In a city ironically named Carson, it was the quarterback with the same first name who showed why the Eagles moved up in the draft to pick him #2 overall.
Carson Wentz methodically moved the offense up and down the field last Sunday, changing the plays at the line of scrimmage when needed and looking more like a seasoned 10-year veteran than a player who is only in his 2nd season and still learning the ropes of playing quarterback.
The result was a 26-24 victory, putting the Birds at 3-1 on this young season. And while skeptics may point to the fact that this team had the same record last season before going 4-8 the rest of the way, this team does have a different look about them.
In 2016, after defeating the Chicago Bears in their first road game of the season, the Eagles managed to lose their last seven road games. This year, the team has already surpassed last year’s road win total, going 2-1 thus far.
Last season, six of the Birds final eight losses were in games that were lost by a touchdown or less. Change the result of a play here or there and perhaps the Eagles finish at 10-6 instead of 7-9. But that was a young team that still had not learned HOW to win.
This season, the Birds are 2-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, defeating the Giants and Chargers in consecutive weeks after a close loss to the Chiefs in Week 2. It is not only the quarterback that is growing before our eyes but the rest of the team around him as well.
And then there is the coach, who claimed he was still “learning” the world of coaching after the loss to the Chiefs in which he threw the ball much too often, much like his mentor, Andy Reid, was known to do. Many predicted then that Doug Pederson’s coaching career would not only be a failure if he continues down this path, but that he would get his young quarterback knocked out of the game in the process.
But give Pederson credit. He adjusted and started to use his horses in the running game more often over the last two weeks, resulting in a new “three headed monster” in the backfield consisting of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and rookie (and local product) Corey Clement, who continues to shine when given the ball.
Much like the trio of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, and Brian Westbrook before them, these three all offer a different dimension of the running game and fresh legs in the backfield. Add to that a rejuvenated offensive line which gets to be on the attack in the running game, and you now have an offense which can use the run to setup the pass, as they did successfully last week.
The other intriguing part of last week’s contest was the crowd itself. In a stadium designed for soccer but housing football, it also became a stadium meant for Chargers fans but housing Eagles fans. The announced crowd was 25,000, of which approximately 15,000 were Birds fans.
A sport played in the wrong type of venue, fans cheering for the wrong uniform, and a team in the wrong city. Not quite a three headed monster, but more like a “three headed misfit”.
One can only surmise that the NFL must have hired some consulting firm to do a study, and that they came to the conclusion that football in Los Angeles would be a rousing success. But then again, I’ve never heard of a consulting firm telling their client that their idea is completely stupid, have you? Sort of like an insurance agent telling you that you don’t need life insurance…these things just don’t happen.
This week, the Birds return from the “CaliLinc” to the real “Linc” to face the Arizona Cardinals, a team that currently sits at 2-2 in the NFC West.
The “RedBirds” enjoyed a streak of three consecutive winning seasons until last season, when they finished 7-8-1. And while they have a good coach in Bruce Arians (who also coached Temple football once upon a time), their quarterback, and the rest of their team, is quickly aging. And not aging like fine wine, but aging like that half-gallon of milk in your refrigerator which you should have thrown out five days ago.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer can still be dangerous though, and still has weapons like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is a class act and most likely, a hall-of-famer one day.
What should also be interesting to watch is the Eagles running game against the Cardinals run defense, which is one of the stingiest in the league.
The Birds would do well to not overlook this opponent, especially considering that they have a quick turnaround, with a Thursday night game coming up against the Carolina Panthers. This contest will be close in the first half but Birds will win, 27-17.
Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:
Patriots at Buccaneers 8:30 PM CBS/NFL Ntwrk (Thurs)
Panthers at Lions 1:00 PM FOX
Ravens at Raiders 4:05 PM CBS
Packers at Cowboys 4:25 PM FOX
Chiefs at Texans 8:25 PM NBC