Through the first 25 minutes of the Philadelphia Eagles week one game against the Washington Redskins, nothing made sense. The Skins were up 17-0 and vaunted Eagles offense had mustered 38 yards. There was only one thing that allowed viewers at home to know that we hadn’t been transported through a wormhole into an alternate universe.
Philly fans were booing. Yup, we’re ok, the game was at The Linc.
There was one glimmer of hope before intermission when Carson Wentz threw a 51-yard TD strike to DeSean Jackson. Other than that, the Eagles had been thoroughly dominated. Halftime came, as did more boos while the birds were limping to their locker room.
In the second half it was a completely different story. Philadelphia accumulated nearly 300 yards of total offense in the second half, scored 25 points and came away with a 32-27 win. It wasn’t so much a fire and brimstone speech as a change in philosophy from two men that made the offense click.
What Changed at Half After Half-Time in the Eagles Comeback Win?
First, let’s go with Doug Pederson. For all accolades Wentz got before his injury in 2017, it was the running game that propelled the Eagles to the Super Bowl. They were third in the league in rushing that season. Last year, the number dipped to 28th and they had to fight for a playoff spot. For the Eagles to be at their best, they have to be a run-first offense. Commit to the run, big things will follow in the passing game.
On Sunday, Philadelphia rushed for 22 yards in the first half against the Redskins. They scored seven points. In the second half, the Eagles ran for 101 yards and scored 25 points. Coincidence?
The second person who changed philosophy was Wentz himself. In a pregame interview Pederson said he wasn’t going to hold Wentz back in any way. If it wasn’t the playcalling that held Wentz back, then you can only assume it was Wentz himself that was holding back. His stated goal coming into this season was that he wanted to play all 16 games. He changed his diet. He altered his physique slightly to handle the rigors of an NFL season. And in the first half, Wentz looked like a QB who was trying not to get hurt. He just looked, well, off. No spark, unsure of where to go with the ball, no risks, lots of checkdowns, trying to make sure he got everyone involved. He was 12-of-18 for 112 yards (51 on the TD pass to Jackson). Zach Ertz had one catch for five yards.
In the second half, he looked like Carson Wentz. He was active in the pocket. He moved his legs. He took chances tossing the ball into impossible windows, completing passes that perfectly design robots would struggle to meet. He relied on his best targets. In the final 30 minutes, Wentz went 16-for-21, 201 yards, and two TD. He used his old reliable target as Ertz caught four balls for 49 yards in the second half.
The Eagles Lessons From NFL Week 1 and Eagles NFL Week 2 Odds Preview
If week one in the NFL taught us anything about the NFC East, it’s that when the Eagles play their best, they are the best, that a 10.5 win projection is well within reach and surmountable, and that Carson Wentz is an MVP candidate. It’s that Dallas can be very good and challenge the Eagles supremacy when Zeke Elliott gets his legs under him to take pressure off the rest of the offense. It’s that the Redskins can make things interesting, especially if Case Keenum plays well. It’s that the Giants can pick up their team participation trophy at any time because if they can only muster 17 points when Eli throws for 305 yards and Saquon Barkley rushes for 120, its going to be a long season for the G-Men.
As the Eagles prepare for their Week 2 matchup against the Falcons, it seems the oddsmakers were completely unimpressed with both teams; the Eagles odds and the Falcons odds currently sit as a pick ‘em. Of course, the Eagles had one really bad and one really good half against the Redskins, but the Falcons played consistently for two halves… the problem was it was poorly in both halves against the Minnesota Vikings. If the Eagles can keep up the momentum from the second half, they should have no problem handling the Falcons and moving to 2-0 on the season and 1-1 against the spread.
But for that top line to happen, for the Eagles to be the best, it’s going to rely on Wentz in many ways. Simply put, Carson Wentz needs to be Carson Wentz. He needs to take chances, extend plays with his legs…and in the process, run the risk that is associated with that style of play. Without that dimension, he is an average quarterback with a big arm who will keep his team in a game, but will ultimately not deliver a second ring.