A phrase made popular by former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, the mentor of current coach Doug Pederson, held literal truth as Philadelphia defeated the Browns on Sunday afternoon.
In his first game as Philadelphia’s new boss, Pederson accomplished something previous head coach Chip Kelly never did in 47 games with the Eagles. According to NFL research, the Eagles’ 39:20 time of possession was more than any single game during the Kelly era. Much was made about how Kelly wasn’t a fan of time of possession. The new Eagles regime has a new mentality. Pederson’s ball control offense could be a welcomed change from the recent past. The new emphasis isn’t on running plays as fast as the Eagles can.
Instead, the Eagles’ slowed-down approach allows for more creative play-calls and audibles from the quarterback. Speaking of, Carson Wentz was very strong in his NFL debut. Pederson deserves credit for putting his rookie in good spots.
Another benefit from winning the time of possession battle is that Philadelphia’s defense shouldn’t be forced to play so many extra snaps every game. Pederson was impressed by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s unit performed against the Browns.
“Jim obviously had them ready to go and some of that spread stuff, whatever wildcat stuff that they do, our guys handled that extremely well,” said Pederson. “Our coaches, defensive coaches, did a great job preparing our players. And just the way, you know, it’s just things that we saw and I saw during preseason that the attack style; some of those long runs were just because we’re so aggressive up the field that they slip by. That’s going to happen. That’s the National Football League.”
“But as they got into the game, we got more and more touches on the quarterback and we got balls, [pass breakups]. And listen, they are going to make plays, too. It’s a good football team over there and those guys are professionals and they are going to make [plays] and RG3 is a great quarterback and he’s going to make you pay from time to time. I just thought our defense played aggressive. Second half, came out and really got after them from a defensive standpoint and gave our offense some short fields in that second half.”
Winning the time of possession battle isn’t everything. But Pederson’s style is a reminder of how the Eagles are trying to go back to the future and erase the recent history of the Kelly era. So far, the Birds are off to a good start.
WHAT YOU MISSED
What did we learn from yesterday’s win over the Browns?
Instant observations from Sunday’s season opener.
Miss anything? Check out our Open Thread from the game.
Tight end Trey Burton was one of the notable players inactive yesterday.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Although Carson Wentz had a very good debut, Mike Sielski of the Inquirer says to not get too excited about it.
It was particularly noteworthy for [Malcolm] Jenkins to offer that more cautious outlook on Wentz, because so many in the Eagles’ locker room were in such a hurry to toss laurels at the kid’s cleats. Wentz was terrific Sunday, no doubt: changing a pass-protection call at the line of scrimmage to set up a 28-yard completion to Jordan Matthews, flicking the ball to Zach Ertz on fourth-and-4 for five yards and a first down, feathering a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor on the next play as if he were dropping a quarter into a soda-machine slot from 35 yards away.
But the reality that this was just one game against the Browns, whose new front office decided to hollow out a team that stormed to a 3-13 record last season, did little to temper the giddiness. There were no pleas for patience. There were no admonitions that, over time, the league will get a good long look at Wentz and start to figure him out.
Even though Wentz was the shining star, Tommy Lawlor writes that the win was a team effort.
Matthews caught 7 passes for 114 yards and a TD. He and Wentz need to work on their chemistry a bit, but they made one impressive pitch and catch combo. Nelson Agholor was 4-57, including a 35-yard TD where he burned Joe Haden, a top flight CB. That’s the kind of big play ability Agholor has. The Eagles ran for 133 yards, with Ryan Mathews doing most of the work and Kenjon Barner showing some impressive wheels (4-42).
None of that happens if the O-line doesn’t control the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t a great day for the biggies, but they played pretty well, with some great moments.
The Eagles got big plays on defense and STs as well as offense.
The defense started red hot, not giving up a single 1st down in the 1st quarter. But then RGIII woke up and Cleveland started to make some plays. The Eagles pass rush seemed to disappear. Things changed in the second half. The Browns got sloppy again and the Eagles defense started making plays. The DL really came alive in the 4th quarter and roughed RGIII up. They sacked him 3 times and got some big hits on him, in and out of the pocket.
Jordan Hicks had 4 solo tackles and tipped a pass that got picked off by Rodney McLeod. The defense forced a 4 & out late in the game. They also got a safety, but that was due to an awful snap by the Browns new Center.
Doug Pederson will address the media at noon.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.