By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This is what they needed. A little shove. Some self-implosion. Some doubt. This is what the Eagles needed to prove whether or not they truly belong among the NFL’s best—and presently the best team in the NFL seven games into the season.
On the Eagles first three plays, they did something not even midget football league teams could do if they tried: They were penalized four times for minus-26 yards and a demonstrative, overt groan rose from Lincoln Financial Field, with an undertone that connoted the pervasive pessimism of a Philadelphia fan—“This team is not for real [you can substitute “for real” with many other words most fans uttered that first quarter, no imagination necessary].”
Then things began taking hold.
No one panicked. The Eagles didn’t come apart on “Monday Night Football.”
It turned out to be quite the opposite. They came together—possibly even more so when faced with adversity.
What started as impending disaster turned into validation in the form of a 34-24 victory over the visiting Washington Redskins for the Eagles’ fifth-straight victory and an NFL-best 6-1 record. The last time the Eagles started 6-1 after their first seven games goes way back to Dick Vermeil’s 1981 team that was one year removed from the Super Bowl (the 2004 Super Bowl Eagles started 7-0 after their first seven games).
The last time the Eagles swept the Redskins in a season was in 2013—also the last time the Eagles were in the playoffs.
After trailing 10-3, and looking like slop doing it, the Eagles responded with three-straight touchdown drives to seize control of the game, despite losing left tackle Jason Peters in the third quarter with a knee injury that looked season-ending serious.
On the Eagles’ first series, they were staring at a first-and-33 at their 2-yard line. They were flagged four times on their first three plays—something pretty tough to do at any level of football, for offensive pass interference on Alshon Jeffery, a block in the back by Ertz, a hold on Lane Johnson and too many men in the huddle.
Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson momentarily went from being lauded before the game to suddenly being derided for not being able to count. The Birds ended their most dreadful series of downs with a Carson Wentz moon ball that was easily intercepted. They finished their worst quarter of the season outgained, 102-29, flagged five times for 31 yards and one turnover.
They didn’t cross midfield until early in the second quarter.
Then, as if flicking a switch, the Eagles rolled up 24 points on their next five possessions: They went field goal, punt, touchdown, touchdown and touchdown. After Wentz found Mack Hollins for a 64-yard touchdown with 3:19 left in the half, they went touchdown, touchdown, punt, touchdown and field goal on their next five drives.
The Eagles held what seemed to be a commanding 24-10 lead after Wentz withstood a storm to toss a 9-yard touchdown pass to Corey Clement with 9:43 left in the third quarter. But Washington responded with an 8-play, 54-yard drive, highlighted by a third-and-11 completion from Kirk Cousins to Jordan Reed for a 20-yard completion to the Eagles’ 5.
The next play, Cousins went right back to Reed for a 5-yard score, cutting into the Eagles’ lead 24-17 with 4:04 left in the third quarter.
It was time again for more Wentz magic.
On a third-and-8 from the Eagles’ 27, Wentz somehow, someway tunneled through the collapsing jaws of the Washington rush and came out—miraculously—scrambling up the field for a 17-yard gain. On the power of Wentz, the Eagles wound up two scores ahead again, 31-17, with 11:10 to play after he hit Nelson Agholor on a 10-yard slant for a TD.
Wentz finished completing 17 of 25 for 268 yards and tied a career-best with 4 touchdown passes.
Maybe, just maybe, this team is for real. Maybe some doubt was dispelled as to whether or not they’re the best the team in the NFL.
As of late-October 2017, they look it.