GREEN BAY, Wis. - This is the Philadelphia Eagles we've been waiting for all year. The team that no matter how bad things are going finds a way to win.
It's been a while.
The Eagles, on a short week, decimated by injuries, went into Lambeau Field and beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 34-27 to even their record at 2-2.
Thanks to a tremendous running attack, some brilliant late defense and typical efficiency from Carson Wentz.
Let's get right to our 10 instant observations.
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1. Say what you want about Jim Schwartz. Say what you want about all the yards and points the Packers piled up. When it came down to two goal-line stands, the Eagles found a way. In the final minutes, they stopped the Packers with a 1st-and-goal at the 1 and then stopped them in the final seconds with a 2nd-and-goal at the 3. The Packers had 491 yards from scrimmage and Rodgers threw for 422 yards - it was kind of like the Super Bowl. Against a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the Eagles gave up a ton of yards and points and were reeling defensively the entire game. Tremendous win. Two tremendous goal-line stands. Forget the stats. When they absolutely, positively, had to have a stop, they got a stop. And another one.
2. I loved the concept of Doug Pederson's gameplan - to run the ball early and often, try to control the clock and wear down the Packers, and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. I think it gave the Eagles the best chance to win a game in a very loud stadium, a very difficult stadium to play in. Pederson found a terrific balance with Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, and it seemed to keep the Packers off balance. Sanders and Howard combined for 159 rushing yards on 26 carries and the Eagles netted 176 rushing yards in all. It was the first time since 2016 the Eagles have had two RBs with at least 70 yards (it was Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood against the Falcons). Attacking with an authoritative running game and keeping Rodgers off the field as much as possible was the only way the Eagles were going to stay in the game. Pederson spent enough years in Green Bay to understand the challenge of coming in here, and the gameplan was perfect.
3. The Packers were dominating every aspect of this football game early in the second quarter. They led 10-0, they had outgained the Eagles 200-85, and it sure looked like we were about to see a blowout. The Eagles weren't even competitive. Then Sanders took Mason Crosby's kickoff and plowed down the right sideline 67 yards to give the Eagles some life and a 1st down at the Packers' 34. Five plays later, Wentz's TD pass to Alshon Jeffery started the Eagles on a 21-point second quarter that may have salvaged their season. After that kickoff, the Eagles outscored the Packers 34-17.
4. The Eagles really have some serious cornerback problems, and it's not just that they're struggling, now it's that they're really banged up. With Ronald Darby already out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, Sidney Jones leaving the game early with a hamtring injury and Avonte Maddox suffering a very serious-looking injury in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, the Eagles finished the game with only Rasul Douglas and Craig James, who was on the practice squad two weeks ago. Jalen Mills isn't eligible to return until after the Vikings game. It's a real issue. So is Jones, who missed his rookie year with one injury (which pre-dated the draft), missed seven games last year and is now out for who knows how long. Second-round pick, and he can't stay healthy. Very concerning.
5. It was really encouraging to see both Sanders and Howard becoming integral parts of the receiving game. That's something the Eagles really haven't had since 2016, Darren Sproles' last full healthy season here. Neither Sanders nor Howard has much of a history as a receiver, and the Eagles spent a ton of time this preseason trying to increase their comfort level in the passing game. Last week Sanders had two catches for 73 yards, and Thursday night Howard had three catches, including a 20-yard TD. This offense really can't work at peak efficiency unless every eligible receiver can catch the football, and if Howard and Sanders can continue making plays in the passing game, it's going to be huge.
6. Sanders really looks like a stud. He followed his big game against the Lions - 126 yards from scrimmage - with a very productive 11-for-72 rushing Thursday night. He ran more decisively than he has been and looked faster and more confident. This kid is going to be very good.
7. So much for that nonsense about Wentz not being able to beat a good team on the road. Whatever myth you want to dispel. He was exceptional in a building that eats quarterbacks alive. He only threw 27 times but threw three TDs and no interceptions and really played mistake-free football in a very challenging environment. He's the first opposing QB with three or more TDs and no INTs at Lambeau since … Sam Bradford of the Vikings in 2016.
8. There was no immediate word from the Eagles about Maddox, but it was a very scary, very upsetting scene in the final minute of the fourth quarter as he was tended to by doctors from both teams for several minutes on the field and then taken off the field on a stretcher after getting hit in the head by teammate Andrew Sendejo. Earlier in the night, we saw Packers running back Jamaal Williams taken off on a stretcher after he was cheap-shotted by Derek Barnett. Whether you're an Eagles fan or a Packers fan, keep those guys in your thoughts. Some things are bigger than football.
9. One thing the Eagles have done consistently well this year is stop the run, and they did it again Thursday night, limiting the Packers to 77 yards rushing and a 3.9 average. The Packers didn't have a run longer than 14 yards, and the Eagles have allowed only eight runs all year longer than five yards - only two of 15 yards or more. Fletcher Cox is such a big part of that. And it's remarkable that after limping badly off the field on the Packers' final drive, he missed just one play. He was a lot more active than he has been, and the Eagles needed every bit of it.
10. To put this offensive performance in perspective: The Eagles are the first opposing team since the Falcons in 2014 to come into Lambeau and score at least 34 points. The Packers had allowed only 35 all year before Thursday night. Even with the injuries, the lack of consistency, the drops, the turnovers, the Eagles are averaging 28 points per game.
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