As you begin your work week, admit it: The Eagles' 23-9 win Sunday night over the Dallas Cowboys didn’t really feel like a victory. Dallas right now might be one of the worst teams in the NFL and had a deer-in-the-headlights, third-string quarterback, Ben DiNucci, who looked every bit like a seventh-round draft pick from James Madison.
Optimists will say that the Eagles (3-4-1) enter their bye week in first place in the NFC East, but they understand that after the bye week, they have to pick up their game dramatically over the second half of the season.
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Graham a first-half terror
Brandon Graham has never had double-digit sacks in a season or made a Pro Bowl. He is on course to do both this season. (While there won’t be a Pro Bowl game played this season, there will still be Pro Bowl teams selected.)
While Eagles fans will use the bye week to complain about the inconsistency of Carson Wentz, Graham has been a model of stability this year. At 32, he is on course to have his best season.
His strip-sack in Sunday’s win was his seventh sack of the season. Here are the NFL sack leaders through Sunday’s games:
Yannick Ngakoue, Baltimore, 10
Myles Garrett, Cleveland, 9
Aaron Donald, LA Rams, 9
Graham, Eagles, 7
That’s some pretty heady company. While sacks don’t totally define a player, they are a good indication of a player’s dominance.
Graham’s season best for sacks is 9.5 in the Eagles' Super Bowl season of 2017. He is also known for the most famous sack in Eagles history, the strip-sack of Tom Brady in the Eagles' 41-33 victory in Super Bowl LII.
Graham’s strip-sack of DiNucci was a key early-game play Sunday night. Leading by 3-0 in the first quarter, Dallas had a second-and-goal from the Eagles' 7-yard line when Graham’s strip-sack and fumble recovery halted some serious early momentum.
“That was a kick-start of what we were trying to do to get going in the game,” he said.
Besides having his best start to a season, Graham is also valuable because of his durability. Over the past eight years, he has missed just one game, and that is when Pederson rested many of his starters in the final game of the Super Bowl season. The Eagles had already clinched the No. 1 seed.
Graham, the Eagles' first round pick in 2010 (13th overall), also has played well against the run this season. It could be argued that he has been the Eagles' first-half MVP.
What you need to know about the Eagles
Jeff McLane asks who’s the bigger problem, Carson Wentz or Doug Pederson?
Marcus Hayes says that Wentz needs to use the bye wisely and get away from football for a week. Hayes reasons that the job is overwhelming Wentz.
David Murphy pulls no punches when he writes that Pederson needs to get the Eagles offense going, or the team will need to find someone who can.
Paul Domowitch has five takeaways from the game. He wasn’t overly impressed with Wentz.
Domowitch also handed out his grades for the game. The pass defense got the highest mark.
McLane gives his Up-Down Drill for the game. He even went out of the box to give a rating to the NFC East. Bet you can’t guess whether that was up or down.
Even though the Eagles won, Twitter reaction was critical. Eagles followers realize that the turnover ways of Wentz have to change.
As he does each week, EJ Smith chronicled the Eagles game as it happened, with highlights and commentary on the big plays.
Pederson knows that winning ugly will take the Eagles only so far. “We can’t do the things we are doing in order to survive in this league,” he said.
It was a big defensive effort, one that bailed the Eagles out, Smith writes. Leading the way were Rodney McLeod and T.J. Edwards and Graham.
If Eagles fans are concerned about their team, it could be worse: You could be rooting for the LA Chargers. As Ed Barkowitz writes in his NFL Week 8 observations, the Chargers' penchant for blowing big leads is becoming legendary.
Tim Tai and Yong Kim provide The Inquirer’s photo gallery of the Eagles-Cowboys game.
From the mailbag
Question: When is Carson Wentz going to stop holding the ball too long and fumbling? — Michael Spear on Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Michael. While the Eagles have had so many injuries on the offensive line, many of Wentz’s turnovers are his fault. A classic case was this first fumble against Dallas, where he had about eight seconds and should have thrown the ball away.
While Wentz should be commended for never giving up on a play, he also can get himself hurt leaving himself exposed like that. On that first fumble, he took a major shot.
In his postgame press conference, Wentz said he would still be aggressive, but even he realizes that he can’t keep living on the edge and playing this way.