The 5-1 Eagles are really, really good (really)

Thursday Night Football was another big road win for Doug Pederson’s Birds.

Jalen Mills had a huge late INT in the Eagles' win at Carolina

Jalen Mills had a huge late INT in the Eagles' win at Carolina

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles are 5-1.

The Eagles have five wins in six games. The Eagles. Five and one. Who saw this coming before the season? Who saw this coming two weeks ago? The Eagles went to Carolina and beat the 4-1 Panthers, 28-23, to lock down the best record in the NFC. This team is really good. Here’s how it happened.

On 3rd-and-3 with six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were up by five. To that point in Thursday night’s game, Carson Wentz was 5-of-9 on third down, with every completion going for either a first down or a touchdown.

Wentz tried to hit Alshon Jeffery on the right side of the field but overthrew him, one of a handful of overthrows in the game for Wentz, and one that could have been a big mistake.

The Eagles were forced to punt, giving Cam Newton and the Panthers the ball back with plenty of time to take the lead. Carolina marched down the field on 10 plays, but the 11th — 3rd-and-10 from the 41 yard line — the Eagles brought the blitz. The result:

Cam Newton’s third interception gave the ball back to the Eagles with a chance to lock the game down. But Carolina’s defense grounded the Birds, forcing another punt, and giving the ball back to Newton with just over two minutes to play.

Another mistake by Wentz nearly cost the Eagles late, as he had two open receivers on that key third down. For how magical the Eagles have been on third down, two late chances went awry. But again, the Eagles defense held, allowing one first down before stopping the Panthers on four straight plays.

Yes, the Eagles are 5-1.

Wentz threw for just 222 yards on 16 completions, thanks in part to short fields the Eagles offense had after Carolina turnovers. But he threw three touchdowns for the second week in a row, the first time in his career he’d throw more than two scores.

“All the way from last year,” Wentz told NFL Network, “as a team, collectively, short week, two 4-1 teams where we are sitting right now, we’ve played a ton of games on the road, so to come out here with a victory — you know last year we struggled with finding a way to win close ballgames and winning games on the road. And we got both those things done tonight.”

Jeffery led the Eagles with 71 yards on four catches, and Nelson Agholor added 55 yards on four catches with one score. Zach Ertz only had two catches, but they were both for touchdowns, as Wentz connected with eight different receivers for his 16 completions.

But really, the story is just as much the defense, which overcame injury (again) to win another game on the road. Newton was 28-of-52 for just 239 yards and one touchdown pass, scoring another on the ground. He ran 11 times for 71 yards, but no Carolina back had more than four carries against the Eagles defense, totalling 11 yards rushing for players other than Newton. Tony Romo, calling the game for CBS, brought this up in the postgame, and credited the Eagles defense for being so disruptive against the run.

“Philadelphia only needs to rush with four guys,” Romo told Jim Nantz, “and that’s a really nice thing to have as a defensive coordinator. And they can run the ball consistently.”

The Eagles handed off 21 times in the game, with Wentz credited for another six runs himself, a few of which were designed runs. In total, the Eagles had 30 throws and 27 runs, pretty darn good balance. Yet, again, it was the defense that wreaked havoc on the Carolina backfield, thanks largely to the return of Fletcher Cox.

Cox only had two assisted tackles and half a sack, but he was a total beast along the defensive line. Mychal Kendricks led the team in tackles with 10 and five assisted, while the super thin linebacking corps had to deal with the loss of their leader, Jordan Hicks, who didn’t return after halftime because of an ankle injury. But worry not, as Nigel Bradham stepped up big time, registering seven tackles, three assisted, and a ton of huge plays down the stretch.

The story of the game, truly, was the horrific refereeing. It’s miraculous it didn’t impact the outcome of the game.

The Eagles had 10 penalties for 126 yards, several of which were really terrible calls by Pete Morelli’s crew. Like this one:

But it’s remarkable that so many penalties were called against one team and not the other. Funny, that even the one penalty for one yard the Panthers did commit, Morelli initially waived off, giving the Eagles an extra point Doug Pederson didn’t want. The Eagles coach took the yard instead, went for a 2-point conversion and made it. That was the only enforced penalty of the game against Carolina. That’s ridiculous, and it’s historic.

Thanks to the early game of the week, the Eagles are now just the second team in the NFL to get to five wins. Kansas City, the Eagles’ only loss, had five wins first and just one other team, Green Bay, has a chance to match five wins this week. Philly will get a ton of extra rest too, as they don’t play again until next Monday night against Washington at the Linc.

The Eagles may not be the best team in the NFL, or even with the Packers at 4-1 the best in the NFC, but they just went into another 4-1 team’s stadium and beat them up pretty handily on both sides of the ball. They’re 5-1. And they’re really, really good.

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