Ea­gles flip the script

Birds sur­vive nearly dis­as­trous start, fly to vic­tory in opener

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro

PHILADEL­PHIA — Punched in the face early, the Ea­gles re­sponded with a dom­i­nat­ing sec­ond half on their way to a 32-27 tri­umph over NFC East ri­val Wash­ing­ton in their sea­son opener on Sun­day.

Here’s what im­me­di­ately jumped out.

Not ready: The Ea­gles cer­tainly looked like a team that came in un­pre­pared to ex­e­cute the most ba­sic of game plans. Slug­gish on of­fense, slow to re­act and not able to tackle on de­fense, they were made to look vul­ner­a­ble in all ar­eas by a Wash­ing­ton team that came in as a 10-point un­der­dog. This was the high­est spread in the NFL for Week 1.

The Red­skins jumped to a 17-0 lead be­fore the Ea­gles could re­spond with a touch­down, then kicked an­other field goal for a 20-7 lead just be­fore in­ter­mis­sion.

The Ea­gles dom­i­nated the sec­ond half by not over­re­act­ing.

“Just a mat­ter of stay­ing pa­tient, trust­ing the game plan and the guys ex­e­cuted well in the sec­ond half,” coach Doug Ped­er­son said.

Added safety Mal­colm Jenk­ins: “We all want to start fast, but the re­al­ity is, if you have a slow start, which you some­times will, how do you re­spond to it and how com­fort­able are you in start­ing slow? I

think this is a con­fi­dent bunch, and at no point in time do we feel we are out of it.”

Play calls: Ped­er­son and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz didn’t look they were in mid­sea­son form with their first-half calls, ei­ther.

On sec­ond-and-four from the Wash­ing­ton 31-yard line, they called for a side­ways pass to DeSean Jack­son that lost 3 yards. Two plays later, Wentz tried to go over the mid­dle on fourth down and had the pass bat­ted down at the line.

Two plays af­ter that, Wash­ing­ton was in the end zone when rookie re­ceiver Terry McLau­rin beat their slow­est cor­ner­back, Ra­sul Dou­glas, by five steps in sin­gle cov­er­age deep down the field for a 69-yard bomb that made it 17-0.

Late in the first half, on thir­dand-10 in the 2-minute drill, a quick out was set up for Jack­son to fol­low his block­ers down the right side­line. The only prob­lem was that one of them was tight end Zach Ertz, who will get shoved aside ev­ery time in that sit­u­a­tion, as he was by Quin­ton Dun­bar, who forced a punt with 1:48 to go, giv­ing the Red­skins time to drive for a field goal that sent them to in­ter­mis­sion with a 20-7 lead.

Mo­men­tum killers/chang­ers: So many games in this league turn on the last se­ries of the first half and open­ing se­ries of the sec­ond. And Wash­ing­ton closed the first half with an omi­nous drive for a field goal. Dustin Hop­kins con­nected from 48 yards with a kick that wouldn’t have been good from 53. That is where the at­tempt would have been from had Derek Bar­nett not jumped off­side on the play in which quar­ter­back Case Keenum at­tempted to spike the ball to set it up.

But the Ea­gles calmly ab­sorbed that blow by re­spond­ing with a 12-play, 75-yard touch­down drive to open the third quar­ter.

Wentz magic: The touch­down pass Wentz tossed to Al­shon Jef­fery to fin­ish off that open­ing drive of the third quar­ter showed his scram­bling abil­ity, vi­sion and abil­ity throw with­out nec­es­sar­ily step­ping into the throw.

Wentz also con­nected with DeSean Jack­son on touch­down bombs of 51 and 53 yards on his way to go­ing 28 for 39 for 313 yards and three touch­downs.

That puts him on pace to fin­ish with 5,008 pass­ing yards. All he needs is 15 more like that.

Any more ques­tions? True, his team looked un­pre­pared in spot­ting the Red­skins a 17-0 lead, but the ends clearly jus­ti­fied the means for Ped­er­son, who was crit­i­cized heav­ily here through­out the pre­sea­son and again at half­time on Twit­ter.

But the Ea­gles also found a rhythm in this game in time to pull it out, which is all that mat­ters.

They’re still far from mid­sea­son form, but they ap­pear to have all the pre­sea­son-type kinks worked out, and they did it in a hurry.

Re­spect for el­ders: Run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les, 36, and Jack­son, 32, ac­counted for 217 of the Ea­gles’ 437 yards from scrim­mage. Spro­les added 46 punt-re­turn yards.

Jack­son had game-highs in re­cep­tions (eight) and re­ceiv­ing yards (154). This was his first time play­ing with Wentz, too.

In­juries: De­fen­sive tackle Ma­lik Jack­son af­ter the game was wear­ing a walk­ing boot on his left foot. He said he didn’t know what the in­jury was and will have an MRI on Mon­day.

Peek­ing ahead: The Ea­gles visit the At­lanta Fal­cons, who are com­ing off a loss at Min­nesota, on Sun­day night. The Fal­cons out­gained the Vik­ings, 345 yards to 269, had nine more first downs and still were blown out, 28-12.

How?

Sim­ple. They lost the turnover bat­tle, 3-0, and they couldn’t stop the run. The Vik­ings ran the ball 38 times for 172 yards. Mean­while, quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins at­tempted just 10 passes (com­plet­ing eight) as the Vik­ings turned back the clock some 50 years.

Some­how, me­thinks the Ea­gles won’t use that ap­proach as a blue­print for their game plan against At­lanta next week.

MATT ROURKE/AP

The Ea­gles’ DeSean Jack­son cel­e­brates af­ter mak­ing a touch­down catch in Sun­day’s win. The Ea­gles outscored the Red­skins 25-7 in the sec­ond half.

MICHAEL PEREZ/AP

Dar­ren Spro­les, leap­ing over tackle Lane John­son, rushed for a game-high 47 yards as his Ea­gles de­feated the Red­skins on Sun­day.

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