stuff there, and maybe that assuages some concerns about Doug’s inability to script the opening drive this season. The Eagles put up 436 yards of total offense Monday night, and if it wasn’t for two blown red zone trips, they could have easily scored 40.
2) Carson Wentz
The interception was a big blemish an otherwise solid night for Carson.
He made plays with his feet. He got outside of the pocket. He looked more like the Carson Wentz we saw last season, who was able to extend plays and move around a bit and allow his receivers to reroute back to him.
Carson finished 27-39 for 306 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. His timing seemed to be off on a couple of his throws, but I found this to be the biggest positive from his performance:
Carson Wentz went 6-7 and threw for a career-high 100 yards on passes outside the pocket on Monday.
All of those passes came off play-action. Wentz also set a career-high with 163 play-action passing yards. pic.twitter.com/rG0lDBrzhX
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 4, 2018
Here’s what he said about that:
“Play-action, boots and nakeds and stuff are something that we always thought kind of our bread and butter, especially on first and second down. Getting the run game going, really opens up those things. Gets me on the edge, gets me a chance to make some plays, and gets some guys down the field and underneath to make some plays down the field. So yes, I think we used it effectively tonight.”
Doug Pederson said that they game-planned to have Carson under center more in this game, so that’s something to look for when we go back and watch the film. They have been primarily a shotgun team dating back to 2016.
3) Runs and screens
The Eagles ran the ball 29 times with Adams, Clement, and Darren Sproles. Wentz finished with 4 rushing attempts in the box score, so the split ended up being 44 to 29 in terms of pass/run. That’s 60/40 on the dot, which is right around where most NFL teams are going to fall.
Adams carried the ball 20 times for 85 yards and Clement had 5 for 27. Sproles went 4 for 22 with the nice touchdown run.
I didn’t see anything super special from Adams or Clement last night, but I thought Corey had a couple of really solid screen plays on the night that essentially functioned as an extension of the run game. On the third touchdown drive specifically, there was a big 23 yard gain that took the Eagles from their own 33 yard line to the Washington 44:
Lovely play, and a really nice design.
I honestly thought this was one of their best-executed plays last night.
They motion a receiver over to the left before sending all three on misdirection routes, which clears out the near side of the field and allows the offensive linemen to rumble downfield:
Clear ’em out, bit of play action, screen left and let the linemen do their thing for a 23 yard gain.
Speaking of which:
4) Put this on the highlight reel
This isn’t really a takeaway, I just want to highlight the best block any Eagles player has laid this season.
Jason Kelce has put together a career’s worth of downfield blocking highlights, but the combination he ripped off last night was maybe one of the best two or three plays I’ve ever seen him make.
Watch this video clip over and over again:
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 4, 2018
It’s one thing to take Mason Foster and drive him back 10 yards with one arm, but then he carries that into a crushing hit on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix that just puts the safety completely on his back.
Kelce on that sequence:
“It’s been one of our better plays during my tenure here. It’s a good play because it works to one of my strengths and gets me out in space. It also works to one of Darren’s strengths because it gets him out in space. We just caught them and got them in a good situation [for us]. I don’t think they were expecting it, and it was a big play.”
That’s a “football play” if I’ve ever seen one. Whenever Jason Kelce retires, or whenever somebody puts together that Youtube tribute video, this should be one of the first three or four plays on the reel.
5) Zach Ertz
Remember how Josina Anderson’s source felt like the Eagles were targeting Zach Ertz too much?
He again led the team, this time with 10 targets, but Golden Tate actually finished with a few more receiving yards. Carson targeted Tate, Nelson Agholor, and Alshon Jeffery 20 times, so, yeah, I guess it was a little lopsided, with Ertz earning 33% f the targets between those four players.
Whatever the case, Ertz is breaking records and on pace to break a few more. The Eagles PR staff pulled these notes and included them in their recap email:
- Zach Ertz established a new single-season franchise record for receptions (currently 93), surpassing the previous mark of 90 set by Brian Westbrook in 2007.
- Ertz’s 93 receptions are tied for the 13th-most by a TE in NFL history. He is only 7 receptions shy of becoming just the fourth TE in NFL history to reach 100 in a season, joining Jason Witten in 2012 (110), Tony Gonzalez in 2004 (102) and Dallas Clark in 2009 (100).
- Ertz now has 978 receiving yards, which are the 2nd-most by a TE in single-season team history, trailing only Pete Retzlaff in 1965 (1,190).
- Ertz surpassed Ozzie Newsome (4,569, 1978-83) for the 8th-most receiving yards by an NFL TE in their first six seasons (currently 4,642). He also moved past Fred Barnett (4,634, 1990-95) for the 11th-most receiving yards in Eagles history (5th-most by a TE).
I’ll give you one more:
Ertz has the most targets out of any tight end this season (121) and the sixth most targets among all NFL players. The only players to be targeted more are Antonio Brown, Adam Thielen, Julio Jones, Davante Adams, and OBJ.
He’s having a special season. No matter how mediocre the Eagles have been in some of these games, it seems like he’s just doing his thing, running the seam and catching everything thrown his way.
For what it’s worth, Ertz was asked about the ESPN report after the game, and said this:
On the ESPN report stating the problems with the offense are due to the fact that Ertz gets too many targets:
“I did hear of it, obviously. Obviously there are things that come out, playing in the NFL for six years, there are things that come out, sources all the time. I don’t feel like, I hope I’m not the problem, I don’t think I’m the problem. I’m just trying to be the best tight end I can be. I’ve said all along, it’s all about efficiency when it comes to targets and catches. I feel like we are efficient in that regard. I am just focusing on trying to put wins on the table, that’s the only thing I try and do. I don’t really focus on whether I get the ball or not. I’ve said it all along whether I get two catches or 10 catches, most important thing to me is winning football games. And I thoroughly believe each and every guy in that locker room feels the same way. There has never been a doubt of selfishness from anyone in that locker room. I don’t want to give it too much merit, just is what it is. Focused on the win tonight. I felt like everyone got the ball. It was a good team win and that’s what I’m focused on.”
On whether he addressed the report with the team or did he just not care for it:
“No, I didn’t care at all. I don’t think there was anything to address. I mean, it was an anonymous source, so if it was one of my teammates, I feel like, I mean I don’t have a motive by any means. I feel like I have a great relationship with all of my teammates. I can’t give too much credit to an anonymous source because I don’t know who it was.”
Pretty diplomatic answers there.
6) what happened here?
Mark Sanchez comes in the game.
The Redskins are back up inside their own 10.
You know they are going to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson.
Yet this happens:
Adrian Peterson couldn’t get a job until August 20th. pic.twitter.com/c0feaP7BDo
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 4, 2018
Three things I think happened here:
- it’s a power right for the Redskins, so they’ve got two extra blockers on that side of the formation and keep in a receiver to throw a block
- it looks like Fletcher Cox is held as Peterson comes through the hole
- Kamu Grugier-Hill can’t shed his block and a couple of guys miss their gaps
I tried to freeze it to show all three of these items:
Sidney Jones also misses a tackle there. It looked like Cre’Von LeBlanc was blitzing off the right side.
Here’s Malcolm Jenkins on the play:
“They caught us out of our gaps. It was just a big hole and AP hit it downhill and broke one tackle and showed that he still has those jets. It was just one of those ones where you just chalk it up and move on. Before that play, we were doing good against the run and afterwards we were able to bottle it down. They just caught us.”
And Peterson said this:
“As the play developed, I saw the rotation and the blitz coming off to the right side, and I knew I wanted to be patient and press it and see what presented itself. I kind of predetermined that it would be the cut-back or just straight ahead. For me, once I took my steps, it was about being patient and then seeing how it developed. [Redskins LT] Trent [Williams] and [Redskins LG Jonathan] Cooper, they did a great job backside sealing it off. I was just able to bounce around and once I broke free from the one tackle, it was lights out in my eyes.”
Yeah, it happens every so often. That’ll go into the film session this week at NovaCare.
7) winning in these categories
A weekly entry:
- won time of possession, 39 to 21
- 0 turnover margin (each team with an interception)
- 7-13 on third down (53.8%)
- 0-1 on fourth down
- allowed Redskins to go 2-10 on third down (20%)
- lost 0 yards on 0 sacks
- 3 for 5 success rate in red zone
- 5 penalties for 38 yards
Strong marks across the board. The Redskins couldn’t do jack shit when Sanchez was asked to throw the ball, which is why that TOP number is so incredibly lopsided.
I think the biggest takeaway here is that the Birds allowed zero sacks for the first time in forever, and that’s partly on Carson with some smart scrambles to extend plays, but the line was excellent last night. The penalties were limited across the board and the offense did extremely well moving the sticks on third down. If they can do similar things next week, they really do have a chance to win in Dallas.
8) Doug’s best call?
The two point conversion to make it a two-score game early in the fourth quarter was an obvious analytical call, but smart nonetheless.
Otherwise, I think he did a nice job mixing and matching the run game with some screens, some play action, and some bread and butter passing plays as well. I really want to go back over the film and look at what Carson did under center.
9) Doug’s worst call?
I was not a fan of running Darren Sproles on third and four on the second drive, which resulted in a three and out.
The 4th down play call on the fourth drive, when Josh Adams was stuffed on a goal line – that was another pretty poor call.
That was a “duo” play, which, in most simple terms, features a pair of double team blocks and lets the running back sort of choose where to go. You want to get four legs on two legs at the line of scrimmage and push vertically.
It’s not a horrible concept; the Eagles just completely forgot to block a guy coming off the opposite side, so I don’t know who screwed up or what was the actually design there.
The only other thing that stood out to me didn’t actually involve Doug Pederson, but Jim Schwartz instead. In the first half they took a penalty to move Washington back to something like the 36 yard line and set up a 3rd and 30. Then Schwartz played his soft picket defense, the Eagles allowed a 10 yard gain, and Washington knocked in a 44 yard field goal.
If you’re going to sit there in zone and allow the underneath completion, why accept the penalty in the first place? You can pressure the QB and go for an incompletion, which turns a 44 yard attempt into a 54 yard attempt.
Shrug. I don’t get it. They need to take a look at the picket defense and change the parameters under which it’s deployed.
10) Monday night football crew
I want to give these guys a fair shake and I tried to give them a fair shake, but it’s just not a good broadcast.
First of all, it took us a total of three minutes to get a booing Santa Claus reference from Jason Witten, who still sounds clunky on the broadcast. He’s got a lot of great football knowledge, but I don’t feel like he’s applying it in the best way.
The producers should be keeping it simple with him:
“Jason, just tell me what you see on the field. Tell me what formation that is. Tell me what coverage the defense is playing.”
Things like that, you know? Tony Romo did a nice job with Xs and Os when he began broadcasting, I think the only thing that bothered fans with him was that he tried to be Nostradamus and predict what every play was going to be. Witten has a lot of good stuff locked away in his head, I just feel like it doesn’t come out in a fluid way, if that makes sense.
Beyond that, the second half discussion about Reuben Foster was horrifying and totally out of place. It felt forced and fake, like a public service announcement lacking any kind of sincerity.
First of all, they were talking about this topic in the middle of an interception return, which was ridiculous. Second, you can’t talk about domestic violence without a female voice, right? How can you have a meaningful discussion on domestic violence when the two voices are Booger McFarland and Jason Witten? Third, the placement was poor from a production standpoint. When you have a nuanced and delicate issue like that, you need at least five or six minutes in a proper setting to discuss it. Do it during halftime or before the game. That allows you to give it the requisite attention while not disrupting the game.
Finally, and this doesn’t have anything to do with ESPN, but what the hell was Howard Eskin wearing last night?
Yep. Golden Tate was right. He does look like a banana pudding 😂🍌😂🍌😂🍌😂🍌😂 pic.twitter.com/ZK9iD7slfl
— Cindy Webster (@CindyWeb94) December 4, 2018