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October 29, 2018

Angelo Cataldi: Glass is 'half full' today for Eagles fans, enjoy it while it lasts

The best thing to say about the Eagles after they escaped London with an absolutely essential 24-18 win over Jacksonville yesterday is that they have learned how to overcome adversity.

Unfortunately, the worst thing to say is that most of the adversity is self-inflicted.

For example, the Birds lost their three best offensive linemen so early in the 9:30 a.m. game, most Philadelphians hadn’t even finished Sunday brunch yet. The offense ruined their first two drives with infuriating turnovers. The defense almost blew a 17-6 lead against a terrible Jaguars offense. Hell, somehow the Eagles made putrid quarterback Blake Bortles look good.

In the end, though, they survived, reaching the bye week with a 4-4 record that reflects their current state of mediocrity. For a week or two, there’s no point in mentioning how poor the pass coverage was again, how dubious the play-calling was at times, or how sloppy and dumb the Eagles have seemed all season. No point at all.

Instead, the glass is half full today. This is a rare day to celebrate the encouraging signs that provide hope for the second half. The alternative is just too depressing.

Carson Wentz is still the best thing about this team, as he will be for at least the next decade. Yes, he started the game with the 30th fumble of his 35-game NFL career — far too many — and he made another terrible red-zone decision that led to an interception on the very next drive. But then he reverted to the magic of 2017.

His across-the-body touchdown throw to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert was reminiscent of a similar dart to Alshon Jeffrey two weeks earlier in New York. He made four precise passes to the least likely of targets, a reborn Jordan Matthews, that were critical to the win. He ran with the ball better than he has since the ACL tear last season. Wentz is terrific.

And so is the running game, when coach Doug Pederson commits to it. Rookie Josh Adams proved in London that the Eagles don’t need to add a running back before the trade deadline tomorrow. The Notre Dame free agent ran nine times for 61 yards, and his butt hit the ground just in time to save him from a potentially devastating fumble. Adams can play in the NFL.

At 35, the body of left tackle Jason Peters is made of ceramic, but his heart is stronger than ever. He left the game with a head injury, but returned just in time to protect Wentz from imminent danger. Center Jason Kelce also came back, but only after a first play that left him cradling his, well, you know. Right tackle Lane Johnson’s bruised MCL was the only casualty of the day on offense.

Most encouraging was the unit’s last drive, which denied Bortles the chance to embarrass the Eagles with a late touchdown. Wentz took the ball with 3:36 left to play and — unlike the Carolina game last week — never gave it back. Bravo.

The defense also prevailed, barely. Bortles was every bit as effective as Wentz — they both passed for 286 yards — but the difference was the Eagles’ red-zone play. Except for a snafu by Malcolm Jenkins on the lone touchdown, the Birds were tough when they had to be. Even Chris Long made a couple of big plays after disappearing for a month.

On a day when the glass was not half full, I would feel obligated to point out that cornerback Dexter McDougle was atrocious throughout the game, as was Halapoulivaati Vaitai in place of Lane Johnson. I would also rip the special teams for doing nothing again, and drawing some bad penalties in the process. I might even condemn that ridiculous roughing-the-penalty call against Nigel Bradham.

But the Eagles survived, so not this time.

The Eagles are undefeated in Europe.

Enjoy the break.