In the biggest game of the year, the Eagles came through with crucial performances on both sides of the ball. The offense was efficient, the defense was stout, and it resulted in a full-team victory against a dynamic Dallas Cowboys team at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. In this piece, I want to focus on the offense and what stood out the most in the performance.
I thought Carson Wentz, first of all, was outstanding. Wentz stood out in what many had deemed to be the biggest game of his still-young career. No. 11 completed 31-of-40 passes for 313 yards. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 30 passes in three straight games with no interceptions. That statistic speaks to the way Wentz is executing the offense and not forcing the issue despite the fact that he is missing so many key pieces and that all three of those games have come against division rivals in "must-win" situations. It was an outstanding game plan from Doug Pederson and the coaching staff, and Wentz executed it to near perfection.
One benefactor of that game plan was tight end Dallas Goedert, who stepped up in a major way after the injury to Zach Ertz early in the first quarter. Goedert led the Eagles with a career-high in both catches (9) and yards (91), and his touchdown in the first quarter gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead and a commanding presence in this game that they never relinquished.
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What I love about that touchdown is that it was a culmination of a year's worth of work from the Eagles' coaches on offense.
If you go back to last year's heartbreaking overtime loss in Dallas, Goedert had an outstanding performance in that contest as well. He caught a touchdown on the exact same route in the same area of the field. That in itself is pretty cool, but my favorite part is the pump fake before the throw.
Wentz fakes the throw to the left, pretending to throw the quick screen pass to Greg Ward, before coming back to the stick nod route from Goedert. The Eagles hit the quick screen last year against the Cowboys for a touchdown to Alshon Jeffery in the same area of the field.
The Eagles teed up Sunday's scoring throw to Goedert by faking ANOTHER play that they scored a touchdown against in that same game. This was awesome to see. The Eagles' coaching staff stayed one step ahead of the Dallas defense.
The other big piece of the Eagles' offense in this game was rookie running back Miles Sanders. The second-round pick racked up 156 total yards from scrimmage in the win over Dallas, setting the team record for all-purpose yards by a rookie (1,590). Sanders made an impact as both a runner and as a receiver in this game.
Sanders is looking more and more confident as a ballcarrier, and what stands out most to me is the trust he is showing in his speed. Not everyone naturally has that. You can see on several of the big runs and catches he's had the last few weeks that he gets out into open space and runs away from defenders. That's a great quality to have in a big-play business like the NFL.
Staying in the rookie class, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (foot) was hobbled for a chunk of Sunday's game, but he came up with two big catches on the opening drive that set the team up for points, building a lead that they would never relinquish.
These two grabs for a combined 39 yards were a significant contribution to that opening-drive field goal. On the first play of the game, Arcega-Whiteside hauled in a 27-yard completion off the Dagger concept. Whiteside made an outstanding grab over the middle of the field, contorting his body and reeling in the throw away from his frame. It wasn't a perfect throw, but he came up with the catch. That's what you want from a receiver with his skill set. Arcega-Whiteside is looking more and more confident at the catch point in recent weeks. He has recorded catches of 20-plus yards in four of the team's last six games.
Staying at wide receiver, Greg Ward continues to shine. He is having a breakout second half of the season. He's proven to be reliable, and has improved as a route runner every week he's been on the field.
The Eagles are using Ward vertically, in the screen game, in motions, stacks, bunches, on misdirection plays, in the Wildcat, among other ways. He's catching pretty much everything thrown his way, and some of the little things as a route runner, which you can see in that clip above, are starting to show up more and more. It's been fun to watch him develop in front of our eyes over the last month.
This week's matchup against New York will not be a cakewalk, but the offense has to be feeling confident as it continues to string together efficient performance after efficient performance. Wentz is taking care of the football. The Eagles are converting in the red zone and they're finding ways to manufacture yardage using plays and concepts we didn't see as much of in the first half of the year. They'll need a repeat effort on Sunday against the Giants.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.