In a game where defense seemed to be mostly optional, the difference was a pair of timely Eagle takeaways.
Talk about a nail biter. Things were getting really hairy at the end there. I thought for sure we were headed for overtime or worse after Andrew Sendejo took out Avonte Maddox with one of the most jarring acts of friendly fire I’ve seen in a football game. Down a pair of cornerbacks with Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills already on the shelf to begin with, the Eagles then inexplicably pulled off a two-play goal line stand to seal the deal, win by a touchdown, and avoid a disastrous 1-3 start.
It’s a monstrous win, a big beefy behemoth of a win. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg declared that the Birds were playing for their season last night and a lot of folks agreed with him. Yet, with a nasty, three-game road trip looming large, Doug Pederson’s team dispatched the cheese heads on their home turf, clawed back to 2-2, and now benefits from nine days of rest before hosting the pitiful New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field.
So take a deep breath. Exhale. Smell the fall foliage. It’s Friday morning and the Eagles are sailing more like the Battleship New Jersey and less like the rickety fishing vessel they resembled earlier in the week.
1. Carson Wentz
16 for 27, 160 yards, three touchdowns, zero turnovers, zero sacks taken, and a 113.2 quarterback rating.
He was excellent at Lambeau, guiding second half touchdown drives of 75 and 76 yards. And while he didn’t throw for a ton of yards or even complete a high percentage of passes, he made it count in the red zone while moving the sticks with quarterback sneaks when necessary. Wentz just did a nice job executing the game plan and playing relatively mistake-free football.
The only negatives on the evening were a couple of missed throws, three of which happened on third down.
Specifically, you probably remember the sequence on the final drive that began with the hospital ball to Jordan Howard (the one that almost got him killed), which was followed by the missed out route to Alshon Jeffery. Those are two passes he’d definitely want back, but otherwise he did a nice job running the offense and benefited from a strong running game last night.
Here’s his chart, courtesy of NFL Next Gen Stats:
Not a lot of downfield passing, not with DeSean Jackson injured, but Carson did an admirable job throwing short and middle, relying on his tight ends, and hitting on those seam and mesh concepts throughout the night.
2. Field position wins games
Short fields are an offense’s best friend, and the the Birds got some great starts Thursday night, one after the Miles Sanders 67-yard kickoff return and another after Derek Barnett’s strip sack.
This is where each Eagles drive started and how it finished:
- drive one: Philly 25 (punt)
- drive two: Philly 25 (punt)
- drive three: Green Bay 34 (touchdown)
- drive four: Philly 40 (touchdown)
- drive five: Green Bay 17 (touchdown)
- drive six: Philly 24 (touchdown)
- drive seven: Philly 16 (punt)
- drive eight: Philly 25 (touchdown)
- drive nine: Philly 1 (punt)
Twice they were able to start in Packer territory because of the plays I mentioned above. And prior to the second touchdown, Mason Crosby booted the kickoff out of bounds, tacking on 15 yards to the start of that drive and allowing the Birds to begin at the 40.
For comparison, Green Bay didn’t start a single drive past their own 30 yard line. Every single possession required them to go 70+ yards to reach the end zone, including their final drive, which began on their own 11.
3. Rolling that Blount
The best running performance of the season for the Birds, who chalked up 176 yards against a defense that was allowing 131 per game. They gashed the Packers to the tune of 5.3 yards per rush, finishing with a rare 33 to 27 run/pass ratio, which I believe looks more like 30/30 when you factor in a couple of Carson Wentz scrambles on called pass plays.
Either way, it was incredibly close to 50% and the most run-heavy game Doug has called this year. It alleviates the burden on Wentz to throw the team to victory, it gets your play-action game going, and it lets the offensive line rumble downhill and move guys out of the way, which balances out the game for the the big guys so they aren’t sitting in pass protection for 65% of the snaps. Both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders looked great running the ball last night, enough to justify giving each guy at least 10-12 touches next weekend and hopefully moving forward.
Maybe most impressive was on the 4th quarter drive, backed up on the one yard line, when they opened with runs of 7 yards and 10 yards, just muscling forward and digging out of that brutal field position hole. That’s not something the Eagles would have even attempted last year with Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood leading the line. You would have likely seen a Wentz sneak then a couple of passing plays.
The guys who showed up at the NovaCare complex in 2017 were right. We need to run the ball. We need to “Roll that Blount” –
4. Blitzing and not getting there, again
Felt like deja vu watching this play here, the second time in five days the Eagles were burned for a touchdown while blitzing.
This was the Jimmy Graham improvised out-and-up that Aaron Rodgers basically tossed into the corner and asked him to grab:
You see Rodney McLeod float a bit before the snap because the Eagles are trying to convince Rodgers that this is Cover 1 with Malcolm Jenkins in the slot. But Jenkins actually rushes off the edge, McLeod comes down into the slot, and even though the Eagles are rushing 7v6 with Nigel Bradham completely free, Rodgers buys himself enough time to float that ball up for Graham with Sendejo in coverage. It’s another cover zero with man-to-man assignments, same as the Marvin Jones touchdown this past Sunday.
The defense is still having trouble getting to the quarterback, just the strip sack and two QB hits in this game. The interior defensive line and secondary are banged up and Jim Schwartz is sending some pressure to try to take the pressure off the defensive backs, but oftentimes it’s just not getting there.
We should all be concerned about the D going forward (that’s what she said).
5. The 6th drive
A thing of beauty, the Eagles went 76 yards in eight plays while taking 3:43 off the clock.
It was probably Doug’s best-called drive of the entire season, capped off by a pretty jet motion screen play and ensuing wheel route that showed off a pass-catching ability that I did not know Jordan Howard possessed. These were the types of plays Miles Sanders was supposed to be running this year, and one of the biggest knocks on Howard as a one-dimensional ball carrier with no hands:
I thought for sure they were gonna get
Jeffery Mack Hollins there on the pick play, but nope, they didn’t call this:
Love it. Love a good wheel route. The play calling was fantastic on that drive, more like the Doug Pederson we saw in 2017.
6. Mistakes and breaks
This entry was way too long last week, and while the Birds did do some dumb things on Thursday night, they didn’t drop the ball or put it on the ground.
- Derek Barnett late (and cheap) hit on Jamaal Williams
- Mack Hollins quitting on a route, or whatever the hell that was
- Zach Brown facemask (face visor?) penalty to move the sticks
- 3rd down: offsides and facemask on the same damn play
- Nigel Bradham dropped what looked like a pick-six
- Lost a a timeout on a failed pass interference challenge
- couldn’t convert two-point attempt
- Zach Brown “unnecessary roughness” play (corny call by the refs)
- didn’t challenge the 4th quarter pass that hit the ground, probably because they only had one timeout left and didn’t want to take the risk
- Barnett not getting ejected for his late hit (which he made up for with the strip sack)
- incredibly wonky blocking scheme on the Aaron Rodgers slow-developing fumble play (the tight end had to come from the other side of the field to pick up Barnett)
- Green Bay kickoff out of bounds
- Packers also lost a timeout after pass interference challenge
- questionable red zone Green Bay play calling in general (abandoned the run, tried a ridiculous slant on the final play of the game)
Green Bay didn’t make a ton of mistakes but that strip sack really tilted the flow of the game in the Eagles’ favor. The Birds also scored after the illegal procedure.
Honestly, the pass interference replays were especially ridiculous. I’m stunned that both were upheld and not overturned. Here’s the Avonte Maddox sequence:
I mean, this can't be anything other than DPI pic.twitter.com/ssTViKFOOt
— Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) September 27, 2019
Face guarding is legal, but you can’t run into the guy and contact him before he catches the ball, which is what Maddox did. And on the Eagles’ replay, Alshon Jeffery clearly has his arm knocked away before the ball got there.
Doesn’t it seem to you like the replay officials are almost telling the coaches to fuck off? It’s like, ‘you’re gonna challenge our call? How dare you!’ That’s what it seems like to me. It’s like they’re offended that their calls are being challenged at all. So now what’s happening is we’re getting these ridiculous delays in the game, more commercial breaks, more flow-killing, all to replay sequences that aren’t being overturned despite what looks like clear and obvious video evidence to me.
I dunno man.
7. Ancillary wins and losses
Here we go:
- Eagles lost time of possession 32:21 to 27:39
- +2 turnover margin
- 5-9 on third down (55.5%)
- 0-0 on fourth down
- allowed Packers to go 6-11 on third down (54.5%)
- lost 0 yards on 0 sacks
- 4-4 success rate in the red zone
- 9 penalties for 93 yards
- 24 first downs, 31 for GB
- ran 60 total plays, GB 74
They lost TOP for the first time this season because their scoring drives were much shorter than they typically are, partly due to the strong field position starts. The defense also had some trouble getting off the field.
One thing that really killed the Eagles was penalty first downs, of which they committed eight. EIGHT! That means eight of their penalties resulted in Green Bay first downs. That almost killed this game for them, but the +2 turnover margin and red zone success ended up balancing that out. Both teams were moving the ball up and down the field with relative ease and the Birds’ ability to protect the ball allowed them to climb back into the game and then take the lead.
8. Doug’s best call?
I liked the tight end screen to Dallas Goedert on the third drive, really sexy play call right there. Then the Howard screen followed by the natural pick on the wheel route was a thing of beauty, which I mentioned earlier.
Here’s that Goedert screen pass:
Nice play call. You’re gonna motion Sproles, fake the flat pass/bubble screen to him, then come back to the short side with the tight end instead. Tasty.
I’m also a fan of ever Carson Wentz sneak ever, since those plays are seemingly converted at a 99.9% clip.
Really solid Doug Pederson game from a play-calling standpoint.
9. Doug’s worst call?
Not totally on him, but would have liked to see a timeout on the Packers’ 70 yard drive that ended the first half. Just settle it down and get reorganized there. The defense looked out of sorts after the big Geronimo Allison catch down the middle of the field, which came on a play where Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham blitzed and didn’t get home.
Not sure about the back shoulder fade to Jeffery on the two-point conversion. Additionally did not like the 3rd and 5 toss to Jeffery, which came after a crappy timeout. And the pass interference challenge, I think the call SHOULD have been overturned, but judging by the earlier call that went in their favor, maybe the dudes upstairs advising Doug should have told him to just let that one go based on prior precedent.
That bit the Eagles on the ass, because they only had one timeout remaining and decided not to risk it on challenging the pass that obviously hit the ground in the fourth quarter.
Charging a timeout to a team when a player has a head injury & is potentially unconscious on the field is asinine
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 27, 2019
Sharp is talking about the Avonte Maddox hit. I, too, hate that rule.
10. Broadcast notes
I honestly didn’t catch too many things from the broadcast team that jumped out at me. I generally think Joe Buck and Troy Aikman do a good job.
Couple random notes:
- Why do national folks have trouble with Rasul Douglas’ name? They always say “Rah-sool” Douglas instead of “Ruh-sool,” which is what he’s been called for the six years I’ve been watching him play football.
- Also think it’s kind of weird that they had Michael Strahan and the rest of the crew in New York for pregame and halftime, standing outside with fans. I guess they had to do it that way so Strahan could do Good Morning America today.
- too many god damn commercials overall
- they were having iris issues with the end zone camera – twice in this game they cut to field level and the picture was really dark because the operator didn’t open up the iris enough
On the Goedert touchdown pass and Lambeau leap, check out the guy on the right, the Packers fan, trying to push him off the ledge:
Sorry Old Man River, you may be wearing a Reggie White jersey but you’re not moving my boy Goedert out of his South Philly Leap. pic.twitter.com/gbjGLX8GKh
— CogginToboggan (@CogginToboggan) September 27, 2019
What a loser!
Finally, I’d like to see the Thursday night game go the way of the Dodo Bird and Passenger Pigeon. Just give each team the full week to recover before suiting up. I don’t think it’s fair to put these guys on a plane and ask them to play again after just three days of rest.
The weekend is here. Enjoy your weekend.