Maybe this is the new normal.
For the second week in a row, the Eagles dominated a fourth quarter with an eight-minute drive that ended with points, in this case a Jake Elliott field goal to cap a 16-play, 69-yard drive that consumed 8 minutes, 14 seconds off the clock and featured four third-down conversions against a Chicago Bears defense that just doesn’t allow that to happen. Elliott’s field goal was the topper with 25 seconds remaining in a 22-14 victory that sends the 5-4 Eagles into their bye week with consecutive wins for only the second time this season.
“I’m really excited about where we’re at as an offense right now,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who had a monster game with nine receptions for 103 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown, on 11 targets from quarterback Carson Wentz.
The Eagles scored early with Elliott field goals on the opening two drives and then put together a 7-play, 62-yard drive that ended on the Wentz connection to Ertz to lead 12-0 at the half and it looked like a cakewalk was in the making after Jordan Howard’s 13-yard dash through a four-lane highway of a hole ended in the end zone on the first drive of the second half. It was 19-0 with 10:37 to go in the third quarter and it looked easy. After all, the Bears had mustered all of 9 total net yards on 20 first-half offensive plays, so how much damage could they do in the final two quarters?
As it turned out, Chicago had some fight left in it. A 53-yard pass to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel set up one touchdown and a David Montgomery 1-yard leap over the pile early in the fourth quarter, his second score of the day, made things verrrrryyyy interesting.
“No panic,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “We knew we would stick to our running game and we would move the chains. That’s a great defense over there. It wasn’t easy. But we have a great offense, too. We just went to work.”
That the offense did after taking over possession of the football with 8:39 to go, leading 19-14. The Eagles converted four third-down opportunities after making only 4-of-14 in the first three-plus quarters.
1. On third-and-3 from the Philadelphia 18-yard line, Wentz found wide receiver Alshon Jeffery over the middle to gain 13 yards. It was a huge play to keep the drive going and to provide some improved field position in the swirling winds at Lincoln Financial Field. That play took the clock below six minutes, even as Jeffery limped off the field and didn’t return.
2. On third-and-12 from the 29, Wentz threw quickly on the left side to running back Miles Sanders and Sanders, alone in the open field in space created by linebacker Danny Trevathan inching toward the line of scrimmage, gained 15 yards.
“I have a lot of confidence in the passing game and I made the catch and just saw the open field in front of me,” said Sanders, who had 42 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards on 13 touches. “It was just a matter of getting the first down in that situation.”
3. With 3:06 remaining and facing a third-and-3 play from the Chicago 49-yard line, Wentz fired quickly on the right side to Ertz, who created separation on a rub route from Mack Hollins and Ertz lunged toward the sideline and gained the first down by a yard.
“Mack Hollins, we kind of ran an interference play, definitely not a pick play, interference play and I was able to catch it and lean forward for a first down,” Ertz said. “We finished off drives and that’s what we need to do. It was phenomenal out there – scoring early, getting a lead, and then adding to it and then taking all that time off the clock. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good afternoon.”
4. With 2:24 to go, Wentz threw a tight end screen to Dallas Goedert and he got some great blocking and headed straight up the middle of the field for 16 yards and the clutch conversion. Three runs later, Elliott stepped up and nailed the 38-yard field goal, his third of the day, to finish the 16-play drive.
“I let 94 (Leonard Floyd) see the quarterback, waited for him to rush, it took him a while, Carson held on to the ball for a while, made sure he rushed, it was a great play by him,” Goedert said. “He found me and it worked. It was a big play for us. That was a heckuva drive for us. It was a well-executed drive, from the bottom to the top.”
This certainly wasn’t a vintage, start-to-finish job by the Eagles, but it was enough for the win. The Eagles welcomed back some veteran help – tackle Tim Jernigan and nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox on defense and running back/return man Darren Sproles and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (for the first series) on offense – and played with confidence. They protected the football on offense and dominated the trenches defensively, and did a worthy job wrestling with a Bears team that plays that way. It isn’t pretty or poetic when the Bears play, so you need to be ready to roll up your sleeves and slug to a win.
That, the Eagles did.
“I definitely feel like we’re getting in a pretty good groove with the running game,” said Howard, who had 82 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against his former team. “The offensive line has been doing a great job all season, but they have taken it to another level. They are dominating guys and pushing them out of the way, making it easy for us.”
Against a run defense that had allowed an average of 86 rushing yards per game, the Eagles totaled 146 on 35 carries. Wentz was outstanding with 26 completions on 39 passing attempts, throwing for 239 yards and the Ertz touchdown. The Eagles controlled the football for an astounding 40 minutes, 18 seconds.
“That’s kind of the right formula,” Ertz said. “I feel like we’re playing with a lot more energy now, scoring early and not playing from behind. If we’re able to get our defense a lead, it works. I think we saw the formula for success today – score early and let Fletch (Fletcher Cox) and the guys go rush. We’ve got one of the best D-lines in the league. When we make the other offense one-dimensional, it’s a win for the defense.”
So, the Eagles are 5-4. There are concerns, and the margin for error remains slim, but the Eagles have come a long way since that loss at Dallas. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson played only one series before leaving after a single reception for 5 yards, aggravating his abdominal injury. The two weeks off will help him greatly. Jeffery limped off the field late and will need further tests.
But that’s it. And that’s hopeful. Defensive end Genard Avery shared a quarterback sack with safety Malcolm Jenkins on his first defensive snap, knifing inside to get to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The defense had two bad series in the second half – and was great otherwise. By the time the Patriots come to town in two Sundays, the Eagles should be as healthy as they’ve been all season.
And the march to the postseason will be in full flight.
“We all believe in each other,” said defensive end Brandon Graham, who had his sixth sack of the season and one of three on the day for the defense. “We’ve had a lot of adversity, but we hung in there. We are going in the right direction. We’re feeling pretty good, and this bye week is perfect. Getting a little rest is going to be good for all of us.”
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' Week 9 game against the Chicago Bears.