Eagles-Steelers: Instant Observations
The Eagles dominated the Steelers, 34-3, in an all-around impressive effort. Here’s what we saw:
*Carson Wentz turned in another good game, completing 23 of his 31 pass attempts for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 9.7 yards per attempt and recorded a 125.9 passer rating. His most impressive play was his 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles. The running back did a terrific job after the catch, but Wentz eluded pressure and ran parallel to the line of scrimmage while keeping his eyes up down field. Instead of picking up an easy five yards on the ground before sliding, Wentz kept the play alive and found Sproles.
In the first half alone, Wentz threw for 183 yards and a 105.9 passer rating. His ball placement was pretty consistent, but give Doug Pederson a lot of credit for the Eagles’ early success through the air. Pederson’s play calling once again made things easy on the Birds, particularly on Sproles’ 40-yard reception in the first quarter. Pederson designed a good play by faking a run to the left and an end around to the right before having Wentz turn back left to find Sproles on a screen pass. The running back had a ton of space and set the Eagles up for a field goal. Sproles led all Eagles in receiving with six catches for 128 yards.
*After a slow first half on the ground, the Eagles’ running backs made a big impact in the second half. Both Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood scored their first NFL rushing touchdowns, and they were efficient while doing so. They ran the ball 30 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns. While Smallwood displayed an effective spin move, Barner cut through the defense quickly. Ryan Mathews only carried the ball twice, which may have been because of a minor ankle injury.
*The Eagles’ offensive line also deserves a lot of credit. They consistently gave Wentz plenty of time and a clean pocket, and they opened up running lanes in the second half. Jason Kelce had some bad plays, but overall, it was a strong performance from the group up front.
*The Eagles made a concerted effort to get both Josh Huff and Dorial Green-Beckham involved early on. Huff caught four passes in the first half for 20 yards, including a few receptions on bubble screens, while Green-Beckham caught three balls for 33 yards. Jordan Matthews caught Wentz’s touchdown on a 12-yard reception. However, Matthews didn’t have a great first half in terms of blocking, as he was called for holding on one screen pass and failed to block any of the defensive backs on another.
*Trey Burton didn’t follow up last week’s success early on. He dropped one pass at the end of the first half, and on the play before, he couldn’t haul in a long reception. We didn’t get a replay in the press box, but it looked like Wentz may have thrown the ball too high for Burton to catch the long incompletion.
*The Eagles’ pass rush came alive in the second half. They occasionally moved Ben Roethlisberger off his spot in the first half, but they consistently hit the quarterback in the second half. In the third quarter, Bennie Logan recorded a sack before Fletcher Cox did the same on the next play while forcing a fumble, which Brandon Graham recovered. The Eagles finished the game with four sacks and eight quarterback hits.
*Speaking of Graham, the Steelers devoted a lot of extra attention to him on passing downs early on. They used a running back or tight end to chip him before going out on a route several times. In the run game, Graham did a fantastic job on Nigel Bradham’s tackle-for-loss in the first quarter by getting a great push and leading the running back into the linebacker’s arms.
*The Eagles’ defensive backs also stepped up in the second half. Malcolm Jenkins had a pair of pass breakups, including an impressive one against Antonio Brown on Pittsburgh’s fourth-down attempt in the third quarter. Earlier, Nolan Carroll had great recognition on a fake bubble screen, as he left his man to drop back underneath a different receiver to break up the pass.
*The linebackers did a nice job of plugging running lanes and making tackles, especially Bradham. It’s no surprise, because Bradham has consistently played well for the Eagles so far, but it’s important in Jim Schwartz’s scheme for the linebackers to be able to read and react based off the defensive line’s penetration.
*Jalen Mills had a rough first half. In about a quarter and a half, he gave up a 32-yard reception to Eli Rogers and a 41-yard catch to Sammie Coates. Carroll was fortunate Markus Wheaton dropped a touchdown catch on a play when Carroll didn’t try to locate the ball, but he also recorded a pass breakup.
*Ron Brooks, meanwhile, was the Eagles’ best corner in the first half. He gave up a reception to Brown along the left sideline, but in general, Brooks did a good job of being physical at the line of scrimmage. As for the safeties, Jenkins had a great snap in coverage against Brown in the first half, leading to a pass breakup.
*Bennie Logan made a huge play in the opening drive of the game, as he blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt. He got a nice push up the middle, while Chris Boswell kicked the ball low enough for Logan to get a hand on the ball.