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Points allowed during 1st quarter this season by Penn State

Razing Arizona

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 8

After letting the Giants and Chargers hang around after jumping out to early double-digit leads, the Eagles were determined not to make the same mistake with the Arizona Cardinals.

If they didn’t exactly put their foot on the Cardinals’ throats, the Eagles at least kept them pinned to the ground as they cruised to a dominating 34-7 victory.

“This was, in our five games, by far the most dominating performance of the season,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said.

The Eagles jumped on the injury-ravaged Cardinals right away, allowing just one first down on the Cardinals’ first three possessions while scoring touchdown on each of their first three possessions while building a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.

“I talk every week about starting fast, about the defense getting off the field and the offense going down and scoring” Pederson said.

With the Eagles ahead 21-0, the Cardinals, who hadn’t scored more than 23 points this season and haven’t reached 20 since their season opener, were buried. The Eagles knew it. The Cardinals knew it. And the rocking crowd at Lincoln Financial Field knew it.

“To come out swinging, to get the building going the way we did, there’s nothing like it,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said.

Hitting home runs

Speaking of swinging, Torrey Smith was swing away during a baseball re-enactment celebration in the end zone after catching Wentz’s 59-yard touchdown pass with 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter, extending the Eagles’ lead to 21-0. Nelson Agholor played the role of pitcher, with Alshon Jeffery behind the “plate” and Wentz serving as umpire. Smith swatted Agholor’s pretend pitch for what appeared to be a long home run.

The difference between Sunday’s win and the narrow victories over the Giants and Chargers was that the Eagles scored touchdowns instead of field goals and the defense didn’t allow big plays.

The Eagles were the team hitting the home runs, with Wentz finding Smith for the 59-yard touchdown and Nelson Agholor for a 72-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Wentz completed 21 of 30 passes for 304 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes. Tight ends Trey Burton and Zach Ertz caught touchdown passes during the first quarter.

“We have the playmakers who can get off man coverage and get open,” Wentz said, “and that makes my job easy.”

Wentz certainly made his job appear easy at times. He completed 11 of 12 passes on third down, including three touchdown passes. The Eagles converted their first five third-down attempts while building their 21-0 lead.

There were also big plays by the special teams. A career-best 75-yard punt return by Kenjon Barner set up the Eagles’ second touchdown. He broke tackles, slipped out of a seemingly small space along the left sideline and cut across to the right side of the field before being dragged down at the Cardinals 15-yard line. Three plays later, Wentz found Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown and a 14-0 with 3:52 still remaining in the first quarter.

“(Barner’s return) uplifts the whole team,” Pederson said. “Obviously, it gives us outstanding field position.”

Defense grounds Cardinals

The defense also deserves credit for the excellent field position throughout the game. The defense limited the Cardinals to 31 yards rushing on 14 attempts and added to Carson Palmer’s total as the NFL leader among quarterbacks in being hit. With no threat from the running game, and with the Cardinals missing their starters at left guard and tackle due to injuries, Eagles defenders teed off on Palmer

“It starts with the pass rush,” Pederson said, “and we were able to get to (Carson Palmer) today.”

The Cardinals’ only touchdown came at the end of a nice drive that started during the latter stages of the first quarter and ended with 11:42 remaining in the second quarter.

The remainder of the second quarter was the only time when it felt as if the Cardinals might get back in the game, creating a repeat of the close games with the Chargers and Giants. Although the Eagles’ offense sputtered a bit – Wentz threw an end zone interception, his first interception since the second game of the season – the defense never allowed the Cardinals to get close to the end zone.

“Outside of the one touchdown drive, the defense was lights out,” Pederson said.

The only other time the Cardinals got close to the end zone was on a pass to J.J. Nelson with just more than one minute remaining in the game, but safety Rodney McLeod came across and delivered a big hit, knocking the ball out of McLeod’s arms just before he crossed the goal line. A replay review reversed the original ruling of a touchdown, resulting in a touchback because the fumbled ball ball went out of bounds in the end zone.

There was also a big play at the end of the first half. Patrick Robinson blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt as time expired, negating any potential shift in momentum. The Eagles quickly re-established their dominance at the start of the second half with a drive lasting 5 minutes, 42 seconds. Jake Elliott capped that drive with a 36-yard field goal.

Putting it on the line

The Eagles put together a fourth-quarter drive reminiscent of last week’s victory-sealing drive against the Chargers, which killed off the final 6:44 of the game. This time the drive last 9:14, with Elliott kicking a 28-yard field goal at the two-minute warning.

The key to long, sustained drives is the offensive line. The line creates room for the running backs and provides Wentz with time to find open receivers.

“I feel like they (the offensive line) are one of the best in the league,” Smith said.

The offensive line continued to play well during the second half even though right tackle Lane Johnson was on the sidelines with a head injury, which could be a concussion. If Johnson suffered a concussion, it’s difficult to imagine he could be cleared to play before Thursday’s game with the Panthers.

But Johnson’s condition is one of very few reasons not to feel good about the Eagles’ dominating performance Sunday.

The other caveat is that the Cardinals (2-3), whose only two wins were narrow victories over the Colts and 49ers, aren’t the Panthers, whom the Eagles will face Thursday (8:25 p.m.) in a battle of 4-1 teams.

The Eagles’ three-game winning streak has come against three sup-par teams. The combined record of the four teams they’ve beaten is 5-14.

If Sunday’s dominating win over the Cardinals didn’t convince people that the Eagles are “for real,” then a road win over the Panthers would certainly validate that perspective.

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Carson Wentz owes Jake Elliott some money