These are the kind of games you've seen in the past where the Eagles, who looked overwhelmingly good on paper as 1 p.m. approached, would misfire here, jump offsides there, drop a pass all over, and in the end, well, it would just not be a satisfying afternoon. On Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles took care of business early (in the game) and late (on third downs) and blew apart the Arizona Cardinals 34-7, the team's third consecutive victory.
It was every bit as lopsided as the score indicates, and it was … just … fun! The stadium was rocking. The Eagles came out of the gates with a dominating first quarter that had them, at one point, leading in total yardage 128-17 and on the scoreboard 21-0.
"We've won some close games and I think the next step in the progression is figuring out how to put teams down and then just finish them and I think we did a good job of that today," defensive end Chris Long said. "Our offense has been doing it all, very balanced, and we're all contributing on defense. It's a good feeling. We're 4-1 and we have a long way to go. Winning builds confidence, and we have a lot of confidence right now."
You could just tell the tone of the game from the first drive. The Eagles got a three-and-out on defense as cornerback Jalen Mills made a tackle on a running play to the edge on first down, broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on second down, and broke up a third-down pass intended for J.J. Nelson.
"I felt like we kind of set the whole thing up right there," Mills said. "We had them scouted out and we were on the same page. Then we turned it over to special teams and the offense and they did their jobs, too."
Arizona punted after the three-and-out series and Kenjon Barner returned the kick 19 yards to the Philadelphia 48-yard line and quarterback Carson Wentz put together a tidy 10-play, 54-yard drive the included two third-and-11 conversions and, finally, a lofting pass to the left corner of the end zone that tight end Trey Burton caught with a twisting, leaping effort for a 15-yard score.
The Eagles were off to the races. By the time the quarter ended, Wentz also threw touchdown passes to tight end Zach Ertz (11 yards) - set up by a Barner 76-yard punt return - and wide receiver Torrey Smith (59 yards).
Wentz was remarkable on third downs – at one point he was 8-of-9 for 207 yards and three touchdowns – and the Eagles were able to maintain the lead with a balanced offense as they ran things down in the fourth quarter and eyed a tasty prime-time game on Thursday night in Carolina.
"There isn't much time to celebrate this," Smith said. "We know how to get ready. It starts right away. It's already Tuesday for us, so we have to get our bodies back and focus on Carolina right now."
So what did we learn on Sunday? A few things stood out.
- The team's success on third downs continued in Week 5 as the Eagles converted 9 of 14 of them on Sunday. Wentz was 11-of-12 for 225 yards and three touchdowns on third down. Much of it came out of the passing game, but the Eagles were equal-opportunity slayers on third down in this one.
, showed his explosiveness in the punt game with his two big returns. Jake Elliott nailed two field goals and his four PATs. The kick coverage was tremendous as the Eagles kicked off to the goal line and played coverage on kickoffs. Arizona averaged 18.5 yards on four kickoff returns. Patrick Robinson blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt. Dave Fipp's group keeping on keeping on with strong play.
Arizona's offense was no match for an aggressive Eagles defense that pressured quarterback Carson Palmer, shut down the Cardinals' running game, and showed a funky, and very effective, prevent look on third-and-long situations.
The run game, for a third straight week, delivered. Philadelphia called 27 running plays and gained 111 yards. LeGarrette Blount barreled for 74 yards on 14 carries, including a long of 37 yards. The offense mixed in Barner (five carries, 23 yards) and Corey Clement (seven carries, 17 yards) to keep the Cardinals' defense, which allowed an average of only 88 rushing yards per game before Sunday, off balance.
Wentz continues to grow and grow and grow into an (already) upper-echelon quarterback. He threw touchdown passes on three consecutive passes and ended his day with 21 completions on 30 attempts for 304 yards and his first NFL four-touchdown day. Wentz is unflappable, as we know, and he's better and better with his accuracy, touch, and timing. He's special.
How about a shoutout to the young cornerbacks? Against a fast and explosive group of wide receivers, the cornerbacks more than held their own. Larry Fitzgerald caught only six passes for 51 yards on 10 targets. Mills and Patrick Robinson nearly had interceptions. Rasul Douglas continues to grow as a starter. With Ronald Darby (hopefully) only a couple weeks away from returning after suffering his ankle injury in Week 1, the Eagles have a growing group at the cornerback position.
It was a sweet day, a satisfying win. The Eagles have a quick turnaround and a fantastic matchup against a good Carolina team on Thursday night with some injury question marks. Right tackle Lane Johnson exited on Sunday with a head injury, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox missed his second straight game with a calf injury, and running back Wendell Smallwood was inactive with a knee injury.
Yet the Eagles keep winning and the entire roster is playing a part in the success.
"That's the mark of a great team," tight end Zach Ertz said after he had six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. "We just need to keep it rolling. Everyone is contributing and that feels good. We have a lot of confidence in each other, a lot of belief in what we're doing as a team."
The Eagles defeated the Cardinals, 34-7, at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 5 of the regular season.