Trending Up? Eagles Move Ball at Will, Allow Zero TDs Against Panthers

Trending Up? Eagles Move Ball at Will, Allow Zero TDs Against Panthers

It’s only preseason, and believe me, the Eagles still have plenty of kinks to work out. A pair of turnovers cost the offense an opportunity to jump all over the opponent early, an opponent that may have left the defense off the hook a few times due to their own inefficiency.

When the gun sounded though, Chip Kelly had his first win as an NFL head coach – unofficially of course. While the Birds gave some points away, they were able to move the ball up and down the field with ease, and what they did manage to score was enough for a defense that ultimately did not allow the Carolina Panthers to cross the goal line once. After a very encouraging first half, the backups were able to come in and salt away a 14-9 victory.

Where Thursday’s game was a major departure from the Eagles’ first exhibition last week was defensively. The Patriots may have been able to march right down the field on their opening two possessions, but the Panthers had no such luck, punting the first couple times they saw the ball. That set up Nick Foles to get off to a fast start, and he was looking good dinking and dunking his way down the field.

The second-year quarterback was having some trouble handling the shotgun snaps on his first series however, which would eventually result in a turnover. Foles bobbled another Jason Kelce delivery at Carolina’s 8-yard line, and before he could recover and go through his progressions, the rush was on. He tried to throw the ball away out of the back of the end zone, but couldn’t get enough on it with Greg Hardy draped around his body, his attempt snared by Josh Thomas in the back of the end zone.

Foles shook off the mistake on his second try, leading the Eagles on a five-play scoring drive. He ran the ball in himself on a seven-yard keeper, beating stud linebacker Luke Kuechly to the perimeter.

Vick was up next, and in the midst of moving the offense down the field for another shot at six. This time it was running back Chris Polk – not one of the QBs – with the costly mistake. Polk was stripped by Thomas Davis on an inside run, and Charles Johnson dove on the loose pigskin for the Panthers.

Like Foles before him, Vick was undaunted as well. He got the Eagles right back on the move, first through the air, then with his legs. The 10-year veteran stayed on the attack, setting up LeSean McCoy for an easy one-yard waltz into the end zone.

Foles finished 6-for-8 for 53 yards and the pick, and ran twice for 13 and the TD. Vick was nearly perfect, going 9-for-10 for 105 yards, plus two carries for 20. He did toss an interception on the final play of the half, a hopeless heave as time expired – no harm, no foul. It’s beginning to become clear the latter is the front-runner for the job, although both players have looked more than capable.

In the meantime, the first-team defense had held Carolina to a pair of field goals, and the second string limited them to just one more. For the game, the Panthers managed less than 300 yards from scrimmage. Also telling, they were 4-for-14 on third downs, which means the Birds’ D was getting off the field. Cam Newton undoubtedly missed a few throws, and his offensive line didn’t always hold up in protection, but it was a strong rebound considering where defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ unit was a week ago.

Then again, as we stated heading into the game, the Carolina Panthers are not exactly the New England Patriots.

We’ll get into more in-depth evaluations in the coming days, but on the whole it was a positive experience from almost every angle. We should probably give props to the special teams as well, as they’ve been nothing short of superb through two preseason games. Looking forward to going over this game tape a lot more than last week’s, that’s for sure.

>> BOX SCORE [ESPN]

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until October 6 if not October 8, the final exhibition game. 

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

The way Carson Wentz is playing, we may have to make this a regular feature.

Generally, when an Eagles quarterback plays lights out, we pull out the [Insert Name Here] By the Numbers.

We did it for Nick Foles after his seven-touchdown game against the Raiders, we did it for Sam Bradford a couple times late last year, we did it for Michael Vick a couple times during his hot 2010 season.

With Wentz? This might have to happen every week.

He's been that good.

So here is this week's Carson Wentz By the Numbers. Don't be surprised if you see it again very soon.

• Wentz is the first rookie in NFL history to have a game in which he completed 74 percent of his passes with 300 yards, two or more touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also only the fourth Eagle to have such a game. Randall Cunningham did it against the Giants in 1988, Donovan did it four times (in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007) and Nick Foles did it against the Raiders with his historic seven-TD game in 2013.

• Wentz is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more passes with no interceptions in each of his first three career games.

• Wentz’s 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles was the longest touchdown pass by an Eagles rookie since John Reaves' 77-yarder to Harold Carmichael against the Giants at Yankee Stadium in 1972.

• Wentz is only the second quarterback in NFL history to be 3-0 three games into his rookie year. The other one is former Eagle and current Cowboy Mark Sanchez, who opened his career in 2009 with wins over the Texans, Patriots and Titans. Sanchez then lost six of his next seven starts.

• Wentz is the fourth quarterback to win his first three NFL starts (not necessarily as rookies). That list includes Wentz, Sanchez, 35-year-old Dieter Brock of the Rams in 1985 (who had played a decade in the CFL) and Marc Bulger of the Rams in 2002 (in his third NFL season).

• Among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes in their career, Wentz now has the second-highest passer rating in NFL history at 103.8. He trails only Aaron Rodgers’ 104.0 figure. The only other quarterback over 100 is Russell Wilson, at 101.1.

• Wentz’s 125.9 passer rating Sunday against the Steelers is highest ever by an Eagles rookie. The previous high was A.J. Feeley’s 114.0 mark against Tampa in 2001. But Feeley didn’t start that game. So the previous high by a rookie Eagles starter was John Reaves’ 105.7 rating against the Browns in 1972.

• Wentz has already tied Mike Boryla’s franchise record for most wins by a rookie quarterback. Boryla won three games in 1974. Since then, Eagles rookie quarterbacks were a combined 5-21.  

• Wentz’s 102 pass attempts without an interception are the most in NFL history by a rookie in his first three games. Second-most are Dak Prescott’s current streak of 99 attempts. The record before Wentz and Prescott came along was 86 by Chad Hutchinson of the Cowboys in 2002.

• It was widely reported that Wentz had broken the NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception to begin a career at 102. But he actually has the second-longest streak. Tom Brady began his career with 147 attempts without an interception before getting picked off by safety Eric Brown of the Broncos in his seventh career game.  

• Wentz's 103.8 passer rating is third-highest in NFL history by a quarterback three games into his rookie year. His trails only Greg Cook of the Bengals (111.9 in 1969) and Marcus Mariota of the Titans (110.3 last year). Robert Griffin III (103.5 with the Redskins in 2012) and Jacky Lee (102.5 with the Oilers in 1960) are the only other quarterbacks over 100 after Week 3 of their rookie season (based on a minimum of 50 attempts).

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!