Philadelphia Eagles News

Lawlor: Stars, Role Players All Shined In Prime Time

For the first time this season, the Eagles looked like last year's juggernaut team. They scored touchdowns on offense. They played tough defense and made some big plays on that side of the ball. There were also contributions from special teams. The Eagles scored an early touchdown and led all game long. For the first time all year, they got to play with a big lead. It was a very encouraging performance.

There are some questions to ask. As good as the Eagles looked, the Giants were equally bad. You have to factor that in. The Eagles gave up 401 yards of offense, obviously not ideal. Rookie Saquon Barkley accounted for 151 of those yards on just three plays. He did spectacular things, showing a freakish combination of strength, speed, balance, and agility. Barkley is a special player. Take away those freakish displays and the Eagles allowed 250 yards on the other 61 Giants plays, that's just 4.1 yards per play.

While the Giants are a bad team, the Eagles went on the road on a short week and dominated them. That's exactly what good teams are supposed to do. The game wasn't competitive for very long. The Eagles took control early and never let the Giants get back in it.

Situational football has been an issue at times this year. The Eagles converted four of their six trips into the red zone into touchdowns. The Giants got into the red zone three times and never scored a touchdown. The Eagles had nine third-down conversions. They were able to sustain drives and move the ball. The Giants didn't convert any third downs in the first half. They were better after halftime, but the game was basically over at that point. The 2017 Eagles were great at situational football so seeing this kind of production is a good sign for the 2018 squad.

Carson Wentz played his best game of the year. He threw for 278 yards and three scores. Wentz made a spectacular play on the first touchdown. He moved from the pocket as he got some pressure and went to his right. Wentz kept his eyes downfield and saw Alshon Jeffery coming across the field in the end zone. Wentz threw across his body into the middle of the field.

That is a big no-no normally. Wentz saw where everyone was and fired a bullet. Not many quarterbacks are going to be able to make that throw. Wentz put it right on the money for a touchdown. When you have a quarterback who can make big plays in the red zone, it gives your team a significant lift.

Jeffery had another big game. He caught eight passes, including a pair of touchdowns in the red zone. Jeffery and Wentz have really developed good chemistry. They are becoming a deadly duo for defenses to deal with.

Fletcher Cox continues to play like a monster. He had another sack and was disruptive throughout the game. Cox got pressure on Eli Manning over and over and over. The Giants' interior blockers had no answers for the Eagles' star defensive tackle.

While it was great to see the stars come up big in this game, I was very encouraged by how young guys and role players stepped up. Isaac Seumalo started at left guard for the second week in a row and played well. Corey Clement's short touchdown run came right through a hole opened by Seumalo.

Rookie Avonte Maddox started at free safety and played well before moving to nickel cornerback after Sidney Jones' injury. His highlight moment came when Barkley broke loose on a big run. The only thing between Barkley and the end zone was Maddox. There was no panic. Maddox took a good angle and made a strong tackle to get Barkley down.

That may not sound like a highlight play to many, but coaches know the value of it. That was a four-point tackle. Miss it and Barkley has a touchdown. Instead, the Eagles stopped the Giants and forced them to kick a field goal. Maddox was in on six tackles and did a good job of controlling the deep middle.

DeAndre Carter was the return specialist for the game. He had a 23-yard punt return that set up the Eagles' second touchdown of the game. Carter later had a 19-yard punt return that set up another touchdown drive. Carter helped the Eagles win the field position battle. Those returns were important plays for an offense that had been struggling to score points.

Defensive tackles Destiny Vaeao and Treyvon Hester played their best games of the year. Vaeao had a sack of Manning. Hester had a couple of tackles. Both were disruptive at times. You don't expect them to play to the level of someone like Cox, but they need to contribute and that's just what they did on Thursday night.

The Eagles' defensive line gave Manning fits. He was sacked four times and hit quite a lot. Michael Bennett had a really impressive strip-sack. Bennett has really come alive the last couple of games. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett got pressure off the edges.

As Jim Schwartz has explained many times, pressure and coverage go hand in hand. One of the reasons the Eagles were able to get to Manning is that the secondary covered well. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills came up big. Darby broke up four passes. Mills broke up two and was in on nine tackles. They made Odell Beckham Jr. a non-factor. He caught six passes for 44 yards.

The linebackers made some plays. Jordan Hicks led the team with 10 total tackles. He jumped a pass play early on and deflected a ball that Kamu Grugier-Hill picked off. That was returned inside the red zone and set up the first score of the game. Nigel Bradham had a sack and six solo tackles.

There was a lot of speculation about how the Eagles need to make a trade for a running back. Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement combined for 120 total yards and a touchdown. They weren't spectacular by any stretch, but they were good enough. This team can win games with them. Adding Darren Sproles back to the lineup would certainly give the group a big boost.

Doug Pederson has preached patience. He didn't sense any panic from his players, despite the 2-3 start. The Eagles are now back to 3-3 and have to be feeling good after a win like that. The Eagles get a few days of extra rest, which is much needed for this team. This is one banged-up group.

They'll get right back to work next week, knowing that the Giants win doesn't mean a thing if they don't build on that success. There is a lot of season left and a lot of work to be done.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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