November 05, 2017
Nobody in the NFL is playing better football than the Philadelphia Eagles, and they cruise into their bye week in complete control of their destiny. Sitting at 8-1 following a 51-23 victory over the Denver Broncos, the Eagles have every right to believe they are the team to beat right now. Not in their division ... not in their conference ... but leaguewide.
• The Broncos entered this week's game against the Eagles as the No. 2 run defense in the league, and their unit was neck-and-neck with Philadelphia's top-ranked unit. Doug Pederson's boys cared not for the rankings and imposed their will on the Broncos throughout the game.
Perhaps you saw in this game why Howie Roseman wanted to get more weapons in the backfield for the winter months. The increased competition for playing time brought the best out of everyone on Sunday, including Corey Clement, who had the most impactful game of his young career against the Broncos, even as he faces the prospect of losing playing time to an incoming No. 1 running back. He picked up his third touchdown of the game with time winding down, putting an exclamation point on Philadelphia's afternoon.
That reflects well on both Clement and the coaching staff for maximizing his influence despite the crowded picture. Pederson gets a little something different from all the guys he puts out there, and that's really the point of the setup. When the weather gets cold and it's harder for Wentz to air it out, they need to be able to grind out yards against the league's best teams.
If they can gash Denver for 198 yards on the ground, they are built to do it against anybody.
• A lot of coaches would have been content to settle for a field goal up 31-9, even if they had a fourth-and-one opportunity in their opponent's red zone. A lot of coaches are not Doug Pederson.
While fans ultimately live and die based on the results, I love the process behind going for it on any opportunity that makes sense. NFL coaches are too often paralyzed by a fear of failure and end up leaving points on the board. But after Carson Wentz completed a pass to Nelson Agholor to extend the drive, the coach's decision paid dividends, and the Eagles punched it in on the very next play.
Doug goes for it on 4th-and-1 and Agholor hauls in reception to move the chains, Clement then takes the option pitch from Wentz for the TD pic.twitter.com/Q2YfwFq88a— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) November 5, 2017
Later in the game, with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Pederson went for it on another fourth down, and he had Foles chuck it deep to Nelson Agholor for a first down in Denver territory. That one may have been overkill, but it underlines that his mentality is the same from minute one until the clock hits zero.
Frankly, this is what the Chip Kelly era should have been like. Philadelphia was sold a vision of a man who would push the tempo on offense to breakneck speeds, go for two-point conversions, and not be fearful of falling short on fourth down. As it turns out, they needed to wait until Pederson showed up to get the guy they thought they were getting years ago.
We don't know how Pederson's tenure is going to play out, but the belief system that motivates his decisionmaking is sound, and his reputation as a leader has always been a strength. Remember this when one of these decisions backfires in a big game — they will, it won't always be this easy — because more often than not, that mentality is pushing Philadelphia to victories.
• Carson Wentz is the MVP of the National Football League through nine weeks of play. At this point, I do not think it's something that's even worth debating anymore.
The numbers in terms of raw yardage are not always very impressive, and that was the case again on Sunday. But when an offense is scoring with this sort of ruthless efficiency whether they're starting on a short field or from their own 20, that speaks highly of the man behind center. This sort of number is not reached by accident:
Carson Wentz: 23 pass TD, the most thru 1st 9 games of season by QB under age-25 since Dan Marino in 1984 (27)— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) November 5, 2017
You see a little something different from Wentz every week. Against Denver, it was solidifying his connection with Alshon Jeffery, which is one he will need. The games are going to tighten up here soon enough, and Wentz has to feel comfortable tossing it up to the big man and letting him make a play.
Or not, if plays like this continue to happen:
Wentz to Alshon again. 44-9 lmao pic.twitter.com/PhxTfA1sEP— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) November 5, 2017
Bottom line: Philadelphia's success on offense all starts with Wentz and the coach behind him, and they deserve every bit of praise coming their way. Now they get a bye week to recharge and refocus on playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs. We keep hearing about how Philadelphia hasn't played anyone and how they can't keep performing like this. Maybe the truth is they have a quarterback and a team who make it look shockingly easy every week, because they just made one of the league's best defenses look like a junior varsity squad.
• Nobody takes more grief when they're underperforming than the offensive line does, so they deserve just as much credit today as they do blame when it goes wrong. Everyone braced for the worst when Jason Peters went down with a knee injury, and rightfully so. But even without the potential Hall of Famer, this unit is bullying teams in the trenches.
The less you're worried about these guys, the better, and there wasn't more than a play or two Sunday where you thought, "Man, that guy really blew his assignment." Wentz is going to be buying these guys some extra nice gifts for Christmas at this rate.
• Any time you're beating an opposing team so badly that Nick Foles comes in with over nine minutes remaining and it's not because of an injury, you're having yourself a damn good day.
• Do we need to start a dialogue about Jake Elliot's extra points? The kid has been money from distance this season, but he has had some genuine difficulty with the extra points in recent weeks, missing three extra points in his last two games.
In blowouts against the Broncos and 49ers, this stuff doesn't really matter. But that can't happen when the playoffs roll around, and they need to clean this up before it becomes a weekly thing.
• For anyone out there trying to take credit away from Wentz and putting it on the structure around him, here was the reaction to Nick Foles' first series, which ended with a strip sack for a touchdown:
PUT WENTZ BACK IN, FAM— Roy Burton (@TheBSLine) November 5, 2017
Put Wentz back in— yay ajaji (@Southern_Philly) November 5, 2017
Foles might actually be bad enough to blow this lead— Ⓛⓞⓖ Ⓞⓕⓕ (@log__off) November 5, 2017
I know Von Miller was offsides but Foles looked like a log on the pocket.— Doug Pederstan (@EaglesHighlight) November 5, 2017
Yes, Von Miller was very offsides on that strip sack, and yes, a lot of that is tongue in cheek, but that one fluke season from Foles continues to be more perplexing by the day. Let's hope that fourth-down conversion throw he made later in the fourth quarter is the extent of his highlight reel from this season. Keep Wentz healthy, and keep Foles on the bench.
• Lane Johnson went down on one knee early in the half, and though he was able to walk off the field under his own power, seeing Johnson banged up is the absolute last thing Eagles fans want to see right now.
The good news: Johnson came back out on the next offensive possession for the Eagles, and by all accounts is doing okay. But I'm not even sure that was necessary today, with the game in hand, and hopefully, there are no lingering issues for Johnson as a result. Thankfully, the Eagles have a bye week to get him right regardless.
There were a few too many Eagles injury scares on Sunday. Tim Jernigan hit the turf midway through the third quarter, and it is instinctively Philadelphian to assume everyone is going to be lost for the season as soon as one of their players goes down. But Jernigan flashed his shiny gold grill as he trotted to the sideline, and everything seems to be okay health-wise.
Just stay healthy, everybody. The potential of this team would be a terrible thing to waste.