First and 10: Eagles Dismantle Broncos
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Something special is going on in South Philadelphia, the latest evidence of that being the Eagles putting up a 50 spot on the Denver Broncos Sunday.
Carson Wentz and Co. dismantled the top-ranked defense in football en route to an easy 51-23 win.
The Eagles' quarterback completed 15-of-27 passes for 199 yards and a passer rating of 118.7. The MVP candidate was replaced early in the fourth quarter by backup Nick Foles, who helped finish up the scoring with a long pass to Nelson Agholor which set up Corey Clement's third touchdown of the afternoon, a four-yard run.
The sheer volume of the Eagles scoring was shocking when you consider the Broncos arrived with the No. 1 defense in the NFL and the Eagles' top receiver, tight end, Zach Ertz was a late scratch due to a hamstring injury first suffered in practice on Thursday.
Wentz just mixed in more Brent Celek and Trey Burton as Philadelphia blitzed a Broncos team which made a quarterback switch coming in, moving away from the limited Trevor Siemian to perhaps the even more limited Brock Osweiler.
The Broncos had allowed just 24 first-quarter points all season before Sunday and Philadelphia was a TD away from that on its own, piling up 17 during the first 15 minutes.
By the time Wentz deftly dropped it to Burton off a double move for a 27-yard score early in the second quarter, Philadelphia was essentially 8-1 heading into the bye week.
Recent trade acquisition Jay Ajayi carried it eight times for 77 yards, including a 46-yard TD while Alshon Jeffery continued his recent uptick in play with six receptions for 84 yards and two scores.
Temple product and Philadelphia native Brandon McManus was about the only positive for the Broncos, booting three field goals, including two from beyond 50 yards.
"Everyone is dialed in," star defensive end Brandon Graham said. "Everybody knows the game plan and we execute. Everything is not perfect but overall everybody is striving to be perfect."
So dialed in that there weren't enough fireworks at Lincoln Financial Field to set off after all the touchdowns.
AND 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
-Ajayi got his first carry for the Eagles early in the second quarter and it went for six yards to a deafening roar. By the time he rumbled 46 yards right before the half thanks to impressive blocks from Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Brandon Brooks, and Jason Kelce, it was very evident he brings some explosiveness to this backfield that was missing.
"Those guys created the seam," Ajayi said of his new OL. "It's just about hitting it hard and making sure you get in the end zone."
-As expected Wendell Smallwood was the odd man out of the running back mix but the second-year player did dress, likely because of the late decision on Ertz and excelled in garbage time, running it five times for 25 yards. Clement got the most work with 12 carries for 51 yards and two scores on the ground as well as one through the air. LeGarrette Blount was the least effective, going nine times for 27.
"He's grown a bunch," Wentz said when discussing Clement, a Glassboro native. "He's wanted to work wanted to learn. He's always ready when his number is called. He's a heck of a back, teammate, player."
-Overall the Eagles shredded the NFL's second-leading run defense to the tune of 197 yards while the Eagles' defense (the top-ranked run stuffers) allowed only 35 yards on the ground.
"Everybody is doing their job," Graham said of the team's run defense. "When you know it's a run, we're calling it out. So if we see it, we just trust it and go with it. Sometimes it's play-action but at least we have the mindset of 'this is a power play or this is a trap play.'"
-Wentz has always had an affinity for Burton both as a player and a person and that showed up with increased opportunities, at least early, for the young tight end. Burton caught two of his four targets for 41 yards and the 27-yard score. Add in Celek's three catches for 39 yards and Philadelphia still got production from the tight end position without Ertz.
-Jeffery is starting to heat up and had his first multi-TD performance as an Eagles player but the rangy receiver had his hands on three more balls, catches that would have turned a great day into a monster one.
-Jim Schwartz continues to mix and match on the back end without Ronald Darby. Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas are the main options at cornerback but Jaylen Watkins mixed in as well. Meanwhile, Corey Graham sees actions at safety when Philadelphia goes to its big nickel or dime defenses, something that has become much more prevalent without Jordan Hicks.
-Both Patrick Robinson and Rodney McLeod intercepted Osweiler and each made a run at bringing them back for pick-sixes. Robinson has been a standout, especially when playing inside where his feel in coverage has been a godsend for Philadelphia.
-Schwartz has also clearly decided that his best pass-rushing unit is when he kicks Graham inside next to Fletcher Cox and inserts Chris Long at left end and rookie Derek Barnett at right end. Long, Vinny Curry and linebacker Nigel Bradham were able to get to Osweiler during the game.
-Lane Johnson was forced to leave for a bit after getting banged up and failed left guard Isaac Seumalo stepped in at right tackle. Seumalo did allow a Von Miller strip sack of Foles that turned into a Brandon Marshall 19-yard fumble recovery for a TD but Miller may have gotten away with jumping the snap count.
-Vaitai, meanwhile, was again effective as the left tackle in the wake of Jason Peters' season-ending ACL injury. For the second consecutive week, the second-year player was not noticed in pass protection and that's a very good thing. Denver, however, was a much tougher test than San Francisco.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen