First and 10: Eagles Dominate 49ers
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Forget a letdown game, this was a human-nature game.
No matter how many times the Eagles told themselves that the San Francisco 49ers were a legitimate threat, the film said otherwise and it was going to be difficult to keep focus and bring the A-game on a dreary rain-soaked day at Lincoln Financial Field.
And the Eagles did indeed start slowly, managing just 89 yards and a 40-yard Jake Elliott field goal during the first 15 minutes.
The good news was that the winless 49ers were so incompetent with rookie C.J. Beathard at quarterback that Philadelphia could afford to hit the snooze button time and time again before finally arriving to take care of business, piling it on during an easy 33-10 win to improve to an NFL-best 7-1 on the season.
These Broad Street Bullies started to pull away thanks to two quick strikes, the first a Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz touchdown pass late in the second quarter. Jim Schwartz's defense then essentially sealed it when Beathard answered by throwing an awful out pattern that Jalen Mills intercepted and zig-zagged back 37 yards for a pick-six.
Just like that, in a matter of 27 seconds of game time, the Eagles were on top 17-0 at intermission, an insurmountable hill to climb for a bad San Francisco team made even worse by injuries to its two starting offensive tackles in the game, Gary Gilliam and Joe Staley.
"I think we weathered the storm," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. "It's not the way the offense wanted to play. We came out slow and didn't execute. I'm just glad with the way we battled because not every game is going to be perfect or look good."
AND 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
-THE SLEEP SCIENCE TROPHY - If this was college, maybe the winner of this rivalry should get the sports science trophy as these are the two organizations Chip Kelly attempted to sail into the rocks. Philadelphia and Howie Roseman have managed to overcome Kelly's poor personnel decisions in breathtaking time while the Niners are obviously still a work in progress while trying to shift back to a more traditional NFL environment.
-WEATHER THIS - The weather was talked about a lot leading up to this game but it turned doubt to be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill rainy day, once which had virtually no impact on either team's game plan.
"It doesn't matter," safety Malcolm Jenkins said after the game when discussing the forecast and how it unveiled itself. "The [49ers] played in the same weather we did. It was one of those things that I think we fed off of it, we had fun."
-WENTZ WOES - Performance is a different animal, however, and Carson Wentz wasn't his sharpest as he debated whether a glove on his non-throwing hand would help in the slippery circumstances. The second-year star wasn't terribly accurate on the day, finishing 18-of-32 for 211 yards and an 84.2 passer rating.
-ROVER MALCOLM - When it came to replacing Jordan Hicks, it was essentially Malcolm over Mychal. In the past when Hicks was out with ankle and calf injuries, Joe Walker handled his role in the base defense with Nigel Bradham moving over to his role the nickel and either Mychal Kendricks or Najee Goode (when Kendricks was down with a hamstring injury) working in as the other three-down linebacker. Instead, Jim Schwartz threw a Jim Palmer-like changeup (the DC himself will appreciate that reference) by bringing Jenkins down into a rover role while Corey Graham rotated in at safety.
-OFFENSIVE TACKLE PLAY - The Niners were already without their star right tackle Trent Brown due to a concussion and his replacement, former Penn State tight end Gary Gilliam suffered a knee injury when Jenkins blew up a block. That left third-stringer Zane Beadles trying to block Brandon Graham and that went about as you would expect. When Niners' left tackle Joe Staley also went down, Beadles moved to the left side and guard Erik Magnuson was forced to play right tackle, and the ceiling of San Francisco's offense was snapping the ball correctly.
-P-ROB CONCUSSED - Patrick Robinson suffered a concussion while separating Aldrick Robinson from the football late in the second quarter, a hit that resulted in a Rodney McLeod interception. The star slot corner never returned and Dexter McDougle worked in as the nickel corner. The Eagles probably could have dipped into the stands to find defensive backs, however, and Beathard still wasn't going to hurt them.
-BIG V WATCH - The big talk from an Eagles' perspective was how Halapoulivaati Vaitai would hold up as the replacement for star left tackle Jason Peters and the answer was not bad, especially early. In fact, it was the interior and highly-regarded right tackle Lane Johnson giving up too much pressure. Eventually, veteran Leger Douzable did set up Vaitai for a sack but overall the performance was solid if unspectacular.
"I feel like I'm pretty decent at left tackle," Vaitai said. "...There are a lot of things I need to improve and work on but I feel pretty good about it."
-JAKE'S LEG - Jake Elliott is something else from long range. The rookie kicker booted another from 50-plus, this one 51-yarder in the third quarter, a franchise record fifth on the season and we still have two months to go. Overall, Elliott is now 5-of-6 from 50-plus but it wasn't all good today as he did miss two extra points.
-50/50 - It took half a season but Alshon Jeffery finally had an Alshon Jeffery-like signature moment as a member of the Eagles, snaring a jump ball over Ahkello Witherspoon and rumbling 53 yards by breaking a few tackles for a touchdown. In Chicago, Jeffery was one of the better 50/50 receivers in the game and if that carries over to the second half, Philadelphia will have a significant offensive weapon.
-PERFECT NO MORE - Mack Hollins' perfect season ended in the third quarter with a poorly-thrown ball from Wentz. It was the first target of the season the rookie receiver hadn't come up with and it ended up being costly for the Eagles as Witherspoon returned it 19 yards, setting up the Niners' only TD.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen