The Philadelphia Eagles (6-1) defeated the division rival Washington Redskins (3-3) on Monday Night Football by the final score of 34-24. Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz headlined the team’s winning effort, and the Eagles now have a strong grasp on the NFC East.
1. Eagles hold a strong grasp on the NFC East, currently hold NFL’s best record
After completing the season sweep of the division rival Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles have a strong grasp on the NFC East. Sitting at 6-1, the Eagles are 2.5 games ahead of both the 3-3 Dallas Cowboys and 3-3 Washington Redskins. Philadelphia holds the tie breaker against the Redskins, and Dallas has the Ezekiel Elliot suspension looming in the coming weeks. The New York Giants are sitting at 1-6 and have zero chance at winning this division.
Sitting at 6-1, the Eagles also are in possession of the best record in the entire NFL. The Eagles have won their past five games and are the league’s hottest team heading into week eight.
2. Carson Wentz continues to dazzle in his second season
Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz put together another fantastic performance in his week seven bout with the Redskins. He totaled 268 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in 25 passing attempts for a 126.3 quarterback rating (QBR). He made all of the throws that he needed to make, including a 64-yard touchdown bomb to Mack Hollins and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Corey Clement. The Clement touchdown pass was special as Wentz was getting hit as he threw, but he was still able to deliver an accurate pass that Clement then caught in the side of the end zone. Wentz also scrambled eight times for 63 yards, including a miraculous 17-yard run that began with him escaping from a slew of Washington defenders.
Thus far in 2017, Wentz’s totals have been MVP caliber. He now leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 17 to go with only four interceptions. He currently is fourth in passing yards with 1,852, and fourth among qualified quarterbacks in passer rating with a 104 rating. If he continues to put up these numbers while leading the Eagles to wins, Wentz very well could end up being this year’s NFL MVP.
3. Eagles’ offense continues to excel on third downs
One of the major reasons for the Eagles’ success thus far in 2017 has been their ability to convert on third downs. The team continued that trend on Monday night, going 6 for 12 (50 percent) on third downs. This ability to extend drives is paramount to the team’s success because it tires out the opposing team’s defense as well as helps the Eagles to run clock. The Eagles currently sit at best in the NFL in third down conversion percentage with 50 percent.
One of the key reasons for the Eagles’ success on third down is the play of their quarterback, Carson Wentz. Wentz’s ability to scramble out of the pocket and extend plays has led to many third down conversions this season, and his ability was showcased by his 17-yard scramble on third down early in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game.
4. After getting off to terrible start, Eagles show adversity in their ability to recover
After the first quarter of Monday night’s game, many fans thought that this would be a long night for the Eagles. They were down 3-0 and the offense hadn’t shown any sign of getting into rhythm. The offense began the game with four straight penalties that backed them up to their own two yard line, and then Wentz threw possibly his worst pass of the season, an interception to Redskins’ cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
Instead of falling apart, the Eagles were able to fight back and eventually take the lead going into halftime. Head coach Doug Pederson emphasized to the Eagles to avoid the rust of having 10 days off since their last game, but the team wasn’t able to do that. Instead, they showed adversity and were able to bounce back after having a terrible, rust-filled first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Birds’ offense began to click. It began by Carson Wentz throwing a beautiful 64-yard touchdown pass to Mack Hollins (the first touchdown of his career). The team ended the first half by executing a six play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz. The Eagles went into halftime with a 17-10 lead and they never looked back from there.
5. Eagles’ defense made crucial adjustments throughout the game
The Eagles’ defense got off to a slow start on Monday night football, but they were able to make important adjustments as the game went along. Washington totaled 190 yards in the first half to go with 10 points, and for the most part they were doing whatever they wanted against the Philadelphia defense. Eagles’ middle linebacker and captain of their defense Jordan Hicks (more on him later in this article) went down with an achilles injury and Washington was using that to their advantage. However, Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz did an excellent job of making the necessary adjustments to stop the Washington offense.
6. Philadelphia’s defensive line continued to make their impact on games
One of the key reasons for the Eagles’ defense being able to put a halt to the success of the Redskins’ offense was the pass rush that was generated by the Eagles’ front four. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked four times and hit ten times, and eventually that took a toll on him as he threw an interception resulting from getting hit as he was throwing the ball. Rookie first round pick Derek Barnett had his breakout game on Monday night, totaling two sacks and two quarterback hits. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox also had a sack, putting him at 3.5 through the five games that he has played so far in 2017.
7. Zach Ertz cements himself as one of the NFL’s top tight ends
Tight end Zach Ertz, a second round pick by the Eagles in 2013, has struggled to meet the high expectations that the team and fans have had for him since he was drafted. He has battled through minor injuries, different head coaches and offensive coordinators and different quarterbacks. However, he seems to have come into his own along with second year quarterback Carson Wentz. In Wentz’s rookie year, he began to develop chemistry with Ertz, as evidenced by Ertz’s 78 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns. This season, the first time that Ertz has had multiple seasons with the same quarterback, their chemistry has taken off. Ertz currently leads all tight ends in receptions (39), receiving yards (494) and touchdowns (5) through seven games. In Monday night’s victory over the Redskins, that chemistry between Wentz and Ertz showed itself once more. Ertz hauled in five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown in the win.
8. Head coach Doug Pederson has really taken strides in his ability to create a game plan
Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson has taken massive strides in his ability to create good game plans from year one to year two. Last season, his first as a head coach, Pederson’s game plan was too unbalanced, with his rookie quarterback Carson Wentz throwing the ball over 600 times. Everyone knew that he had to make major adjustments heading into year two, and through the first two games, nothing had improved. Pederson was still calling too many pass plays, and it got as bad as having LeGarrette Blount not receive a carry in the Eagles week two loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. However, things got much better from there.
Pederson has called a much more balanced offense over the past handful of games, and that has resulted in this Eagles offense reaching new heights. On Monday night, his ability to call a good game plan was seen once again. The Redskins possess a stout defensive front, and they are top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. However, the Washington secondary was banged up and are prone to giving up big plays. As a result, Pederson created a game plan leaning towards throwing the ball and creating big plays. However, he didn’t abandon the run game, he still made attempts to run the ball in order to keep the Redskins defense on edge. Pederson’s game plan was perfect, and it worked as well as can be expected. Wentz was able to make some big plays, but he only threw the ball 25 times. The run game was utilized, especially later in the game, for 25 attempts. If Pederson can continue to create balanced game plans, the Eagles offense should continue to be able to play well.
The Eagles won their sixth game of the year, but it didn’t come without great cost. The Eagles will be without left tackle Jason Peters (torn MCL and ACL) and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (torn achilles) for the season. These losses are critical for the Eagles as both of these players were well respected and extremely talented. It will be interesting to see how the team bounces back from losing two key players for the year.
The 6-1 Philadelphia Eagles will continue to fly high in Philadelphia as they take on the 0-7 San Fransisco 49ers at 1 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on FOX.
Mandatory Photo Credit: John Geliebter/www.philadelphiaeagles.com