Every week, since the first preseason game, we have written and shared a next-day Eagles post mortem, recapping what people are still talking about from the game and looking at some overarching trends that set the tone for the following week’s game.
We teased the idea of calling the series the ‘Front Seven’ giving readers seven interesting Eagles-related items to digest at the start of the workweek. Regular readers have noticed this weekly post does feature seven items — takeaways, they are often called in the industry — coming out of each game.
Today, in honor of the defensive display by the Eagles and Vikings Sunday, we have eight.
Carson Wentz threw two interceptions to Sam Bradford’s one. That’s three takeaways. The Vikings fumbled the ball five times, losing three. Six takeaways. The Eagles had four fumbles, losing two.
There were eight takeaways in the game on Sunday, by two teams that entered the game a combined +17 in turnover margin. That was somehow both impressive and terrible.
Look at these five minutes in the first quarter on Sunday. There were five turnovers and three penalties in 11 snaps. Minnesota had the ball at the Eagles’ two-yard line and again at the 17-yard line and came away with zero points.
That the next drive after this exchange ended in a punt was a victory of sorts, though certainly not one for good football.
So that’s one takeaway. Of the eight takeaways. Let’s get to the other seven.
Here’s what Eagles fans will be talking about today, so feel free to steal them and sound like a football genius.
‘Josh Huff can fly…’
There have been two kickoff returns for touchdown in the NFL this season, both in the last two weeks, and both by Philadelphia.
Wendell Smallwood took a kick back to the house against Washington last week, and Josh Huff broke the scoring open against Minnesota with a 98-yard return on Sunday.
There have now been 201 kickoff returns for touchdown in the NFL since 2000 and the Eagles have just seven of them, from six different players. This season marks the ninth time since 2000 — nine times in 17 seasons — a team has had kickoffs returned for scores by two different players.
Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, there have been 578 kickoffs returned for touchdown in NFL history, dating back to 1932. The Eagles have 20 of them, including four in the last three years.
‘Imagine if we had a good offense’
‘Wentz was bad, but Bradford was worse’
We posted a story about the quarterbacks on Sunday, so if you missed that, feel free to check out that more in-depth look at Wentz and Bradford, if you can stomach all the terribleness.
“I thought Carson overall played well,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said while somehow keeping his nose from growing in front of the assembled media after the game. “Played efficient. Made some good throws. I thought he forced a few early, with those picks, but really settled in and managed the game. That’s just the type of kid he is. He seems to get better each week.”
Wentz was 16-for-28 with just 138 yards in the air and one score. He added a two-point conversion as well. But he also had two interceptions and three fumbles, one of which the team lost, and seemed to have trouble with almost every shotgun snap from Jason Kelce the entire game, bobbling or dropping several. He wasn’t better this week, but he was better than Bradford.
Bradford finished the game 24-for-41 and 224 yards with one touchdown, but the score and 90 of the yards came on the final drive when he dinked-and-dunked the Vikings into the end zone in garbage time.
In his return to Philly, Sam had an interception and two lost fumbles, including two turnovers inside the red zone. (Remember: Eight takeaways.)
‘Bradford got booed, because Philly fans and media are dumb’
Okay, be careful who you say that line to. Or just blame me. I’m fine with that.
Because Philly fans and media are dumb.
Not all of them, obviously. This is one of the best sports towns in the country, and part of what makes it great is that there are thousands and thousands of super smart fans of all five pro sports, and a host of media who cover the teams in a way that can inform, enlighten and entertain. We have some of the best beat writers and bloggers in the business, and our local coverage in the city is as good as any other major market in America.
We also have sports talk radio. They talk about booing a lot.
This is Narrative Creation: 101. Sports Radio WIP, and other outlets that include CSN Philly, let’s be fair, turned the week leading up to Eagles-Vikings into a referendum of whether fans should boo Bradford or not. Beat writers retweeted them. Hell, I think I even retweeted, them if only to talk about how silly this is to talk about.
Planning to boo someone is so contrived and forced and pretty much everything sports radio is built on: getting people angry about nonsense. Yes, of course Eagles fans should have been as loud as they could when the Vikings had the ball to create confusion and disrupt the Vikings’ communication. That’s what every football stadium full of fans is supposed to do. That’s not the same as booing a guy who was traded away to make room for your quarterback of the future.
And yet, because they made it a story, it became a story.
Congrats. Now it’s someone’s job to find all the national stories talking about the booing — the less legitimate the better — in hopes someone in the national media gets angry (read: lazy) enough to take the Philly fans to task. That’ll give sports talk radio plenty of fodder for this week, will get people angry at the national media and galvanize their audience even more.
It’s genius, really. Who can boo that?
‘The Eagles blitzed a lot, and it worked’
The Eagles coaches have been talking all season about getting pressure from the front four on the defensive line, disrupting the quarterback without needing to blitz.
They blitzed on roughly 150 percent of the plays on Sunday.
“We knew we couldn’t let him sit back there,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said after the game. “When he’s sitting back there and pretty much playing seven on seven, you know what type of quarterback he’s capable of being. That was one of our main focuses all week. We capitalized on it and had some big turnovers and made some big plays.”
The Eagles had six sacks on Bradford from six different players, with just three coming from the defensive line. Linebacker Jordan Hicks led the team with 11 combined tackles, a sack and three of the team’s six tackles for loss on Sunday.
“We knew we wanted to pressure Sam, and we capitalized on it,” Hicks said after the game. “It shows the trust [defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz] has in our defense and the trust he has in our coverage.”
‘The Playoff Picture looks better. Sort of.’
Never say ‘if the playoffs started today’ to anyone. They don’t. Teams have played no more than seven games. A lot can happen in the next 10 weeks. Last week, based on how they were playing and their schedule, it looked like the Eagles might win four games all season. Now they’re 4-2 and right in the thick of things.
Dallas is still the class of the NFC East, though that could change next week when Philly and the Cowboys face off. Minnesota would still be in line to win the NFC North, along with Seattle winning the West, now at 4-1-1 after inexplicably tying Arizona 6-6 on Sunday night.
The Falcons are in a bit of a freefall, but are still leading the NFC South at 4-3. The Packers at 4-2 would get one Wild Card and the Eagles are in line for the other, just ahead of the Lions and Washington, both at 4-3. Of course, both of those teams beat Philly, so once all the bye weeks are gone, we will get a better sense of where everyone is.
The long and short of it is this: 4-2 is better than 3-3, and the win over the Vikings is huge as Philly navigates a tough stretch of games over the next six weeks.
‘Wentzlvania, Wentzadelphia or…Miami Wentz?’
We tweeted this yesterday but it deserves a little more recognition. The kid may be from North Dakota, but he’s dressing like he’s Sonny Crockett, patrolling the streets of Miami in a Ferrari.
Two questions: First, if Wentz is Crockett, who on the Eagles is Tubbs?
Second, which Ferrari was cooler: The Ferrari 365 GTB (which was actually a Daytona Spyder) or the white Ferrari Testarossa (which was real, but not used for stunts. They built a fake one out of an old Pantera for that.)
Moreover, which one do you think Wentz would be more likely to drive? Does Ferrari make a pick-up truck?