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November 05, 2017

First half observations: Eagles 31, Broncos 9

The Eagles had a date with one of the best defenses in the NFL on Sunday. You wouldn't have been able to tell from watching the first half, because Philadelphia's offense absolutely dismantled Denver, and the Eagles head into the locker room with a 31-9 lead and a victory all but locked up. 

The Good

•  Philadelphia's defense came in with a clear game plan: get after the quarterback. Jim Schwartz was content to leave his corners in single coverage with Denver's wideouts, thinking if he got pressure on Brock Osweiler that good things would come their way.

Early on, it looks like a smart play. Osweiler was all over the place from the very first series and nearly gifted the Eagles a pick-six on a throw that bounced off the hands of rookie corner Rasul Douglas. They would go on to force a turnover later in the quarter and have generally made life miserable for Denver's offense up front.

The strategy backfired at times, with Denver picking up some first downs against single coverage. But it was a huge net win overall, and Philadelphia tightened up every time Denver got deep in their territory.

•  A surprise absence for Zach Ertz added a bit of uncertainty for the Eagles' offense. Luckily, the Birds had a couple guys ready to step up and fill the void left by Wentz's No. 1 target.

Wentz's first three throws went to Brent Celek and Trey Burton, and each guy gives the Eagles a little something different in the passing game. Celek is still a bruiser who will run through arm tackles, and Burton provides more flexibility as a tight end you can line up like a receiver. The former is a little more jarring for Eagles fans these days because, for all of Ertz's strengths, he does not shed many defenders in the open field.

This is a grown-man play:

All things being equal, the Eagles want Ertz back. At least they have some capable understudies in the meantime.

•  The touch on Wentz's opening touchdown to Alshon Jeffery was absolutely gorgeous:

Wentz and Jeffery finally look like they're on the same page, and that's a scary prospect for the Eagles. Without getting much out of their No. 1 wideout to start the year, Wentz was still able to put himself in the MVP conversation by spreading the ball around to an assortment of weapons. If he's going to start hitting Jeffery for big plays down the sideline, Philadelphia's offense is going to be nearly impossible to stop.

He clearly feels more confident throwing Jeffery's direction than he did at the beginning of the season. After Jeffery dropped what would have been a first down early in the second quarter, Wentz went back to him again on third down, and his WR came through on his second chance. That trust level looms large during the stretch run toward the playoffs.

•  If the Broncos thought they were going to overcome starting Osweiler at quarterback by running against this Eagles front seven, they severely miscalculated.

•  The march toward a Pro Bowl appearance continues for Patrick Robinson. I don't know what in the world Osweiler saw here, but Robinson made him pay for having the audacity to make the throw.

Robinson's name is coming up week after week, which can sometimes be the last thing you want for a member of the secondary. An anonymous performance means the ball isn't coming your way, often because your coverage is that good. But Robinson keeps popping up on film because the ball is coming his way a good bit, and he's making quarterbacks regret targeting him.

•  Remember when people were questioning whether Doug Pederson was the right coach for this football team? How silly do those conversations look now?

This was a beautifully-designed play for Philadelphia's second touchdown:

Credit to the players for the execution of course, because Brandon Brooks' lead block to get that last bit of yardage was excellent. It just feels like it's past time to give Pederson his due for having this offense humming week after week, even if he does have a franchise quarterback to work with. This unit is putting points on the board against one of the league's best defenses, and that's always worth celebrating.

•  Do any of you ever wake up on Monday morning and think how fortunate you are to have Wentz as the quarterback of your favorite team for the foreseeable future? This throw is freaking ridiculous.

And because we're showing the man behind center so much love, tip your cap to Lane Johnson on this play. He absolutely stood up Von Miller to give Wentz enough time to step into his throw, and the men in the trenches came out ready to rip against a really formidable Denver defense. Throws like these aren't possible without their help, and with Jason Peters on the sideline, they continue to get the job done.

•  Speaking of the offensive line, they made life easy for the new addition on a huge touchdown run. Welcome to Philadelphia, Jay Ajayi.

Look at this hole!

Ajayi was mostly used as a decoy when he was in during his first half as an Eagle, but in just one play he showed why Howie Roseman went out and added another weapon at the trade deadline. This offense is only getting better.

The Bad

•  If there was anything from that half I would call, "bad," I guess it's allowing nine points to an offense helmed by Brock Osweiler? Otherwise, I don't have a whole lot else to offer, because anything other than small flaws at the margins would be nitpicking. This is a really good football team.

The Ugly

•  The Denver Broncos called a timeout on the second play of the game. How the hell does that happen?

•  Vinny Curry left the field limping midway through the second quarter, and fell to the ground in pain as soon as he hit the sideline. The Eagles have a ton of depth along the defensive line, but the unit's ability to keep guys rotating and fresh is a big reason for their success. Hopefully he shakes it off.