It's Victory Monday!!!
The Eagles stunned the defending NFC Champions on Sunday Night Football by a score of 25-20. Quarterback Carson Wentz engineered another fourth-quarter, come-from-behind win thanks to a touchdown throw to Travis Fulgham. The defense stepped up with three turnovers, five sacks, and an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Alex Singleton.
There were many heroes in what was truly a team victory. If you went to bed early or want more insight, here's nine takeaways in our Morning Roundup, presented by Microsoft.
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Carson Wentz threw the ball before Travis Fulgham even turned around to look. Fulgham hauled in the ball, kept his balance along the sideline, and scored to give the Eagles the lead in the fourth quarter. The 42-yard strike was Fulgham's first NFL touchdown and the longest play of the night for the Eagles.
1. Spadaro: Eagles rise up and knock off 49ers in prime-time thriller
"Team effort, team win tonight," Head Coach Doug Pederson said.
For the first three weeks of the season, the postgame conversations centered around what went wrong. Late on this Sunday night, it was all about what went right, and plenty went right.
2. Who is Travis Fulgham? Well, now you know
Who the heck is No. 13??? Most fans watching Sunday night's 25-20 victory over San Francisco no doubt had that reaction, so here is some information on Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham, one of the heroes of the win who caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Wentz in the come-from-behind, and much-needed, road victory.
"After we broke the huddle, Carson said, 'Get ready,' so I knew it was a good shot he was going to throw the ball to me," Fulgham said. "I came off the line, kind of beat the corner, do what I do every day in practice, and we just executed," Fulgham said. "At first, I actually lost the ball, but since Carson gave me a great throw I was able to locate it and it was right in the breadbasket, so I came up with the touchdown."
3. Alex Singleton takes it to the house!
This is what the Eagles mean when they talk about the "next-man-up" philosophy. Alex Singleton is the quintessential next man up. He's been knocking around the professional game since Seattle signed him in the post-draft period in 2015 and has had 15 NFL transactions in that time along with three seasons in the Canadian Football League with Calgary.
On Sunday night, he became an NFL name.
Singleton stepped in at linebacker when T.J. Edwards suffered a hamstring injury and was around the football with a couple of tackles before a big fourth-quarter moment when he was in the right place at the right time, catching a pass from San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullens and returning it 30 yards for a touchdown in what became the winning points in the Eagles' 25-20 win on Sunday Night Football at Levi's Stadium.
4. Carson Wentz bounces back with gritty performance
Sometimes the stats don't tell the whole story.
Quarterback Carson Wentz was 18-of-28 for 193 yards with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and an interception in the 25-20 win over the 49ers. He also rushed for 37 yards and kept several other plays alive with his legs, providing some Houdini-like moments that took the league by storm in 2017. He was also smart with the football, throwing it away.
"I love being on the move and extending plays, making things happen. I think it puts a lot of stress on the defense. Obviously, I have to be smart and know when to take my chances and know when to throw the ball away. Especially with a team like tonight that plays a lot of zone coverage, when plays break down, they're out of position or guys are coming open down the field. When that happens there's a lot of big plays to be had when you do escape and move the pocket and we made a couple of them tonight," Wentz said.
And he was clutch, securing a come-from-behind, fourth-quarter win thanks to a teardrop into the breadbasket of wide receiver Travis Fulgham, who admitted that he lost the ball but the pass was so perfect that it fell into his arms.
"We repped that play once (in practice) and it was just cool. When we broke the huddle, I told him to be ready," Wentz said of the touchdown. "I've seen him with this team for a while now going up against our defense on scout team and what he does to our defense. And then watching him and seeing what he's capable of doing, I was just proud of him for coming out here tonight and making the plays."
Wentz showed that despite the plethora of injuries that he can will this team to victory as he built upon a strong finish in the fourth quarter and overtime of last Sunday's tie against the Bengals.
"He played very well. He played inspired and led this football team tonight for the win," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "It might not have been perfect, but he gutted out several plays tonight and my hats off to him for just continuing to battle and continuing to stand in there and make some tough throws and some tough decisions. He did a nice job. More importantly though this was really a team effort and team win tonight."
Wentz had to be patient and using an offensive style that will remind fans of what won the division in 2019. On one third-quarter drive that resulted in a field goal, the Eagles gained 62 yards on 16 plays.
"You have to be patient anytime you're going up against a good defense like that, not only a good defense, but the way they play. They're going to play discipline. They're going to make you move the ball underneath and just really earn it," Wentz said. "They're not going to give up any big plays. We knew that coming into the game and we built the game plan around that. Like you said, obviously the mistakes and little things can add up in those certain drives, but guys made enough place to get the win tonight and I'm proud of them."
5. Defense rises to the occasion with sacks, takeaways, and even points
It's hard to believe that the only takeaway generated by the Eagles in the first three games was on a special teams play, a forced fumble by T.J. Edwards as one of the few highlights of the Rams' game.
Well, the old adage is that turnovers come in bunches and they sure did on Sunday night with three of 'em.
"It's something that we've talked about quite a bit here lately and being able to protect the football and then get the takeaways. Tonight we got the three takeaways, which was huge," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "They were critical parts of the game and that's what it takes to win games like this against good opponents. You need something to go your way and those were key moments for our defense. I thought the D-Line played really well, putting pressure on the quarterbacks to be able to cause some of those interceptions and then obviously the fumble. It's just a great effort and I'm excited for the defense to have gotten those takeaways."
With the offense smarting from injuries in a game where every point mattered, safety Rodney McLeod came up with the first turnover in the second quarter in the red zone. Defensive end Genard Avery, who played his best game as an Eagle with five quarterback hits, pressured quarterback Nick Mullens into the errant pass. That preserved the Eagles' 8-7 lead at the time.
The defensive front harassed Mullens throughout the game and eventually the 49ers turned to C.J. Beathard for a late-game spark. Mullens, who was error free in the win last week over the Giants, was 18-of-26 for 200 yards with a touchdown, a lost fumble, and two interceptions.
Left tackle Trent Williams, held in high regard as one of the best of the era along with Jason Peters, struggled with whomever was lined up across from him. Defensive end Derek Barnett split a sack with tackle Javon Hargrave after bullrushing Williams. Josh Sweat and Hassan Ridgeway also contributed sacks for the Eagles.
The defense stood tall in the fourth quarter. Down 14-11, the 49ers faced a third-and-10 at their own 45-yard line. Cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc was able to get his helmet on the ball to knock it out of Mullens' hand and it was recovered by tackle Malik Jackson. The Eagles took the lead on Carson Wentz's 42-yard touchdown pass to Travis Fulgham.
"Once I came off the edge up, up under the D end, the guard seen me late. I bent the corner, smoothed, dipped my shoulder, seen the quarterback still had the ball in his hand and realized that I still had time to get there," LeBlanc said. "And I'm just stretching out and making a play."
After the touchdown, the defense padded the lead as Mullens threw a gift to linebacker Alex Singleton, who was in for an injured T.J. Edwards and raced 30 yards for what proved to be the game-winning points.
"He kind of threw the ball right to me so my heart kind of skipped a beat and I just caught it and went with it and knew I had to get in the end zone," Singleton said. "We talk about it all week, to score on defense, so it was the only thing going through my mind. When T.J. went down (hamstring injury), which was a huge loss, that's our MIKE (middle linebacker), T.J. is a great football player, like Coach always talks about, 'Next man up,' and you don't want to be the weak link. You want to be the strong link, so to be able to go out there and be able to do my job is the most important thing for this team and hopefully that's what I did."
The 49ers' change to Beathard with the score 25-14 was too little, too late. Beathard was 14-of-19 for 138 yards in less than a quarter of action. But the game wasn't sealed until a last-second Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete in the end zone.
On a night where so many depth players had to step up, it's only fitting that LeBlanc and Singleton were two of the biggest unsung heroes.
6. Doug Pederson gets aggressive early
The last time the Eagles had a tie was the 2008 season against the Bengals and at the time it was a dreadful result. At the end of the year, however, it provided the difference between a playoff run (one that ended in the NFC Championship Game) and watching the tournament from home.
Head Coach Doug Pederson was questioned following last Sunday's tie about the decision to punt on fourth-and-12 after a false start penalty put them out of field goal range, essentially securing the result.
Well, the Eagles are in first place on this Monday morning because of the tie, but Pederson made sure no one would question his aggressiveness against the 49ers.
Following Carson Wentz's second-quarter touchdown, an 11-yard run by No. 11, Pederson decided to go for two. Wide receiver Greg Ward created interference and Wentz easily found tight end Zach Ertz for the conversion.
"My decision was to go," Pederson said. "I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the why, I just elected to go. We executed the play and got the two."
Then in the fourth quarter, trailing 14-11, Pederson elected to go for it on fourth-and-4 from the 49ers' 36-yard line. Wentz hit rookie John Hightower on a slant route for 9 yards and the first down.
"John did a good job of creating separation and that was a huge play for us," Wentz said.
The aggressiveness that's been a calling card of Pederson's in his tenure as Eagles head coach helped the team secure its first win of the season in dramatic fashion.
7. Did the Eagles find their left tackle of the present in Jordan Mailata?
If Jordan Mailata never played in a game for the Eagles, it was a risk worth taking. The Eagles used a seventh-round pick in 2018 on the Australian who never played a down of football. Instead, Mailata was a rugby player who was simply too big to continue with the sport. The Eagles, with Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Jeff Stoutland's blessing and tutelage, could mold the 6-foot-8, 346-pound athletic marvel into a tackle.
The first two years were spent trying to get Mailata to understand his gifts. Like someone who never drove trying to race with a sports car. Back injuries also hampered Mailata's progress, as he spent the first two seasons on Injured Reserve.
But entering 2020, Mailata's third year, it was time to sink or swim. The Eagles were in need of someone to step up and replace Halapoulivaati Vaitai's unsung hero role as a swing tackle. The team also used two draft picks to fortify the depth at the position. Mailata showed the flashes in Training Camp as he's done over the past two seasons, but he was one of the players who could have dearly used the preseason.
On Saturday morning, Mailata had a feeling as he arrived at the NovaCare Complex. Future Hall of Famer Jason Peters missed practice time due to an illness, then a foot injury flared up. The Eagles placed Peters on Injured Reserve. Mailata was told that it's go time.
His first game. Against a 49ers defense that still had some marquee names despite injuries. In prime time for a national TV audience to witness.
"I really just prepared like I am starting, just in case," Mailata said. "We're a big next-man-up-mentality team. You never know what can happen in this game of football. It's the one thing I've learned over the last three years being here."
Mailata's role was even more important as Lane Johnson, the starting right tackle, was in and out of the game with an ankle injury. Mailata's one significant mistake, a false start penalty on a third-and-1 in 49ers territory in the second quarter. Wentz made sure to let him know that they got his back. Mailata didn't let the team down. He played all 62 snaps on offense in the win. He made sure to effusively thank practice squad defensive end Joe Ostman, whose quickness at 6-3, 259 pounds and spin move have given Mailata fits over the years during Training Camp.
"Joe really worked me during all of the reps this week. I feel like he prepared me for this game," Mailata said. "Even when I didn't know I was starting, he worked me. He made sure I was getting a good look. Made sure I was getting off the ball."
With Peters on Injured Reserve for at least two more games, Mailata can build upon his Sunday night success. But one thing is for sure. He wants everyone to know that he's a football player, plain and simple. Who is going to argue with a 6-8, 346-pound man?
"I'm not trying to fill anyone's boots. I'm trying to make my own boots," he said. "Yeah, that's the one thing I came here to do and that's put some respect on my name and tell people that I'm not a rugby player anymore. I'm a footballer."
8. Will tight ends continue to be a problem for the defense?
If there's one complaint from Sunday's win, it's that the Eagles continue to struggle against opposing tight ends.
Now, 49ers All-Pro George Kittle, or "Kittles" as Cre'Von LeBlanc kept calling him in his postgame press conference, is a thorn in most defense's sides. But Kittle was targeted 15 times and hauled in every pass for 183 yards and a touchdown. In fact, the only completion he did not make was when safety Rodney McLeod had good coverage on a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
In Week 1 against the Football Team, tight end Logan Thomas had four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Higbee of the Rams had three touchdowns to go along with his five catches for 54 yards.
Several players took a turn covering Kittle, but the result was the same.
The bright side is that the 49ers, a run-oriented team, were held to 116 yards on the ground and 38 of those were from the lateral to Brandon Aiyuk that went for a touchdown. It was off a pass from Mullens that was deemed a run play.
From a receiving standpoint, running back Jerick McKinnon was the second-best target with seven catches for 43 yards. But the tight end situation bears watching in the weeks to come.
9. Vote for the Toyota Player of the Week
It was hard to narrow the list of nominees to just three this week. Well, here they are. Make sure to vote for an entry to win a brand-new Toyota as well as other prizes.
• WR Travis Fulgham – As safety-turned-cornerback Jalen Mills told reporters after the game, he never sees the wide receiver drop the ball in practice. Fulgham made quite an impression in his Eagles debut with two catches, the first two of his NFL career, for 57 yards including the amazing 42-yard grab along the sidelines for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for an offense in need of an explosive play. The Eagles had four plays of 20 yards or more and two were in the first quarter.
• CB Cre'Von LeBlanc – There were many worthy defensive candidates. Alex Singleton had the pick-six that proved to be the game-winning points. Genard Avery had his best game as an Eagle with a sack and five QB hits. The defensive line, as a whole, accounted for four of the team's five sacks. But LeBlanc's strip-sack came at a critical time in the game, a third-and-10 at the 49ers' 45-yard line. The Eagles recovered and cashed in with Fulgham's touchdown to take the lead and never look back.
• QB Carson Wentz – Down his top three receivers. Down his starting left tackle. Down, at times, his starting right tackle. Down his second tight end. The quarterback never flinched and took what the 49ers' zone coverage gave him. Wentz was also aggressive, yet smart with his legs. In all, Wentz was 18-of-28 for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Not the prettiest stats. He also ran for 37 yards and a score, his third of the season, a career high. Wentz did enough under tough circumstances to get the first win of the year.
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' win over the 49ers.