LONDON – This one was a backyard brawl, with the backyard spacious Wembley Stadium in London, England, and the brawl against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team desperate for a win. In what the players called a "must-win game," the Eagles rode three Carson Wentz touchdown passes, a defense that had a key takeaway and a late fourth-down stop, and a collective "finish" to beat Jacksonville 24-18 on Sunday. At 4-4, the Eagles head into the bye week feeling like one win makes a world of difference.
"It's a whole lot better to be 4-4 than 3-5," left tackle Jason Peters said. "It just feels different, better. We needed it. We fought and did everything we had to do out there. It was not easy at all."
No, it wasn't. The Eagles turned the football over on their opening two possession, juggled the offensive line all game long, withstood Jacksonville's play-it-safe offense, and – in front of delighted Eagles fans from the Philadelphia region, across the United States, and from around the world gathered as one – got themselves a huge victory.
How did they do it? Let's count the ways, shall we?
- Wentz completed 21 of 30 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns, along with an interception in the back of the end zone. He overcame two giveaways on the first two possessions – the first when the ball squirted loose on a blind-side sack and the second when Wentz stepped up in the pocket and was intercepted in the back of the end zone by cornerback Jalen Ramsey on an attempt for tight end Joshua Perkins. After that, Wentz was lights out. He was efficient, even as the Jaguars mixed up their coverages and their pressure scheme. Wentz was sacked four times, hit a lot, but he was tough in and out of the pocket and he connected on scoring strikes to running back Wendell Smallwood on a gorgeous screen play, to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, and then in the fourth quarter to Zach Ertz from 5 yards out with 9:55 seconds left to play to give the Eagles a 24-15 advantage.
- The offensive line lost right tackle Lane Johnson on the first series when his left knee was rolled on the sack against Wentz. The Eagles will evaluate further and there is no definitive word on his condition. Johnson went out for the remainder of the game and the Eagles also lost Peters for much of the first half as he went through concussion protocol. Halapoulivaati Vaitai played both tackle positions and did a good job. Isaac Seumalo moved from left guard to right tackle for most of the first half and Stefen Wisniewski played both center (with Jason Kelce out for a series in the first quarter) and left guard. The Eagles gained 395 yards and converted 7 of 12 third downs.
"We did what we had to do," Kelce said. "We've got versatile guys and we needed them today. It was tough out there today. We knew it would be against that defense. That's a good defense, very quick and aggressive."
- Led by rookie Josh Adams and his nine carries for 61 yards, the Eagles picked up 133 yards on the ground on 28 attempts.
"We were just looking to spark the offense," said Smallwood, who had 66 yards of offense on 10 touches. "It may not have been pretty, but it was effective."
- Wide receiver Jordan Matthews had four receptions and gained four first downs – gains of 31 yards, 13 yards, 36 yards, and 13 yards – for a total of 93 yards in the passing game. He was huge for Wentz and the offense.
- Defensively, the Eagles mixed things up a lot. They blitzed quarterback Blake Bortles, they played coverage, they showed pressure, and backed off – a little bit of everything. And while the Jags gained 335 yards and Bortles went 24-of-41 for 286 yards and a touchdown, the Eagles sacked Bortles four times, forced a fumble (Avonte Maddox) that led to three points, and stopped Jacksonville on a late-game fourth down to give the ball back to the offense with 3:41 to go at the Jacksonville 48-yard line.
"We wanted to stop the run first and foremost," said Hicks, who led the team with 12 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, and two quarterback hurries. "Having it come down to late in the game and finishing this team, that was important to us. We let a couple of other games get away (at Tennessee and last Sunday against Carolina). We were determined not to let that happen again."
Mission accomplished. The Eagles have a lot of work to do, and they know it. But they also know that the NFC East is wide open and they have a bye week ahead, with Dallas coming to town for a gigantic NFC East game in two Sundays.
The stretch run is going to be fun.
"Whatever it takes to win, that's OK with us," Matthews said. "Today it took all of us. That's the way it should be."