Eagles continue to raise bar, then surpass it | Bob Ford
With an 8-1 record, the Eagles aren't a surprise any longer.
Admittedly, traveling cross-country after a short week of practice with a new starting quarterback is not a traditional NFL formula for success, but, even so, the Denver Broncos encountered something they couldn't remotely handle on Sunday.
So, once more, after the Eagles throttled Denver 51-23, it's time to ask the weekly question: What exactly is going on here?
"We're winning football games," defensive tackle Beau Allen said. "We're doing it by playing great team games. This was a complete game. The offense was rolling and the defense did a great job of stopping the run and getting takeaways."
They won for the seventh straight time and did so with a minimum of drama. The win over the Broncos might have been the most impressive of their 8-1 season, if only because it was such a casual dismissal of a team capable of much better. Despite the absence of tight end Zach Ertz, who was held out with a hamstring strain, the offense scored on five of its first six possessions to essentially put the game out of reach by halftime.
"If we execute like this every week, there's not a team that should be able to stop us," center Jason Kelce said.
Now the Eagles get two weeks to heal up and prepare for the final seven games of the season, four of which are on the road, including back-to-back games on the West Coast that will take them away from home for about nine days. It could be a tough stretch – four of the games are against teams that had winning records going into Sunday – but playing the way they are now, Kelce is right. There isn't a game the Eagles can't win, or a height they can't reach this season.
"We're going to get there, but we have to stay focused," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "I heard the fans chanting, 'Trust the process.' I don't know if that was for us or for the Sixers, but either way it works. We want to continue to bring the city excitement, and everything they've been waiting on."
That should be a tall order for a team that lost a starting cornerback at the beginning of the season in Ronald Darby, and has since endured injuries to Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Fletcher Cox, kicker Caleb Sturgis, and special-teams anchor Chris Maragos. On Sunday, Ertz, their leading receiver, was added to the list.
Obviously, they aren't 8-1 because everything has gone right but because, despite the lineup churn, they are usually able to do fewer things wrong that the other team. Denver came in with a turnover problem, which led to the benching of quarterback Trevor Siemian. It continued with Brock Osweiler as the Eagles grabbed two interceptions, both of which led to touchdowns. In a game with just shy of 150 snaps, the Eagles committed just five penalties.
"It's a really mature group. Guys know what they're about and how to play in the NFL," Allen said. "Injuries are part of the game and we haven't been immune, but we've had guys step in and not even blink."
So far, only one team got the better of them, and that was the Chiefs, in Kansas City, and by just seven points. We'll learn more when the Eagles go into Dallas to face the Injunctions, and then to Seattle against the Seahawks, and even Los Angeles, against a surprisingly successful Rams team.
Those will be interesting, but the Eagles are the top seed in the NFL at the moment and if they can win enough games in the seven remaining, they won't have to worry about any more road games once the regular season ends. They can play their way into the Super Bowl during the postseason without leaving Philadelphia.
"We don't want to get complacent, but we're happy with where we're at," offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. "We've got a lot of hungry guys, and if we stay with that mind-set we'll be fine."
Getting home-field advantage through the playoffs is the goal. What will it take? Well, a 5-2 record the rest of the way would give them 13 wins, and that might not be a guarantee, but close enough. It would also mean they had won at least one more tough road game, so why would another scare them? Of course, counting wins too early is dangerous.
"We haven't arrived. We've been in this league long enough to know things can change quick," receiver Torrey Smith said. "But we're in a good spot now and we've earned being in this position. It's a cliche, but it really is one game at a time."
Check one more off the schedule. It was another game that could have been a trap or a letdown, but exceeded expectations instead. As quickly as they raise the bar for themselves, the Eagles have surpassed it all season. They get a little break now to reflect on what they have accomplished, but the good news is they probably won't.