Eagles offensive line absorbs another blow with Lane Johnson injury but battles through to beat Jaguars
Halapoulivaati Vaitai did not distinguish himself, but Carson Wentz managed to pull out a victory.
LONDON — The Eagles' offensive line, struggling to regain the dominant form that powered the team to a Super Bowl a little more than eight months ago, was in full scramble drill Sunday by the end of the first quarter of a hard-earned 24-18 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Eagles' first possession ended in a blind-side sack that caused yet another Carson Wentz fumble, scooped up and returned by Telvin Smith. At the end of the play, Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson lay motionless on the field. Johnson, who had been playing with a high ankle sprain, rode a cart into a Wembley Stadium tunnel with a knee injury.
The next possession ended in a red zone interception, and it was the last work of the first half for left tackle Jason Peters, who went inside to be evaluated for a head injury. So, second quarter, Halapoulivaati Vaitai switched from right tackle in place of Johnson to left tackle in place of Peters, and left guard Isaac Seumalo moved outside to right tackle.
Against a big, strong, aggressive Jacksonville defensive front, this was less than ideal. Somehow, the Eagles survived. Vaitai gave up a sack to Calais Campbell that helped turn a 13-play, 64-yard drive into a 31-yard Jake Elliott field goal, instead of a touchdown. But after the next Eagles possession ended in Wentz being pressured into an incompletion, the Jags gave the ball right back, on a Keelan Cole fumble forced by Avonte Maddox, recovered by Malcolm Jenkins.
The Eagles had 44 yards to go, and the final minute and 29 seconds of the first half to work with. Wentz scrambled for a first down on third and 12, then struck for the day's first touchdown.
>> SOCIAL MEDIA ROUNDUP: Fans take London, and is that Carson Wentz or Prince Harry?
Rolling to the right, as he often did against heavy pressure, Wentz threw back across his body to Dallas Goedert, who rambled into the end zone from 32 yards out, with 29 seconds remaining. It was a three-tight end set with solid blocking.
Peters returned for the second half, and the Eagles drove 95 yards in nine plays, ending in a nicely executed screen pass to Wendell Smallwood on which Jason Kelce, Peters and Seumalo sealed off the left side, 36-yard touchdown.
That made the score 17-6. There was a time when you could have safely counted on an Eagles victory working from that position, but not so much this season.
>> UP-DOWN DRILL: Avonte Maddox, Dallas Goedert, Jordan Matthews trending up
Indeed, the defense gave up a quick touchdown, and then Smallwood didn't pick up a blitz, leading to the third sack of Wentz, and Jacksonville got the ball back. Soon the Jags were within 17-15 and the afternoon was looking pretty familiar to Eagles fans, even if the setting wasn't.
But Wentz engineered a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a six-yard TD pass to Zach Ertz, and the Eagles had just enough breathing room to withstand a third-down sack that Vaitai gave up to Yannick Ngakoue that ended fans' hopes of running out the clock following a Jacksonville field goal.
The defense then bailed out Vaitai and, everyone else, with Ronald Darby deflecting a fourth-down pass.
>> PHOTOS: Eagles and Jaguars meet up in London
>> GRADE THE EAGLES: Domo awards A- to running backs