First and 10: Eagles Rout Cardinals, Improve to 4-1
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — "And I won't back down."
Lincoln Financial Field was rocking on Sunday when the late, great Tom Petty's voice funneled through the speakers.
The party was on in South Philadelphia after the Eagles had extended their lead to 21-0 over the Arizona Cardinals with a 59-yard touchdown pass to the previously struggling Torrey Smith.
By the end of the first 15 minutes, the Eagles had the three-touchdown lead, had amassed 128 yards of offense to just 21 for Arizona and was 4-for-4 on third downs.
The result was three TD passes for Carson Wentz, one each to Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Smith, and those who were watching the second-year quarterback during the first quarter now know what a perfect NFL passer rating looks like (158.3).
Things slowed down from there because they almost had to but the end result was a 34-7 laugher in which the all three phases contributed impactful plays.
Wentz had a career-high four TD passes to four different receivers while Brandon Graham proved to be a game-wrecker against a one-dimensional Cards' offense and Kenjon Barner was spectacular as a punt returner, including a 76-yarder that set up Philadelphia's second touchdown.
The lone bad news was the concussion suffered by right tackle Lane Johnson, which will make it unlikely he can play after a short week of preparation against Carolina next Thursday.
10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
-The Eagles secondary continues to persevere without Ronald Darby. It was the Jalen Mills show on Arizona's first possession, as the second-year corner flashed good run support, a pass breakup and a strong close and tackle to break up another pass. That led to a three-and-out and good field position that helped put Philadelphia on top 7-0. Malcolm Jenkins, meanwhile, got some opportunities in the slot against the big-bodied Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Robinson continued his strong season with solid play both inside and outside the numbers.
"We had a bunch of packages that we wanted to match personnel with so that's kind of why we were so multiple," Jenkins said.
-Much has been made about Wentz's inability to hit the deep ball through the first quarter of the season but that all changes against the Cards as he connected on big ones to Smith and Nelson Agholor down the field.
"It's huge. It's huge," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said when aked about finally connecting on the deep ball. "Again, it's a tribute to the way the guys work in practice, after practice, even before practice, throwing those balls. Carson really wants to detail that with [WR] Alshon [Jeffery], with [WR] Torrey [Smith], obviously with Nelson, and [TE] Zach [Ertz] and the guys. It just doesn't happen if they don't work at it. I'm a big believer if you don't work it during the week, it's hard to do it on game day, and these guys just work on it every day in practice."
-Third down is the most important down in football and the Eagles continued to excel, converting on their first four opportunities and nine of 14 overall by the time it was a blowout. They now lead the NFL by converting 53.0 percent of their third downs on the season.
“It’s just guys playing on time, playing in rhythm and it’s something we just take pride in," Wentz said of the third-down success. "I think I mentioned it earlier in the week just how we put so much extra time into it both in practice and then in the film and meeting rooms as well. I think we’re seeing that pay dividends on Sundays.”
-Part of that success were releases off the line of scrimmage as Zach Ertz beat Tyvon Branch on a number of occasions and Trey Burton took advantage of a fake smoke screen to Smith to beat Deone Bucannon for a 15-yard TD. Alshon Jeffery even got the best of All-Pro Patrick Peterson at one point.
"Arizona plays a lot of man coverage," Wentz said. "They play a lot of man coverage, they like to get up and press, so we took advantage of it with some of the things we did. The first touchdown to [TE] Trey [Burton], we took advantage of that mismatch there. Those are things we just have to keep doing. We have the guys, we have the playmakers on the edges that can get off man coverage and can get open and so it makes my job easy.”
-Without Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood, the Eagles figured to have some issues when it came to the third-down back but it never materialized. Barner, who has been back for less than two weeks, was pretty effective, running it five times for 23 yards.
He was even better as a punt returner, nearly bringing one back to house for 76 yards to set the Eagles second TD.
"There was an opportunity there," Barner said.
-LeGarrette Blount's resurgence continued as the big back again spearheaded a solid Eagles' running game with 74 yards on 14 carries, including one bruising 37-yard run.
-The renaissance of Nelson Agholor is complete with his first career 90-yard game as well as a filthy move on Budda Baker that drew oohs and ahhs from everyone in the building.
"It was fun," Agholor said of his TD. "It was definitely fun. We executed. It was a great feeling and now we have to get ready for another.
-Kool and the Gang couldn't come up with a better celebration than the Eagles after Smith's TD with Agholor serving up a home-run ball to Smith while Jeffery caught and Wentz called strikes.
-Don't look now but Jake Elliott has now made eight field goals in a row after converting his only two attempts Sunday, a 36-yarder, and a 28-yarder. The big 50-yard bomb wasn't needed but consistency is what really matters when it comes to kickers and Elliott's ability to it the long ones has him brimming with confidence.
-In the left guard rotation, Stefen Wisniewski again got the majority of time with Chance Warmack mixing in. Isaac Seumalo was inactive for the second consecutive week.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen