This team has heart. Say what you want. For three weeks, I’ve read countless “START HURTS” comments on Instagram, and I’ve seen analysts across the board give up on Carson Wentz and the rest of the squad. Clearly, this team doesn’t care.
After weeks of verbal assault (although deserved), the Eagles did something no one expected against the 49ers: they played good football. Wentz looked good–there’s still work to be done, but he was much closer to his usual self last night. The defense, although not perfect, forced turnovers and made plays we haven’t seen all year. Doug Pederson’s play-calling wasn’t that bad, which is a first for this season. Overall, the Eagles looked solid last night and, after weeks of heartbreak, have given Philly fans something to look forward to.
Ginger Jesus Resurrects the Offense
Speaking of heart, it’s hard to find anyone in the league with as much heart as Wentz. No one over the past three weeks has taken as much heat as he has. He didn’t seem to care. Wentz was on point whether it was throwing dimes to practice squad receivers or throwing blocks out on the perimeter.
Perhaps what was most encouraging was watching him regain his mobility. Ever since he tore his ACL in 2017, Wentz has looked hesitant to showcase his elusiveness. It’s widely known that Wentz is elite on the move, so when he stopped his usual backfield antics, he lost a big part of his game. The past two games, however, have gone to change that. Wentz has made Houdini-like plays avoiding pass rushers. He’s broken off multiple long runs for touchdowns. He is playing like himself, and after beginning the season in one of the most significant slumps we’ve ever seen, nothing is more refreshing.
It Wasn’t All Carson Wentz, Though
With multiple key pieces unavailable, the team stepped up and, as a whole, showed heart. I would like to more specifically give credit to all the backups and practice squad guys who stepped up big. Travis Fulgham, who was just activated off the practice squad, did something Eagles’ fans haven’t seen a receiver wearing number 13 do in a long time: he caught a pass. No, he caught a TOUCHDOWN pass. That play quickly caught the eyes of fans and, more importantly, gave Philly the lead. On the other side of the ball, K’von Wallace, who was given the unfortunate task of having to guard George Kittle one-on-one for much of the night, held his own. Although he wasn’t perfect (which wasn’t expected), the rookie looked okay in his first start. He’s another name to watch in the future.
Cre’von LeBlanc, Alex Singleton, Derek Barnett, Genard Avery–all of those guys stepped up and made plays. Whether it was creating pressure, forcing a fumble, or taking an interception to the house, the defense was a force. Going in, we knew it would be a defensive battle, but who would’ve guessed that it’d be the Eagles’ defense making more plays. The unit was stout, and with more performances like that, the Eagles may be primed for a turnaround.
Looking Forward After the Win
Whether it was the offense stepping up when they had to or the defense locking down for the majority of the game, the Eagles came to play last night. It wasn’t all perfect, but with a team, this banged up, that wasn’t expected. All we know now is that the Eagles are on top of the NFC East for at least a week. At 1-2-1, there is still a lot of work to be done. However, last night was a great stepping stone. If Wentz can continue to build off that play and the defense can retain that semblance of competence, the Eagles have a great shot at repeating as division champs. Yeah, yeah, I know, it may be too early to claim that, but I liked what I saw last night.
However, the road there won’t be easy. First on the itinerary, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their defense may be the best in football, and with an extra week to prepare after the Titan’s COVID outbreak forced them into a bye, they should be ready for a depleted Eagles’ team. Then, it’s onto Baltimore. Lamar Jackson looked great dismantling the Washington defense this week, and they may be the best all-around team in football. Even with a win over the defending NFC champions, the path ahead only looks tougher. All that’s left to see is how much heart the team has left.