Defense Strong As Eagles Finally Defeat Redskins
At the first glance of a 30-17 score, one might think that the Philadelphia Eagles won their season opener rather handily against the Washington Redskins.
That wasn’t quite the case, as the Birds were engaged in a difficult battle that finally swung on a controversial call on a late defensive touchdown that favored the Eagles.
The Eagles’ defense anchored them through most of this game. They forced three turnovers, two of which came in absolutely critical moments of the game. Late in the third quarter, the Redskins were threatening late in the third quarter deep in Eagles’ territory, a blitz call by Jim Schwartz led to Kirk Cousins hurrying a throw, and tossing it right into the arms of Jalen Mills to wipe away a scoring opportunity.
Late in the fourth quarter, holding a five-point lead, Brandon Graham knocked the ball loose and Fletcher Cox scooped and scored to give the Birds a decisive late lead.
The Eagles’ defense made plays all throughout the game. The pass rush was strong, and made better by the fact that Schwartz wasn’t shy about sending additional pressure from different spots, keeping Cousins and the Redskins constantly off base. One of the worries I had about Schwartz last year was that the defense wasn’t generating enough pressure, but today the defensive coordinator called a great game.
The defense generated four sacks, two from Brandon Graham, one from Timmy Jernigan, and another from Cox.
This was possible even though the team suffered a major loss when corner Ronald Darby was carted off with an ankle injury. Patrick Robinson and Jaylen Mills were able to step up to help guide the unit through the rest of the game with no major issues.
The defense was also stout against the run, holding the Redskins to just 34 rushing yards from their running backs.
Wentz Survives Pressure, Enjoys Strong Sophomore Debut
Carson Wentz finished his afternoon 26/39 for 307 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Wentz was under a constant barrage of pressure from the Washington defensive line, was often able to use his mobility to avoid the rush, and impressively kept his eyes downfield to find open receivers for some pretty big plays throughout the game.
This trend started on the first drive, when Wentz avoided several rushers, got away and found Nelson Agholor for a 58-yard touchdown strike on a broken play. Later in the game, Wentz avoided pressure a made a nice throw down the field to extend the drive and help set up the team’s final field goal.
Wentz’s favorite targets were Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. Agholor played perhaps the best game of his career, catching eight passes for 83 yards, and Ertz contributed eight grabs for 93 yards, as his latest breakout year got off on the right foot.
It wasn’t all pretty for Wentz. He isn’t quite in sync with Torrey Smith on the home-run ball just yet. The Eagles took two shots to Smith down the field, on the first play Wentz underthrew him, and on the second attempt overshot Smith by about five yards. The good news is that Smith is getting himself open, and this is a play that opposing defenses are going to have to honor throughout the season.
Wentz also floated a couple passes that killed a couple plays, and in one instance, caused a turnover. In the first half, a backwards pass to Nelson Agholor sailed over the receiver’s head, and the live ball was recovered by the Redskins.
But Wentz’s performance was filled with positives, and its exciting to think of where he can go as the season progresses.
- LeGarrette Blount was solid in his Eagles’ debut, rushing 14 times for 46 yards, and adding a touchdown reception on the goalline in the first half. Mercifully, Doug Pederson didn’t ask Blount to run to the outside.
- The running back rotation led to a much more manageable workload for Darren Sproles, who took only two carries and caught five passes for 43 yards.
- Wendell Smallwood got four carries for four yards, but caught a key five-yard pass for a first down in the fourth quarter.
- Quiet debut for Alshon Jeffery, who managed just three catches for 38 yards, along with a two-point conversion reception.
- A little surprising that the Eagles made guard Chance Warmack among their inactive players, leaving only Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Stefan Wisniewski as the reserve lineman, giving the Eagles very little flexibility to sustain injury.
- Sure enough, Jason Peters would have to leave the game with a groin injury, forcing the team to abandon some of their packages which called for an extra offensive lineman.
- Donnel Pumphrey and Shelton Gibson were inactive.
- Jalen Mills really played a strong game today. In addition to the interception, Mills led the team with nine tackles, and broke up another pass in the endzone.
- Jordan Hicks had seven tackles, and was once again around the ball quite a bit, recovering a fumble, and also had a sack that was negated by a penalty.
- Quiet games for both Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry.
- A little disappointing that defensive end Steven Means was among the inactives. He’s shown such promising pass rush ability, and I was hoping that Jim Schwartz would work him into the defense more this season.
- Nigel Bradham could have added to the Eagles’ turnover total in the first quarter, dropping what should have been an interception on a route he anticipated and jumped.
- The defense had a lot of strong moments, but on the Chris Thompson touchdown reception, there was a lot of poor tackling, with at least three Eagles, notably Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham, failing to bring him down.
- Rasul Douglas and Dexter McDougle were also among the inactives.
- Caleb Sturgis missed an extra point in the first half, but redeemed himself by drilling three field goals, including a 50-yarder before the half.
- Corey Clement made a nice special teams tackle to open up the game.
- Donnie Jones started off the season strong, pinning the Redskins at their own one late in the game, with Jaylen Watkins getting down the field to cover the kick.
The decision by the refs at the end of the game to uphold the Fletcher Cox touchdown was shocking.
All of the video evidence seemed to be there to make a pretty convincing case that Kirk Cousins’ had thrown the ball slightly before the rush got there. I couldn’t believe it when the official announced that the call on the field would stand. But that’s the way it works sometimes. For every 50 times that the officials make a bad call that costs your team a game, every once and a while they botch one in your favor.
The Eagles’ defense had played well enough in this game that I would have trusted them to protect the lead even if the call had been overturned.
The Eagles start the year with an absolutely critical division win, which came on the road no less. The quarterback and defense showed some very promising signs. We’ll see what happens next week in Kansas City.