8

Consecutive wins for Saints, who host Eagles on Sunday

Getting the job done

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 28

The Eagles’ 24-18 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday wasn’t a masterpiece, but nobody was complaining.

All that matters is that the Eagles left London with a 4-4 record entering their bye week.

“(Being 4-4) is a huge difference,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Being .500 is not where we want to be, and it’s not where we hoped to be, but the real meat of our schedule is ahead of us.”

Five of the Eagles’ final eight games, starting with a Sunday night game against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 11, are against NFC East opponents. After their bye, four of the Eagles’ next five games are against NFC East opponents, with the only exception being a road game against the Saints.

“Things really haven’t gone our way during the first half of the season,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said, “but it was nice to come out of here with this victory and enter the break with some positive thoughts.”

The Eagles are entertaining positive thoughts because Wentz shook off two first-quarter turnovers to throw for 286 yards and three touchdowns and the defense created a crucial turnover before halftime and fended off a late challenge by the Jaguars.

Problems remain

But Sunday’s victory wasn’t all wine and roses – or tea and scones, if you prefer.

The Eagles caught a huge break when, on the Eagles’ first play from scrimmage after the Jaguars reduced their lead to 24-18 with 6:57 remaining, an instant replay review reversed a fumble lost by rookie running back Josh Adams at the Eagles 35-yard line. The reversal was probably the correct call, but it was very close.

That play came just moments after rookie receiver D.J. Chark Jr. dropped a potential touchdown pass, forcing the Jaguars to settle for a field goal. Strategy for both teams may have changed if the Jaguars had pulled with 24-22 instead of settling for a field goal.

After the Eagles punted, the Jaguars twice went for the first down on fourth down in their own territory – once successfully and once unsuccessfully – instead of punting with the knowledge that they only needed to get the ball back to the 40 to get within kicker Josh Lambo’s range.

Another break came when the Jaguars, who were already missing two cornerbacks, lost another one during the second half. Wentz had to deal with the Jaguars’ ferocious pass rush, but he was throwing into a depleted secondary.

Third-down success

There were some positive signs, though. The Eagles converted seven of their first nine third downs. Two of those first downs on their first drive of the second half, with a 12-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery and a 13-yarder to Jordan Matthews, kept alive what turned out to be a 95-yard touchdown drive, culminating in a perfect 36-yard screen pass to Wendell Smallwood.

“Third down is huge,” Wentz said. “We talk all the time about situational football, which is third downs and the red zone. Today, obviously , third down was big.”

Another positive was that the defense, which hasn’t created many turnovers, produced a critical turnover late in the first half. The Jaguars were leading, 6-3, when safety Avonte Maddox separated receiver Keelan Cole from the football. Safety Malcolm Jenkins scooped the ball up and returned it to the Jaguars 46 with 1:29 remaining in the first half.

Wentz scrambled 13 yards on third down, with the help of a downfield block from tight end Dallas Goedert, to keep the drive alive. One play later, he rolled to his right, planted his right foot and turned to rifle a pass to Goedert just inside the 10-yard line, and Goedert took the ball the rest of the way into the end zone for a 10-6 Eagles lead with 29 seconds remaining before halftime.

“That’s one of the things that’s been missing the first half of the season,” Pederson said, “turnovers and a short field for our offense.”

Nervous moments

The Eagles took what appeared to be a comfortable lead on the 36-yard screen pass to Smallwood with 8:39 remaining in the third quarter. But losses to the Titans and Panthers, who rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the fourth quarter, revealed that the Eagles defense isn’t shutting down opponents at the end of games. Not even a Jaguars team with an inconsistent starting quarterback in Blake Bortles and an array of no-name receivers and tight ends.

The Jaguars answered Smallwood’s touchdown with a 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with nice 11-yard touch pass from Bortles (24 of 41, 286 yards, TD) to Dede Westbrook. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving the Eagles with a 17-12 lead with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter.

A three-and-out by the Eagles, along with a 23-yard punt return, gave the Jaguars possession at their own 48. A scramble by Bortles for a first down and same important passes underneath advanced the ball to the 15. The Eagles were fortunate that Chark fell down after a 12-yard gain or else he may have reached the end zone. Instead, the Jaguars settled for a  33-yard field goal by Lambo, reducing the Eagles’ lead to 17-15 with 13:10 remaining.

Eagles fans may have had nightmares of last Sunday’s collapse against the Panthers creeping back into their heads, but the Eagles responded with a 75-yard drive that only took 3 minutes, 15 seconds. A 17-yard run by Adams (9 carries for 61 yards) set  up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz, but the big play in the drive was the first play, a 36-yard pass down the middle to Jordan Matthews.

“It was really good to see Nelson (Agholor) and J-Matt make some big plays,” Ertz said. “It opened up the offense for us.”

Matthews, who was brought back by the Eagles earlier this season, led the Eagles with 93 receiving yards on four catches.

“It was good to have him be the leading receiver again,” Wentz said. “It’s been a while.”

Good feelings

Matthews, Jeffery and Ertz each had four receptions, Agholor had three and Smallwood had two. Smallwood, Ertz and Goedert caught touchdown passes.

“It’s usually a good thing when we get a lot of guys involved,” Wentz said. “Heck, even I had a catch today.”

Wentz was referring to the Eagles’ first series. A pass was batted at the line of scrimmage, but Wentz caught the deflection and then dived forward for the first down.

“Nothing surprises me with that guy,” Ertz said.

The Eagles were able to joke after the game because they survived some nervous moments in the fourth quarter, including the dropped touchdown pass by Chark and the fumble by Adams that was reversed on instant replay. But they still have some questions going forward.

How bad is the knee injury to right tackle Lane Johnson? The injury, which occurred on the final play of the Eagles’ first possession, a Wentz fumble, is reportedly a sprained MCL. How much time Johnson will miss should be determined this week.

The defense was better, but the Eagles won’t face many offenses with fewer playmakers than the Jaguars’ offense. Can they hold leads against better offenses?

Of course, it’s a lot better to ponder those questions during a bye week at 4-4 than with a 3-5 record.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply




Maurice Cheeks enters Hall of Fame