The Eagles' first-ever regular-season game outside the United States proved to be a memorable win. They beat the Jaguars 24-18 at Wembley Stadium, in what was allegedly a road game. Judging by all the midnight green in the stands and all the cheering that went on, that sure seemed like an Eagles home game that just happened to be on the other side of the Atlantic.
UK fans got to see a star quarterback shredding a talented defense. Carson Wentz threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns, despite having a makeshift offensive line for most of the game. Wentz completed passes to 10 different receivers, including himself, with no one catching more than four. This was a critical game and Wentz played like it was one. He did whatever it took to move the ball and score points.
Explosive plays were missing from the Eagles' offense for much of the season. Doug Pederson and the offensive coaches called more downfield shots. Wentz responded by making some terrific throws.
Wentz connected with Nelson Agholor for a 39-yard gain after missing him on another deep ball. Wentz hit Jordan Matthews for gains of 36 and 31 yards. Wentz threw a 32-yard touchdown to Dallas Goedert. You need chunk plays, especially when going against a talented defense like Jacksonville's. You can't count on sustaining long drives.
Not all big plays have to be long throws. Wentz threw a screen to Wendell Smallwood and that turned into a 36-yard touchdown. You love it when short throws can become long gains.
Pederson and the coaches did a great job in this game. The design of the touchdown pass to Goedert was just perfect. The play got him wide open down the middle. The timing of the call on the screen was perfect. The Eagles caught Jacksonville in a blitz and that led to the big play.
Offensive line injuries made the game incredibly challenging. Jacksonville has one of the best front sevens in the league. When you are shifting lineups against that group, things can fall apart in a hurry.
Give the Eagles' backups and coaches a lot of credit. Halapoulivaati Vaitai played left tackle and right tackle. Isaac Seumalo played left guard and right tackle. Stefen Wisniewski played guard and center. Jason Peters stabilized things when he returned after halftime. Lane Johnson missed almost the entire game and that made everyone else step up.
It isn't easy to have backup players ready to go each week. Coaches have to focus on the starters. They also have to spend a lot of time studying film and working on the game plan. The Eagles have an excellent staff and the coaches do a good job of making sure everyone is ready to go.
Pederson moved the pocket on several plays. Wentz is mobile and throws well on the move so this was a good way of helping out the line and dealing with pressure.
The line did a good job in the run game. The running backs finished with 21 carries for 91 yards. Smallwood closed out the game with an impressive run that got a first down and let the Eagles then go into the victory formation. Smallwood isn't the biggest guy, but he ran through a defender and fought to move the chains. He didn't want to come off the field. That run sealed the win.
We also have to give the tight ends credit when it comes to blocking. Goedert has become a flat-out good blocker. Zach Ertz continues to improve. Josh Perkins isn't a big tight end, but he gets an A for effort. He had a key block of defensive end Calais Campbell on Wentz's touchdown pass to Goedert. That play doesn't happen without Perkins doing his part.
The Eagles' defense was up and down, but made enough plays to win the game. As Jim Schwartz would tell you, that's all that really matters.
Probably the biggest key was red zone defense. The Jaguars were just 1-for-3 in the red zone. The Eagles kept holding them to field goals and that can be the difference in a close game.
There were some standout moments. Avonte Maddox forced a fumble late in the first half. That gave the offense a short field to work with and the Eagles scored a touchdown. The Eagles took a 10-6 lead at that point and never trailed again.
Malcolm Jenkins is the player who recovered the fumble. He also batted down a pass in the red zone that prevented what looked to be a sure touchdown. That turned out to be a huge play in the game.
Fletcher Cox came up big when the Eagles needed him most. He batted down a pass on third down on the Jaguars' final drive. Then on fourth down, he got pressure right in Blake Bortles' face and forced him to throw sooner than he wanted. The pass was off target and the Eagles never gave the ball back to Jacksonville.
Schwartz blitzed a lot and called an aggressive game. Linebacker Jordan Hicks had 1.5 sacks and was very effective when blitzing. Chris Long had his best day in a while and added a pair of sacks. The Eagles finished with four in all.
Jalen Mills got hurt and Rasul Douglas had to step in. He was more than ready. Jacksonville tested him with a deep ball on his first snap and Douglas was right there to keep the receiver from making the catch. He was only credited with one tackle, but Douglas was involved in several plays. He had a strong game and helped the Eagles come up with a big-time win.
The team is now 4-4. Getting back to .500 was critical. If you drop to 3-5, your chances of making the playoffs are very low. At 4-4, you control your own destiny, and that's all any team can ask for heading into November.
The Eagles now have the bye week to rest up and get healthier. This is one battered squad and the players definitely need the rest. The coaches can do some self-scouting and see if there are any schematic or lineup changes they want to make.
The second half of the season is going to be very challenging, but the Eagles have now won two of their last three games and look to be heading in the right direction. I'm excited to see what they do.