David Chang

Wentz, D-Jax and Massive Second Half Power Eagles Over Redskins in Season Opener

A brutal start, a brilliant finish, a flawless quarterback and some huge plays by the oldest guys on the team.

It wasn't exactly the start we all expected, but the bottom line is a 32-27 win for the Eagles over the Redskins and a 1-0 start for the fourth straight year.

Let's get right to our 10 instant observations!

1. It wasn’t a matter of if. It was a matter of when. Carson to DeSean. They’ve talked about it all summer. We’ve seen it at practice. Now it’s a real thing, and oh man, is it beautiful.

It didn’t happen on the first snap of the game like we all kind of were looking for, but it happened eventually and then it happened again, and when nothing else was working, there was Carson Wentz chucking the ball deep to DeSean Jackson.

This was the first time since Norm Snead hit Ben Hawkins twice deep against the Redskins in 1967 that an Eagle QB and WR have connected on two 50-yard TDs in the same game. Incredible.

Oh yeah, and it was the first game they ever played together. Get used to it.

2. If the price of Wentz not playing at all in the preseason was a sluggish first few series, it was worth it. Wentz threw for 41 yards on the Eagles’ first three drives and honestly, he looked terrible. Out of sorts. Uncomfortable in the pocket. Couldn’t get anything down the field.

That first long TD to Jackson seemed to relax him and from that point on it was vintage Wentz. From the fifth drive on? Wentz was almost perfect.

3. How about Wentz on third down? He was 11 for 12 for 197 yards and three touchdowns. That is flat-out brilliant. And a perfect 158.3 third-down passer rating.

4. One of the hallmarks of Jim Schwartz’s defenses since he’s been here has been his ability to adjust and overcome poor starts, and it sure did that Sunday. His group looked overmatched, ill-prepared and just brutal on Washington’s first few drives. The Redskins piled up 17 points and 208 yards on their first three drives and looked unstoppable. Their next six drives? Three points and 49 yards. By then the game was over.

What changed? Really it just seemed like the Eagles calmed down. It started up front, where they finally began to generate some pressure on Case Keenum, but they also began covering and tackling a lot better as well. They seemed to stop pressing and just settled down and made plays.  

5. Jordan Howard had only two carries the first 53 minutes of the game, and I get that Doug Pederson and Mike Groh wanted to get Miles Sanders going, but Howard had a couple nice-looking six-yard runs on back-to-back snaps early in the second quarter when nothing else was working, and that was it until seven minutes left, when he picked up 29 big yards on three straight runs.

Sanders had a couple nice runs and a 21-yard TD called back, but Howard looked fast and powerful. He finished 6 for 44, and he needs more than six carries.

6. I loved that Pederson fourth down call early in the third quarter. That’s the Doug Pederson we saw in 2017. The Eagles were down 20-7 with a 4th-and-1 on their own 34-yard line. That takes some serious guts. That’s the deepest the Eagles have been in their own territory going for it on fourth down in 10 years before the fourth quarter. You fail there, you’re down two touchdowns and the Redskins are already in field goal range with a ton of momentum.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the Eagles absolutely dominated the game after that. That call seemed to really spark both sides of the ball.

7. Even when nothing else was working, the Eagles’ run defense was very good all day. You know the Redskins wanted to run the ball to set up the pass, but the Eagles really shut that down. Derrius Guice was 10 for 18, Chris Thompson 3 for 10 and Adrian Peterson inactive for some reason. The 'Skins finished 13 for 28 rushing. In the second half? They were 3 for minus-3.

The defensive tackle rotation with Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway was very good, and the Eagles gang tackled really well. That was huge because it prevented the Redskins from ever really doing what they wanted to do.

8. Jackson and Darren Sproles both made a huge impact on this game, and they’re two of the oldest at their position in the NFL, and both deserve a ton of credit for everything they do in the background as far as conditioning and taking care of themselves. You can’t come out in the NFL as a 32-year-old wide receiver in your 12th season or a 36-year-old running back in your 15th season and play like this if you’re not completely committed.

We’ve all seen older guys sticking around a year or two too long to cash a few extra paychecks. Sure not the case with these two guys. It’s incredible, but they look as good as ever.

9. Pederson said just last week that he focused on fixing the Eagles’ first quarter issues “every day” during the offseason. And then the Eagles come out so sluggish. The Eagles scored an NFL-low 41 first quarter points last year and led after the first quarter of only four games.

The obvious thing to look at is how little the starters played in the preseason, but this has been a problem since last year began. The Eagles can get away with it against bad teams, and they did on Sunday. But they can’t keep digging that kind of hole for themselves week after week after week. You just can’t get away with it against better teams.

10. It’s not easy to win this way. The Eagles were getting booed off the field when it was 17-0 and again when it was 20-7 at halftime. They were in danger of losing at home to a lightly regarded NFC East rival. The Eagles came into Sunday 11-127 in franchise history when they trailed by 13 points at halftime. They had come back from 17-point deficits only 16 times in franchise history, just three times in the last 25 years.

But they stuck together. That’s all you can do in that situation. You can’t look at the scoreboard, you can’t look at the clock. You stay positive, you keep believing, you don’t question the coaches and you just keep fighting. You do that, anything is possible.

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