Of­fen­sive line, run­ning backs earn high marks

Ea­gles earn mixed grades from stir­ring vic­tory in Green Bay

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Philadel­phia Ea­gles were all over the place in Thurs­day night's im­prob­a­ble win at Green Bay.

As such, they have mixed grades from their per­for­mance. Here's how they shake out:

Of­fen­sive line: A

Cleared the way for a run­ning game that pro­duced 176 yards and an av­er­age of 5.3 yards per at­tempt and did not al­low a sack. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­quired against the tricky Green Bay pass-rush pack­age was at a level that's be­yond rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions even for a full week of prepa­ra­tion. But on a short week? That was just sick good.

“This is a good front, a re­ally good front,” coach Doug Ped­er­son said of the Pack­ers. “A lot of our com­bi­na­tion blocks had some suc­cess.”

Receivers: C+

Hard to grade this group be­cause it was such a small part of the game plan. Al­shon Jef­fery caught a touch­down pass but failed to reel in a dif­fi­cult two-point con­ver­sion that he should have had.

Tight ends: B

Zach Ertz (seven re­cep­tions, 65 yards) was his usual solid self, Dal­las Goed­ert caught two of three tar­gets and the run game flour­ished.

Run­ning backs: A

Best game yet for the 1-2 com­bi­na­tion of Jor­dan Howard (15 car­ries, 87 yards, two TD runs, one TD re­cep­tion) and Miles Sanders (11 car­ries, 72 yards). Both also did good jobs in pass pro­tec­tion.

“We had watched from the past two weeks Denver and Min­nesota [do­ing] a great job run­ning the ball against them,” Howard said, “so we felt like we could at­tack them in that area of the game.”

Quar­ter­back: B

Maybe Car­son Wentz should do some kind of aer­o­bic work­out right be­fore kick­off to cre­ate enough fa­tigue to counter the ef­fects of a clear pat­tern of pregame adren­a­line spikes that have him mis­fir­ing early. But as usual, he set­tled down and played a heck of a game.

De­fen­sive line: B

This group was once again solid against the run, as it has been in ev­ery game. But Fletcher Cox is clearly lack­ing some­thing, and Derek Bar­nett nearly cost them the game with a pair of penal­ties that more than off­set a strip-sack that set up a touch­down.

Lineback­ers: C

Nigel Brad­ham came through with a game­clinch­ing in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone in the clos­ing sec­onds and dropped what al­most cer­tainly would have been a pick-6 in the third quar­ter. Zach Brown com­mit­ted two bru­tal penal­ties. Kamu Grugier-Hill was a non-fac­tor in his first game of the sea­son.

“We've been a top red-zone de­fense the last cou­ple years,” Brad­ham said, “and we take pride in that.”

Sec­ondary: C

Cor­ner­back Sid­ney Jones was burned on a long touch­down pass be­fore leav­ing with an­other soft-tis­sue in­jury (ham­string) that has de­fined his three-year ca­reer more than any­thing else. Safety Rod­ney McLeod came up big on a goal-line stand in the fourth quar­ter. And deep re­serve cor­ner­back Craig James was huge in break­ing up the pass that Brad­ham in­ter­cepted to seal the win.

Spe­cial teams: A

Sanders helped turn the game around with a 67-yard kick­off re­turn to set the Ea­gles up for their first touch­down. Punter Cam John­ston pinned the Pack­ers in­side the 20 on three of four at­tempts. Can't ask for much more.

Coach­ing: B+

Head coach Doug Ped­er­son dis­cov­ered af­ter some trial and er­ror that a more ground-ori­ented at­tack was the way to go. De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz was ham­strung by penal­ties that could be the re­sult of his cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere in which dis­ci­pline is lack­ing, but we'll give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt for now.

They plugged up their leaky kick­off cov­er­age and made a game-chang­ing play on Sanders' big kick­off re­turn, so spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Dave Fipp did some­thing right.

Ped­er­son's teams have never lost a game on a short week (5-0 on Thurs­day, one be­ing the 2018 sea­son opener).

“I credit the play­ers for how well they pre­pare dur­ing the week,” Ped­er­son said. “I do my part get­ting them as fresh as I can and as healthy as I can. … These guys re­ally take it upon them­selves to pre­pare and be ready on Thurs­day nights.”

Over­all: B

They weren't per­fect, but good when they needed to be. Con­sider this: Be­fore Thurs­day night, per ESPN, Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers was 58-0-1 in his ca­reer when his team led at home by 10 or more points. That makes what the Ea­gles did even more im­pres­sive Morn­ing Call re­porter Nick Fierro can be reached at 610-778-2243 or [email protected]


Ea­gles coach Doug Ped­er­son had to be pleased with most of his team’s per­for­mances on Thurs­day night against the Pack­ers.

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