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October 06, 2019

First half observations: Eagles 21, Jets 0

Eagles NFL
100619-NateGerry-USAToday Bill Streicher/USA Today

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry (47) intercepts the ball in front of New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell (26) before running back for a touchdown during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.

Philadelphia's defense led the charge in the first 30 minutes against the Jets, with a defensive touchdown highlighting an excellent half for Jim Schwartz's men. The Eagles head into the half with a 21-0 lead and look to be in total control of this one.

Here's what I saw in the first half.

The Good

• The Jets helped the Eagles out with some ultra-conservative play calls to start the game, running the ball despite Philadelphia knowing that's all they're really capable of doing, but credit to the home team for getting off to a fast start. They stuffed LeVeon Bell on two straight plays on New York's opening possession, and with the Jets in a third-and-long, Brandon Graham came flying around the edge for his first sack of the year.

From there, the Eagles showed you how scary they can be when all three units are clicking at the same time. A good punt return put them around midfield, and the offense finally seems to be shaking out of the opening quarter slumber that plagued them to start the year, coming up with a couple of clutch third-down conversions to extend the drive.

They even dodged a potential drive-killer thanks to a heads up play from Wentz. Jason Kelce had a wild snap with the Eagles in the red zone, and not only did Wentz get to the football, he turned and threw it toward the feet of Mack Hollins, avoiding a huge loss of yards to keep the Eagles within striking distance. Two runs later, Jordan Howard punched it in and the Eagles were out to a 7-0 lead.

(Howard's touchdown, by the way, marked eight straight trips to the red zone with a touchdown for Philadelphia. They have had struggles in several areas this season, but they deserve credit for how good they've been once they get deep in enemy territory.)

Life is much easier when you're not digging out of a hole to start the game.

• The Jets were clearly afraid of the Eagles burying them early, prompting Adam Gase to go for it on fourth-and-short midway through the first quarter. While some pre-snap movement looked like it might screw up Philadelphia's defense, they recovered beautifully, and Nate Gerry made an excellent break on the ball to haul in a pick and take it to the house.

Not for nothing, but the Jets may have been better off with the quarterback whose spleen was at risk of being ruptured.

• Rodney McLeod was probably the best player on the field in the first half. Stout against the run game, organizing on the back end, he looked like he had been shot out of a cannon. He didn't do anything special on the play late in the half where he came down with an interception, but the football gods smiled upon him and dropped a takeaway into his arms for a half of great work.

Maybe that's just the impact of playing a putrid Jets team, but in a season where we haven't seen too many standout performances for Philly on defense, he deserves some individual recognition.

• We saw something small but important in the first half — Philadelphia's defensive line is capable of beating up on a bad offensive line. It helped that they had absolutely no fear of Luke Falk beating them over the top, but all the same, they bullied the Jets upfront and made it impossible for them to establish the run, cutting off New York's preferred method of attack.

Beating up on inferior talent isn't anything to throw a parade over, but they have struggled to win easy matchups at times this season, and it has contributed to Philadelphia's putrid pass defense (which, in fairness, would probably be bad even if the defensive line was elite all year). You have to start somewhere, and the good news is they should be getting some reinforcement up front at some point when Timmy Jernigan returns. 

The Bad

• Remember when Adam Gase was the next "boy wonder" offensive genius? I wouldn't trust that dude to win a Philadelphia Catholic League title.

• The Eagles may have gone into halftime with a comfortable lead, but it was an ugly path to get there. Doug Pederson's offense was pretty sloppy outside of their opening drive, and their ineptitude felt worse because of how handily they were winning the field position battle in the first half. Even with a short field, they struggled to get it going for most of the half.

It was a combination of factors that dragged them down. Stupid penalties, dumb play calls — if I have to see Miles Sanders run another slow-developing stretch play, I am going to lose it — and the weekly drops we've grown accustomed to all contributed to a bad half. Wentz was far from perfect himself, misfiring on passes and asking his guys to make difficult plays in traffic far too many times.

However, good job by the Eagles to capitalize on McLeod's interception late in the first half with a scoring drive. They managed the clock well with a lot of work along the sidelines, and then Zach Ertz snuck one over the goal line to put Philly in a commanding spot at halftime.

Still, plenty to clean up in the second half. It may not impact the result, but it would be nice for the Eagles to use this game to get some momentum rolling on both sides of the ball heading into a tough stretch of the schedule on the road.

The Ugly

• Excuse all the screaming in this video (feel free to turn the sound off to avoid it) but there's a good look of the unnecessary roughness penalty Derek Barnett picked up on Gerry's pick-six. Watch the right side of the screen around :12 in.

It looks like a clear retaliation, and it's just an absolute bonehead play. The officials ruled that it came after the touchdown, but the tape shows they could have easily called this one back because Barnett dove at a lineman's knees who had no chance to make a play.

There are way too many of these piling up for Barnett.

• Did the NFL make the "correct" call on the play Doug Pederson challenge on the grounds of pass interference? I think so, yes. The ball appeared to be in Wentz's hands when Agholor was interfered with, putting it in the illegal contact category, which can't be overturned on replay.

Does the NFL's replay system make absolutely any sense? Of course not, no. If you can see a penalty happen clearly on replay that should have been made in real-time, and the penalty has an impact on the play you're reviewing, a sane person (or rulebook) would change the ruling on the play. But we don't live in a sane world.


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