- Alex Hand
Entering the Bye Week: Philadelphia Eagles
In a game where Philadelphia was not favored by even the most die-hard fans who casted them off as a potential victor of no more then three points, the Eagles shocked everybody by decimating the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3. Carson Wentz dissected the Steelers defense, while the Eagles defense engulfed Ben Roethlisberger and his run game. The Eagles allowed a meager 251 total yards of offense (29 rushing) whilst compiling four sacks and two turnovers, which should leave a warm, fuzzy feeling heading into the bye week.
Wentz has shown that he can be elite in this West Coast-hybrid offense and is insanely accurate. Very few quarterbacks, especially rookies, can hit the palms in coverage while avoiding the rush. He gels with the offense, commands it well, and has won the respect of this team as the starter through his work ethic and their results.
The Bird’s run game assisted the rook well with Ryan Mathews playing hard-nosed, blue-collar football despite having to exit the game early to nurse an ankle injury. However, that only allowed the Eagles to show what potential lies in this team’s running back stable as Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, and Kenjon Barner all recorded a touchdown that day.
Much, if not all the credit has to go to the coaches. Doug Pederson has shown that he knows how to call winning games in this league, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has the exact personnel he needs in order to flex this defense as he so fits.
The safety blitzes are there, the ability to play drop back defense is apparent, he has the depth to rotate guys in that keeps the line fresh and the power against the opposing offensive line constant, and he trusts the defensive line to carry out the bulk of the scheme – the front four carries out the rush, which reduces the need to blitz extra defenders.
The Steelers were written off as Super Bowl contenders prior to the start of the season and still are considered one of the top teams in football, and the Eagles decimated them.
The biggest question facing the Eagles now is where do they go from here. Clearly it is a bye week, which is the week designated for recovery. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin and tight end Zach Ertz are expected to be 100 percent by the time the team will be flying out to face Detroit Lions on October 9. But perhaps, as their head coach has stated, the best thing they can do is stay humble.
“The number one challenge for all of us, and I speak for myself too, when I say that we’ve got to stay humble through this whole thing and the season is very young. 22-years in the National Football League…you’ve been on teams that have started fast, you’ve been on teams that have started slow, and it’s just how you stay the course. You can’t substitute preparation [and] hard work for anything.”
To be quite honest, the coach is right. The Eagles are currently 3-0, number one in their division, their rookie QB has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week and stud D-lineman Fletcher Cox has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month. The best thing for this team is to not get a big head, to keep their nose down, and continue to put in the effort that has brought them to this point.
Because Eagles fans are well aware of the amount of heartbreaking seasons that have occurred in the City of Brotherly Love after starting out on solid ground. Just two years ago, the 2014 Eagles began 3-0 (later 9-3) and finished 10-6 without a playoff appearance.
Coach Pederson is not immune to this bug either as his 2013 Kansas City Chiefs began 9-0 before finishing 11-5 after their bye week, which eventually followed a gun slinging, first-round exit. While he was the offensive coordinator there, he still had a huge impact on the offense.
Looking ahead, this franchise comes across as one of the few teams that look like they have skipped all the rookie gen eds and dove straight into the core classes in competing for a post-season appearance. That is in the hopes that they do as their coach says, follow the studious nature of their quarterback, and believe that they can make a push in year one.
They will need to prove their legitimacy by winning at least four of their next five games coming off the bye week. Three of those matchups are against divisional rivals and the other two are against the Lions and Minnesota Vikings.
The hardest team in that lineup is the Vikings, and then the Eagles face a trifecta of playoff contending teams; the Seattle Seahawks in Washington, Green Bay Packers at home, and then the Cincinnati Bengals on the road.
Nobody said winning in this league is easy, and coach Pederson has already stated that to his team during post-game locker room speeches. When the Birds return, their head coach will be there to greet them and to remind them that they are now 0-0. Only now their opponents have film on them.