The Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) soundly defeated the Arizona Cardinals (2-3) by the final score of 34-7 on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz had a career day, the Eagles defense had an excellent game and Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson put together another great game plan for today’s game against Arizona.
1. Carson Wentz continues to have a good season, sets a career high
Quarterback Carson Wentz tossed an almost perfect game against the Arizona Cardinals, throwing for 304 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. The four touchdowns was a career high for touchdowns in a game by Wentz.
Wentz and the rest of the offense got off to a fast start by scoring touchdowns on each of their first three drives. He connected early with two of his tight ends, first it was a 15-yard touchdown pass to Trey Burton and then on the next drive it was his favorite target, Zach Ertz, on an 11-yard touchdown pass. Wentz’s final two touchdowns on the day came on beautiful deep balls to Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor (more on those to come).
With once again another good performance from Wentz, his stats on the season are up to 1,362 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Wentz has clearly taken a big step up in his second season, and the Eagles are looking for him to continue to improve throughout the rest of the season.
2. Carson Wentz has found his accuracy on deep throws?
Deep ball accuracy is something that all quarterbacks struggle to master, and Wentz was no different. Through the first three weeks of the season, Wentz struggled to connect with his receivers on deep passes, but the past two weeks have been much different.
In the Eagles’ week four victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, Wentz began to show improvement in his deep accuracy. In the first quarter, he connected with receiver Nelson Agholor on a 36-yard completion that set up an 8-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery. On a drive in the third quarter, Wentz connected with tight end Zach Ertz on a 38-yard pass. Wentz’s improved deep ball accuracy continued into today’s game against the Cardinals.
Two of Wentz’s touchdown passes came on deep plays, and one came on a crucial third down late in the game. In the first quarter, Wentz found Torrey Smith for a 59-yard touchdown that increased the Eagles’ lead to 21-0. Then on a drive in the second half, the Eagles were trying to put the Cardinals away, and Wentz was able to do that by making a 72-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor (who made some moves to get past Cardinals safety Budda Baker and into the endzone) on a crucial third down.
Wentz still hasn’t perfected his accuracy on deep throws, but if he continues to improve like he has over the past two weeks it will result in one more thing that opposing defenses have to worry about.
3. Nelson Agholor has found himself in his third year in the NFL
After two years filled with mental errors and dropped passes, Nelson Agholor finally seems to have found himself in his third year in the NFL. When the Eagles drafted Agholor in the first round back in 2015, they were expecting someone who could blow the top off of a defense, and Agholor is finally doing that for Philadelphia.
Agholor once again was on the receiving end of an explosive deep pass from quarterback Carson Wentz, this time it was a 72-yard catch and run touchdown that sealed the game for Philadelphia. Agholor totaled 93 yards and a touchdown on four catches in the Birds’ win over the Cardinals, and his big play ability continues to show itself this season.
Agholor has totaled 16 catches for 266 yards and three touchdowns thus far in 2017. His yards per catch are currently at an explosive 16.6, and the Eagles would love it if he could continue this throughout the season.
4. Eagles’ defense did an excellent job shutting down Cardinals’ high powered offense
The Arizona Cardinals run an offense that is centered around big plays and protecting their quarterback Carson Palmer. The Eagles defense struggled this season to prevent big plays, and their secondary is banged up. However, the Eagles’ defense was still able to do an excellent job of shutting down the Cardinals offense, specifically the big plays that the Cardinals often achieve.
Philadelphia held Carson Palmer to under 300 yards, and more importantly to a meager 6.6 yards per attempt. The longest completion that they gave up was for 28 yards to JJ Nelson. One of the reasons for this was that the Eagles were able to constantly apply pressure on Palmer. The Cardinals’ offensive line is one of the worst in the league, and the Eagles simply took advantage of that to sack Palmer two times and register seven quarterback hits.
In the weakened Eagles secondary, cornerback Patrick Robinson was the standout performer in today’s game. Robinson almost came away with two interceptions, and he finished with five tackles and three passes defensed.
5. Head coach Doug Pederson continues to commit to the run game, calls another balanced game plan
Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson has made excellent adjustments as the season has gone along, with none better than his commitment to the run game. Ever since the Eagles only ran the ball 17 times in their week two loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Pederson has utilized the ground game to great effect.
Over the past three weeks, the Eagles have ran the ball a combined 114 times and all three of those games resulted in wins. The Eagles possess LeGarrette Blount, a running back who often needs a lot of touches to get into a rhythm. While the Eagles do use a running back by committee, Blount has received a good amount of touches over the past three games. The more that the Eagles’ running backs get the ball, the more that they produce.
Over the past three weeks, Philadelphia has possessed one of the NFL’s best running attacks, and they have committed to it for 114 carries, 529 yards, three touchdowns and a 4.64 yards per carry. It was extremely interesting to see their run game go up against a stout Arizona front seven, and the Eagles slowly but surely ran the ball well. LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 74 yards on 14 carries for a 5.3 average.
One of the results of the improved Eagles run game has been the loss of the need to rely on the arm of Carson Wentz. Wentz threw the ball over 600 times in his rookie season, and the trend continued for the first two weeks until the Eagles run game got into a roll and head coach Doug Pederson began to commit to it. Over the past three weeks, the run pass ratio has been 114 to 92.
6. Keys to the Eagles offensive success
High time of possession and being able to convert on third downs are two things that good offenses are able to do. So far in 2017, the Eagles offense has been among the best in both categories. Going into Sunday’s game against Arizona, the Birds ranked first in time of possession at 35:29 per game, and second in third down conversion percentage at 51 percent.
In Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles continued where they had left off in these categories. The team logged 35:47 time of possession while going 9 of 14, 64 percent, on third downs. These two go hand in hand, as often long drives will require a team to convert on third downs. The Eagles are excellent at both of these statistical categories, and that is a major reason why they are sitting at 4-1 through five games.
7. Welcome back Kenjon Barner
When Darren Sproles tore his ACL and broke his arm on the same play in the Eagles’ week three win over the New York Giants, many thought that the Eagles special teams would take a big hit. Well, Kenjon Barner is attempting to prove otherwise.
The Eagles brought Barner back in on a one-year contract on September 26, and it didn’t take him long to make an impact. Barner totaled 95 yards between two punt returns in the first quarter of the Eagles win over the Cardinals. Barner also turned five carries into 23 yards. For at least one week, Barner was able to make Eagles fans forget that they were without Sproles for the rest of the season.
The Eagles have a short week before they visit the Carolina Panthers, who also moved to 4-1 with their 27-24 win over the Detroit Lions, on Thursday night at 8 p.m.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Hunter Martin of www.philadelphiaeagles.com