We are witnessing history.
The Eagles are starting a rookie quarterback and playing as well as any team in the league. Carson Wentz has thrown more than 100 passes. He has five touchdowns and no interceptions. That has never been done by a rookie before. The Eagles are the No. 2 scoring team in the league. You don't see a rookie putting up points like that.
The Eagles aren't just good on offense. They lead the league in point differential at 65. The next best team is the Patriots who are 36. That's crazy. The Eagles just beat the Steelers by 31 points. No team had done that since 1989. The Steelers were held to just three points. That hadn't happened since 2011.
I've seen the Eagles get off to some good starts in the last 25 years. They were 3-0 back in 2014, but that included some come from behind wins and ugly football. Back in 2004, the team got off to a 7-0 start. As good as that team was, they never won consecutive games by 14 or more points. They didn't beat anyone by 31 points. The 1992 Eagles were the best team in football when they started 4-0. They beat John Elway and the Broncos 30-0 and then dominated Dallas 31-7 in an epic Monday Night Football game. That was a magical first month of the season.
That 2004 group was loaded with Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Jevon Kearse, Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins. The 1992 team had Randall Cunningham, Reggie White, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, Fred Barnett and Keith Byars.
This 2016 team is so hard to figure out. They are playing at a much higher level than anyone anticipated. We need time before we can accurately judge this group. Being 3-0 is good, but football is a marathon and not a sprint. Still, you can't ignore what we saw on Sunday. That was the Pittsburgh Steelers out on the field. There was Carson Wentz shredding that defense. There was Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins dominating a future Hall of Fame quarterback and his high-flying offense.
The eye test can be tricky when evaluating teams or players. It is easy to focus on the result and not what actually happened. That wasn't the case on Sunday. The score was 34-3 and the Eagles truly did dominate the game like that. Every now and then you'll see turnovers and fluke plays produce a score that doesn't tell the whole story. As much fun as the Eagles' win over the Patriots was last year, that was one of those games.
He sure is making a name for himself on and off the football field. You never know where Fletcher Cox will pop up next...
The first thing I look for when re-watching a game is who won the battle up front. The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage. Wentz had a clean pocket, which allowed him time to scan the field and find receivers. The Eagles had six runs that went for 10 or more yards. That is a sign of good blocking and some big holes. The Steelers finished the game with just 29 yards on the ground. They had nowhere to run. Ben Roethlisberger got sacked four times and was hit numerous other times. I was actually surprised Pittsburgh left him in the game as long as it did. Wentz was great on Sunday, but the story of the game was the Eagles' offensive and defensive lines completely dominating the Steelers. You just don't see that very often.
Cox had a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. Bennie Logan had a sack as well. They beat guard David DeCastro on those plays. I mention that because DeCastro has been a Pro Bowl player. This isn't a rookie or backup who got overwhelmed. DeCastro is considered one of the better guards in football and he got repeatedly whipped on Sunday. I am blown away by how well Graham is playing. There used to be so much controversy about him because of constant mentions of Earl Thomas or Jason Pierre-Paul. Forget that stuff now. Graham is just disrupting plays all game long. Teams struggle to run at him. He's stout enough to set the edge. Sometimes he will fire into the backfield and just blow up the blocking. Graham is fast enough to chase run plays that go away from him. He's just as good when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Graham has a sack in each game. Watch him all game long and he will jump out at you. He gets regular pressure. He gets held several times a game. He is playing like a stud defensive lineman right now.
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are the best safety duo in football. I cannot believe the Saints and Rams let those guys walk in free agency. That is nuts. Jenkins is playing the best football of his career and that's saying something. He seems to be everywhere on the field. The Steelers threw a quick screen to a wide receiver and Jenkins was there to make the play. They tried to hit a receiver down the deep middle and Jenkins was there to make the play. They tried to run off-tackle and Jenkins was there to make the play. They tried to hit Antonio Brown on fourth down and Jenkins was there to make the play. Who is this guy, Superman? Wow. McLeod had five tackles, broke up a pass and made an incredible interception of his own. He is flying around the field and hits like a ton of bricks. This is the best Eagles safety duo since Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters were in their prime.
Let's talk about Wentz and the offense. He led the Eagles to 34 points. Check out this stat. In the previous three games against the Steelers, the Eagles had scored a total of 32 points, and that was with McNabb and Michael Vick at quarterback. They aren't exactly bums. Wentz played his best game of the year, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. It could have been even better if Dorial Green-Beckham held onto the beautiful throw from Wentz that would have given the Eagles a 41-yard touchdown pass. The team scored on that possession anyway so the mistake didn't hurt.
There are two plays that really stood out to me. In the first quarter, the Eagles faced third-and-12. Most coaches with a rookie quarterback will run a draw play or screen pass there. They want something safe and if it breaks loose for a first down, that's great. Doug Pederson showed faith in his rookie quarterback. He called a pass play. Wentz dropped back and had great protection. Wentz patiently sat in the pocket and saw Green-Beckham coming open on a deep dig route. Wentz fired a strike to him for a gain of 19 and a first down. Clean pocket. Bullet pass. Crisp route. Smooth catch. Man, that was great third-down offense.
The other play is the one you've seen a million times (or more) already. Wentz hit Sproles for a 73-yard touchdown that broke the game wide open. Any hope the Steelers had of staying in the game went away at that moment. It was soul-crushing and oh, so beautiful.
Wentz dropped back into the pocket. He saw a rusher come free. Wentz didn't panic. He climbed the pocket and then moved out wide. I thought he might try to run up the field, but instead he stayed behind the line of scrimmage and kept moving out wide. That gave him a chance to look for a receiver. Linebacker Ryan Shazier made the fatal mistake of abandoning coverage and coming after Wentz. That left Darren Sproles wide open down the sidelines. Wentz hit him in stride and Sproles did the rest, weaving his way between and around Steelers as he went into the end zone. What a play.
There were two great elements to that play. First, Wentz didn't try to run for the first down. He knew he was more dangerous if he kept the option to throw. That showed great presence of mind and situational awareness. The other part to the play was the pass itself. Wentz made a great touch throw. He was running to the right and had to throw somewhat against his body. It would have been easy to put too much or too little on that ball. He somehow put the perfect touch on it. Not only did Sproles make the grab, he was able to get the ball on the move. That's why that play went for 73 yards and not just 20 or so. Wentz gave his playmaker a chance to do something and the result was the most spectacular play of the Eagles young season.
Another rookie had a strong day for the Eagles. Running back Wendell Smallwood had 17 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. He was impressive. Smallwood showed a really good burst up the field. That helped him to have four runs of 10 yards or more. The coaches are very high on this young man and think he can be a big player for the offense. You saw his potential on Sunday.
What a win. What a start to the season. What a team. This group is playing as well as anyone in the NFL. They have completely changed the schedule of developing for a year and then contending. This group wants to win now. If they can repeat what they did on Sunday, the rest of the NFL better watch out.
Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com.