Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

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ARLINGTON, Texas — This game had Josh Huff throwing the longest pass of the night by an Eagle, it had the refs calling a holding penalty on Chase Daniel, it had Caleb Sturgis becoming the most accurate kicker in Eagles history and it had the Eagles going overtime at AT&T Stadium for the second time in 11½ months.

And in the end, it had the Cowboys beating the Eagles 29-23 in overtime in a battle for first place in the NFC East (see Instant Replay).

Some good, some bad. Some very bad.

So if you’re still awake ... here’s tonight’s (this morning’s) 10 Instant Observations:

1. It’s astonishing to me what Carson Wentz is able to do without an impact wide receiver, without an effective tight end of late, with a patchwork offensive line and with a running back who turns 34 next summer. Imagine if Wentz had Dak Prescott’s weapons? Wentz is so ridiculously good he transcends the mediocrity around him. After seeing Prescott in person, I don’t think there’s any question who the better rookie is. It’s not even close. Wentz can do so much more with so much less. He completed 74 percent of his passes Sunday night (32 for 43) for 202 yards, a TD and no interceptions. And at least five of the nine incompletions were drops. Imagine if Wentz had just average wide receivers? The kid is special, and once the Eagles surround him with some talent, he’s going to be unstoppable.  

2. The Eagles’ desperate need for a playmaker has never been so glaring as it was Sunday night in Dallas. Wentz can throw the ball down the field, he just has nobody who can get open. And when they do get open, they drop the ball. I’m not big on giving up a draft pick for a guy who might help you for half a dozen games by the time he gets here and learns the playbook, but the Eagles have to consider everything at this point. A trade, Bryce Treggs, re-signing T.O. ... everything. You just can’t play an entire season without throwing the ball down the field.

3. The Eagles had plenty of chances to put this game away, but their play-calling and execution on 2nd-and-short and 3rd-and-short was bad (see Standout Plays). Those are plays you just have to convert, and the Eagles didn’t have the juice to get it done on the handful of key plays that they needed to put Dallas away. This wasn’t Doug Pederson’s finest day as a play-caller. Too much horizontal, not enough vertical. This was a winnable game, but too many mistakes once they took that 10-point lead caught up with them in the second half and overtime. They had chances. A 3rd-and-2 early in the third quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-2 late in the fourth quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-4 where they dropped a pass. You can’t give the Cowboys that many chances, especially here, and the Cowboys showed why they haven’t lost since opening day. They took advantage of the opportunity the Eagles gave them and it got them to 6-1.

4. Caleb Sturgis was not a good kicker in Miami. Made 77.5 percent of his field goals in 2013 and 2014 with the Dolphins, which ranked him 31st of 34 kickers in the NFL who attempted at least 25 field goals during that two-year span. He was also 6-for-13 from 50-plus yards. So Cody Parkey gets hurt early last year, there’s nobody else on the street, and the Eagles sign Sturgis. He misses a 33-yarder on opening day, Chip Kelly decides to keep him around another week, and he goes 4-for-4 the next week against the Saints and winds up 18-for-22. He beats out Parkey this summer and all he’s done this year — after once again missing his first attempt of the season — is go 17-for-17 with three straight 50-yard makes, including Sunday's clutch 55-yarder to give the Eagles the lead just before halftime. Sturgis made 78 percent of his kicks with the Dolphins but is at 87.5 percent with the Eagles, including 5-for-7 from 50 yards and out. Chip could have easily cut Sturgis after that terrible 33-yard miss. But he kept him around, and Sturgis right now is absolute money. Sometimes you just never know.

5. Darren Sproles was nothing less than brilliant Sunday as the surprise lead ball carrier. His 86 rushing yards on 15 carries were the fourth-most in his career and his most in five years, since he had 88 as a Saint against the Colts on Oct. 23, 2011. With fumble-prone Ryan Mathews in mothballs most of the night (4-for-10), Sproles had his second-most carries as an Eagle and fourth-most in his 10-year career. Here’s the thing: I still think 14 carries every week is too much for Sproles. Sproles at 33 is still faster than most backs 10 years younger. He’s such a great Eagle. Just this little guy with so much heart. I just hope the Eagles don’t over use him. The reality is the Eagles don’t have a running back right now under 33 years old that they trust, and that’s not good.

6. I really believe Jordan Hicks is right on the brink of becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber middle linebacker. The ball just seems to find him. Now, you can say his interception was just a terrible pass by Prescott, but he makes the plays when they’re there and that’s all you can ask. Hicks has now jammed three interceptions, four pass knockdowns, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five tackles for loss and a sack into 15 career games. The Eagles haven’t had a big-time middle linebacker since Trott, and Hicks is there right now.

7. I don’t care how many catches Huff does or doesn’t have, he has become such a weapon returning kicks that it doesn’t even matter. Huff followed his huge kickoff return TD last week that jumpstarted the Eagles when the offense was doing nothing against the Vikings with an electrifying 63-yarder against the Cowboys Sunday night. He now has his average up to 28.4 yards per kick return, which is eighth-highest in NFL history among returners with 40 or more career returns. This offense has so little firepower that a kick returner who can gobble up so many yards is huge.

8. Ezekiel Elliott’s final numbers were 22-for-96 (with a 72-yard run called back because of holding), so he didn’t get his fifth consecutive 130-yard game, but against this defense, that was a monumental game for him. I thought the Eagles to a great extent slowed him down, tackled well, were gap-sound, and he still ran for 96 yards. He’s a special player the Eagles are going to have to contend with him for a long, long time.

9. This was the third time in their last four games the Eagles didn’t have an offensive play of 30 yards or more. Their only offensive play longer than 30 yards since Sproles' 73-yard TD catch against the Steelers is Jordan Matthews’ 53-yard catch in the Redskins game. That’s almost impossible to do. The Eagles’ lack of firepower is shocking. They have one play of 30 yards or more in their last 242 offensive snaps. Think about that for a moment. That’s impossible to do. Tough to win when you can’t make a play down the field.

10. How about some props for Halapoulivaati Vaitai? Big V has gotten better in each of his three starts and really hung in there pretty well Sunday night in Dallas. It’s encouraging that he’s progressed each week from that disastrous start in Washington to a functional game against the Vikings and some more good stuff Sunday night. Seven more games for Lane Johnson, and let’s be clear — Vaitai is nowhere close to where Lane was when his suspension finally came down. But Big V has been solid, and he deserves credit for the steady improvement he’s made.

Bonus observation. Prescott’s numbers were ugly, but I was impressed. He was under siege most of the night but rallied the Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter and made some big throws in overtime. Prescott was 14-for-34 for 231 yards in regulation but 5-for-5 for 56 yards and the TD to Jason Witten in overtime. He also ran for 38 yards. I’ll take Wentz any day of the week. But Prescott is impressive.

Eagles Film Review: The play that set up the game-winning field goal

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NFL

Eagles Film Review: The play that set up the game-winning field goal

It's a play the Eagles practice often. And it's a good thing too. Because without it, Jake Elliott doesn't even have a chance to hit a 61-yard field goal and become an instant hero. 

First the Eagles had to get into field goal range. 

So with seven seconds left, the Eagles went to a play they practice every week, a play they even walked through on Saturday. And it worked. Carson Wentz pushed the ball to Alshon Jeffery on the sideline for a 19-yard gain and Jeffery stepped out of bounds with one second left. You know the rest. 

As the Eagles lined up with seven seconds left, they showed a bunch formation to the right side of the field and the Giants called a timeout. After they got back to the line, the Eagles hadn't changed their formation: Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor lined up again on the right side of the field. 

Before and during the timeout, FOX announcer Joe Buck started talking about how the Eagles were in a "Hail Mary situation" and if they weren't they would need to get the ball to around the 37-yard line and that wouldn't be easy. He was close on that second part; they got to the 43. 

"We only had seven seconds," head coach Doug Pederson said, "so we have calculated in a sideline throw can take anywhere from five to six, and we were right on that mark today."

 

At the point of the snap, the Eagles have that trips bunch set to the right. Smith is on the line of scrimmage, while Agholor is nearest to the line and Jeffery is outside. Agholor's job is to simply slow down his man and try to take him out of the play. Smith is Wentz's first progression on this play, taking a step left and running a simple vertical rout. Jeffery is running a deep out. 

While Agholor (green) isn't a likely threat to get the ball on that short route with just a few seconds left, his route forces Eli Apple to at least stay with him a little bit. Apple is rightfully giving 10 yards as a cushion, but the fact that he has to be worried about Agholor at all will be a big deal. 

Jeffery (blue), the second progression on the play, is still about 12 yards from making his cut, but you can already see the pocket of space along the sideline forming as his man continues to backpedal. 

The pocket is open and Wentz is about to make a perfect throw. Apple has peeled off Agholor, but he's going to be just a second late. Same thing goes for Janoris Jenkins, who is covering Jeffery on the play. He starts to drive to where the ball will be, but he's going to end up colliding with Apple as Jeffery makes the grab. 

Before we get back to the completion, here's a look at the protection on the play. With the Giants' rushing just three, Wentz has plenty of time to deliver the throw. Lane Johnson gets pushed back some, but he holds up against Jason Pierre-Paul. 

OK, back to the pass. Wentz didn't have much of a window to fit the ball in here. Apple is driving back and Jenkins is driving forward to the ball. It looks like either one of them will have a chance to knock down the pass. If that happens, the Eagles would probably have a second or two left but would need to resort to a Hail Mary, and the game probably goes to overtime. 

You have to give some credit to Jeffery on the catch. In the first couple games of the season, he struggled to bring down the football in tight coverage, something he's been known for in his career. But here, he's able to come back to the ball just enough to take it before Apple can. Apple's momentum will carry him into Jenkins and allow Jeffery to simply step out of bounds with one second on the clock. 

"I knew seven seconds was definitely pushing it with the route, which I think was 15 yards," Wentz said, "but in those situations you just have to take some chances." 

The Eagles kicked a field goal on the next play and finished off another improbable and crazy win over the Giants. 

Roob Stats: Plenty of non-kicking statistical tidbits from Eagles' win vs. Giants

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USA Today Images

Roob Stats: Plenty of non-kicking statistical tidbits from Eagles' win vs. Giants

We covered Jake Elliott's miracle field goal a couple days ago -- for all the stats regarding his game-winning kick, click here: But there are plenty of fascinating non-kicking statistical tidbits from the Eagles' win over the Giants that you won't find anywhere else! 

• With 31 pass attempts Sunday, Carson Wentz increased his career total to 723. That's the most pass attempts in NFL history by a quarterback in his first 19 games. The previous record was 719 by Andrew Luck. The record for 20 games? It's 754 by both Luck and Drew Bledsoe. So Wentz needs 32 passes against the Chargers for the most attempts through 20 games. I like his odds!
 
• Zach Ertz had eight catches against the Giants, his 10th career game with eight or more catches. That already equals the most in franchise history. Jeremy Maclin and Brian Westbrook also had 10 games with eight catches in an Eagles uniform, although Westbrook did it in 107 games and Maclin in 73. Ertz got there in 64 games.
 
• Ertz already has the 16th-most games in NFL history with eight catches by a tight end, but he's only two out of the top-10. Here's what that list looks like:
 
41 … Tony Gonzalez
33 … Jason Witten
20 … Antonio Gates
20 … Raymond Berry
19 … Shannon Sharpe
17 … Kellen Winslow Sr.
15 … Jimmy Graham
14 … Todd Christensen
13 … Ozzie Newsmen
12 … Jordan Reed
12 … Ben Coates
11 … Rob Gronkowski
11 … Heath Miller
11 … Greg Olsen
11 … Jeremy Shockey
10 … Dallas Clark
10 … Zach Ertz
 
• Ertz increased his career total to 268 catches after the equivalent of four full seasons -- 64 career games. That's the seventh-most catches ever by a tight end after 64 games, behind only Kellen Winslow Sr. (344), Kellen Winslow Jr. (313), Jimmy Graham (310), Rob Gronkowski (302), Antonio Gates (292), who the Eagles will see Sunday, and Mike Ditka (279).
 
• Through three games, the Eagles have scored just 10 points in the first quarter, 16 in the second quarter and 17 in the third quarter. But they rank second (to the Chiefs) with 34 fourth-quarter points -- only nine fewer than they've scored in the first three quarters combined. Similarly, they've allowed just three points in the first quarter, 17 in the second quarter and 10 in the third quarter, but they've given up an NFL-high 38 in the fourth quarter -- eight more than they've allowed in the first three quarters combined. They are only the 10th team in NFL history to both score and allow 34 or more fourth-quarter points in their first three games.
 
• With LeGarrette Blount (12 for 67) and Wendell Smallwood (12 for 71) both averaging 5.5 yards per carry, Sunday's game was the first in 44 years for the Eagles in which two running backs averaged over 5½ yards per carry with at least 12 carries. Last time it happened was Oct. 7, 1973, when Norm Bulaich (13 for 104) averaged 8.0 yards per carry and Tom Sullivan (26 for 155) averaged 6.0 in a 27-26 loss to the Bills at Rich Stadium.
 
• The Eagles haven't allowed a rusher to gain more than 31 yards in their last three Week 3 games. In 2015, the Jets' leading rusher, Bilal Powell, had 31 yards. Last year, the Steelers' leading rusher in Week 3 was DeAngelo Williams with 21 yards. And on Sunday, the Giants had two players with 22 rushing yards.
 
• The Eagles on Sunday became only the 11th team in NFL history to win a game despite allowing 24 or more fourth-quarter points. Teams allowing 24 or more fourth-quarter points are now 11-88-1. The Eagles are the first to win such a game since 2012, when the 49ers beat the Patriots 41-34, despite being outscored 24-10 in the fourth quarter. The most points the Eagles allowed previously in the fourth quarter of a win was 22. They led the Bears 30-0 going into the fourth quarter in 1994 before allowing three Erik Kramer touchdown passes and hanging on to win 30-22.
 
• Corey Clement’s 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter Sunday was the longest by an undrafted Eagles rookie in 62 years. Their last longer TD run by an undrafted rookie was Ted Wegert’s 29-yarder vs. the Steelers on Oct. 30, 1955, at Connie Mack Stadium. Clement's run was also the Eagles' longest fourth-quarter rushing TD since Bryce Brown's 65-yarder against the Bears in 2013 (with the Eagles leading 47-11).
 
• Sunday's game was also the Eagles' first in eight years in which five different players had a double-digit run. On Sunday, Smallwood (20), Blount (20), Clement (15), Wentz (11) and Darren Sproles (11) each had a run of at least 10 yards. Last time five Eagles did that was Sept. 13, 2009, when DeSean Jackson (25), Brian Westbrook (17), Donovan McNabb (15), LeSean McCoy (11) and Leonard Weaver (11) did it against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.
 
• That game against the Panthers was also notable because it was the last time before Sunday in which the Eagles won a game without a pass play of 20 yards. Their longest completion in that win over Carolina was McNabb's 18-yard completion to Jason Avant. Their longest completion Sunday was Wentz's 19-yarder to Alshon Jeffery on the game's final play from scrimmage.
 
• The Eagles are now 6-2 when Wentz doesn't thrown an interception. They're 3-8 when he does.
 
• Rasul Douglas -- at 22 years, 28 days old -- is the youngest Eagle to record an interception in 14 years, since Rod Hood picked off Patrick Ramsey of the Redskins at the Linc on Oct. 5, 2003. Hood was 26 days younger than Douglas at the time. The only other Eagles who've had an interception who are younger than Douglas: Joe Scarpati (21 years, 227 days), Bobby Taylor (21-313) and Seth Joyner (21-363).
 
• The Giants failed to record a rushing touchdown for the eighth straight game at the Linc. Their last rushing touchdown in Philadelphia came in 2009, when Ahmad Bradshaw scored from a yard out with the Eagles up 23 points in the third quarter. In all, the Giants have three rushing touchdowns in their last 15 games against the Eagles.
 
• One final note about Darren Sproles. The 5-foot-6 running back, out for the rest of this season, has 19,155 career all-purpose yards, eighth-most in NFL history. That's 3,366 rushing yards, 4,656 receiving yards, 2,792 punt return yards and 8,350 kickoff yards. (That's 19,164 yards -- he also has nine career lost fumble return yards to get to 19,155). The only player not drafted in the first three rounds with more career yards is former Eagle Brian Mitchell (23,330). Of the 48 players in NFL history with 3,000 or more yards both rushing and receiving, his rushing average of 4.9 is the highest.