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October 08, 2017

First half observations: Eagles 21, Cardinals 7

Eagles NFL

The Eagles put on a dominant performance in the opening 30 minutes against the Arizona Cardinals, opening up a 21-7 lead that felt like it could have been larger. Doug Pederson and his crew will be happy in the locker room after that performance.

The Good

•  Carson Wentz had an up-and-down first series behind center, which started with his first throw being batted down at the line of scrimmage. But the young QB came up with a couple huge throws to make consecutive third-down conversions, hooking up with Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery on slant routes.

The Eagles attacked the middle of the field on their first series, and it paid off for them at the conclusion of the drive. Trey Burton got a good release at the line of scrimmage, and all Wentz had to do was loft him a pass on his way to six points.

Everybody in the stadium saw this one open up, including Torrey Smith, who raised his arms in triumph before the ball even reached Burton's hands.

•  All things being equal, the Eagles would love to still have Darren Sproles in the fold, doing his jack-of-all-trades thing. But when Kenjon Barner is doing stuff like this, Sproles' absence isn't as noticeable:

Barner was just as good in the run game, taking advantage of the Wendell Smallwood-sized hole in the backfield. He nearly converted a first down on a 3rd-and-19 run in the second quarter, making a tremendous individual effort that fell just short of the sticks.

Chip Kelly's #DuckBias had a negative impact on the franchise as a whole, but it did help bring Barner into the Eagles' orbit, so it wasn't a total loss.

•  "This is going to be Zach Ertz's breakout year!" was basically a running joke heading into this season. Every offseason, it felt like we were promised big things from the young tight end, only for Ertz to remain at or around the same level he's always been at.

It's no longer a laughing matter. Ertz has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL this season, and his chemistry with his quarterback could not be more obvious. Wentz has made a habit out of looking for him when times get tough, and this first-quarter touchdown is no different.

•  Torrey Smith finally hauled in a deep ball! Thanks to some great protection from the offensive line, Carson Wentz had enough time to uncork this throw to Smith, whose speed took care of the rest.

Pederson has to be thrilled to see this, because Wentz and Smith were within inches of touchdown plays several times during the first four weeks, only for an overthrow or a drop to derail the play. This is what they brought Smith in to do, and it will help silence the critics for at least one week.

Plus, we could all use more celebrations like these:

•  Timmy Jernigan is a badass. That's about all that needs to be said.

The Bad

•  Sometimes, the stats don't tell the whole story. Other times, the Eagles offense stalls every time Chance Warmack is on the field.

The rotation at guard feels like a self-inflicted wound at this point, and it is apparent to pretty much everyone that the offense is worse off when Warmack is up in the rotation.

If it's that obvious to the people covering the team and the fans at home, the coaching staff has to realize this too. The charade needs to end.

•  Wentz can't turn the ball over to close out the half, period. The worst part of the interception he threw in the end zone is that it came one play after he almost threw another pick, which mercifully bounced off the hands of Patrick Peterson. That near miss should have been a wake-up call for Wentz, who had all the motivation in the world to play ball-control offense at that point in the half.

On the whole, Wentz had a very good half. But mistakes like these remind you of his youth and the gunslinger mentality that can get him into trouble. He needs to be smarter here, and he has to prioritize coming away with at least a field goal in that situation. Get the score to 24-7 at the half, and go for the kill when you get the ball to start the third quarter.

Wentz owes a beer or two to the special teams unit for blocking Arizona's field-goal attempt and bailing him out. 

The Ugly

•  Pretty much the entire half for Arizona. They were bad in all three phases of the game, and the sad part is things could have gone even worse for them. Philadelphia came within inches of blocking a couple punts in the first half, and that was despite Arizona taking a holding penalty on the team's second punt of the game. If you're so out of whack that cheating can't save you from failing, you've got some real issues.

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