(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
Any any other year the Eagles beat the Cowboys, fans would feel good about the victory, especially when the game determines 1st place in the division. However, this is not the case in this strange year, after an ugly 23-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys to bring the Eagles to 3-4-1 going into the bye week.
In some ways the win over a dead caucus of a Cowboys team was a microcosm of what the first half of the Eagles season so far. Carson Wentz played some of the worst football of his career with erratic play and 4 turnovers. Doug’s game management was very suspect. Yet, there were still some bright spots.
The Eagles won the game and remain in 1st place in the NFC East. There was great play from young players (Travis Fulgham, TJ Edwards, Jalen Reagor). Lastly, the defense stepped up to keep the Eagles in the game as the offense stuttered.
Here are my takeaways from the win over the Cowboys.
1. Carson Wentz’s struggles
This has been by far the worst season Wentz has ever had. There is nothing to compare it to. The interceptions and decision making are puzzling. Since his second year, he has never thrown more than 7 interceptions in a season, he has already thrown 12.
Wentz ranks 30th in the NFL in passer rating, 31st in completion percentage, 27th in QBR, and leads the league in turnovers.
At times, he has shown flashes of brilliance, in leading the Eagles to thrilling 4th quarter comeback victories over the giants and 49ers. He also played great football against a top defense in the Baltimore Ravens and nearly captured a huge upset.
There has been no middle ground or average Carson. It has simply been either bad Carson or good Carson. A true case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. If we see good Carson in the 2nd half, the Eagles may bring a scare to a wide- open NFC.
2. The Eagles play down to their competition
This has become a trend over the past 4 weeks of the season. After a victory over the defending NFC Champion 49ers on the road and 2 narrow losses to AFC powerhouses in the Steelers and Ravens, it was believed in both weeks, the Eagles would win easily against two awful football teams in the NFC East.
Yet, it took a miraculous comeback to defeat the Giants at home last week and an ugly win over a dead caucus of a Dallas Cowboys, where the Eagles trailed at halftime, to improve the Eagles’ fortunes.
It seems the Eagles believe they are better than they actually are and it is showing on gameday.
3. T.J. Edwards
Last night marked the return of LB T.J. Edwards and without him, the Eagles may have lost. Edwards accumulated 13 total tackles, 1 sack, and a forced fumble. Dominant performance for the second -year linebacker out of Wisconsin. He was all over the field and anyone with a set of eyes can see he is the best linebacker on this team.
4. The duo of Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor
The emergence of WR Travis Fulgham has been the best part of this season so far. Fulgham is a stud and potential Pro Bowl player.
In just 5 games, he has racked up 29 receptions for 435 yards and 4 touchdowns. Last night, he had 6 receptions for 78 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the 3rd quarter.
Last night, marked the return of rookie WR Jalen Reagor, who missed the past 5 games with a UCL tear in his thumb. He caught 3 passes including his first career touchdown for the first score of the game.
The WR tandem of Fulgham and Reagor should be here for the long term.
5. Doug’s game management
Doug Pederson is a great NFL coach, with a Super Bowl title to show for it. Last night, was not a good night for him. His play calling was very suspect. Exhibit A) with the offense humming on a first quarter drive and down near the goal line, Pederson sends Hurts out to run a play behind center with Wentz out wide. The play resulted in a delay of game penalty and halted the Eagles’ momentum.
The most concerning aspect was Doug’s overall game management last night. It was a windy night, why are you trying to force the ball downfield through the air? Also, instead of committing to the run against a horrendous run defense, he still had Carson backing up to pass when he was struggling and committing fraudulent turnovers.
Doug has always been aggressive but it didn’t seem like he had a good feel for the game last night. With 32 seconds left in the first half, On a fourth-and-1, Pederson drew up a pass play that fell short to WR Travis Fulgham. This set Dallas up for a field goal that put them ahead going into halftime. Boston Scott was rolling at this point with 61 first half rushing yards, Doug should have ran the ball or taken into account that the offense was sputtering at this point in the game and were already due to receive the ball first after the half. Just call the punt team out and take the 7-6 lead into the half.
Wentz has struggled, but Doug has failed to help him out through game management and play calling.
6. Brandon Graham
DE Brandon Graham has been brilliant so far this season. Last night, he came up big again, forcing a strip sack on Cowboys QB Ben DiNucci, to bail the Eagles out yet again. This may have been the play of the game, as Dallas was deep into Eagles territory with a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
He currently ranks third in the NFL in sacks with 7. Graham’s career high is 9.5. He looks poised to surpass this total and make his first Pro Bowl team. He has arguably been the Eagles’ MVP so far this season.
7. Beast of the NFC (L)East
The Eagles sit at the top of a horrible NFC East. Here are the standings through the first half the season:
1. Eagles 3-4-1
2. Washington 2-5
3. Cowboys 2-6
4. Giants 1-6
The Eagles should run away with this division and it is likely a 6-9-1 record will take the crown.
8. Outlook on the Second Half
As mentioned, it should be expected that the Eagles repeat as NFC East champions and capture their third division crown in four years.
They face a tough schedule in the second half including a five game stretch at the Browns (5-3), Seahawks (6-1), @ Green Bay ( 5-2), Saints (5-2), and @ Arizona (5-2).
The NFC is wide-open, capturing a division title will give the Eagles a home playoff game. If Wentz plays well and the roster continues to get healthy, this team could make some noise in the second half and the early rounds of the playoffs.