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Thread: Eagles have found the formula for winning close games

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    Eagles have found the formula for winning close games

    Martin Frank, The News Journal

    CARSON, Calif. – There was no way the Eagles were winning this game last season.

    They had a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, an inconsistent running game, and no dependable wide receivers.

    So it wasn't hard to understand why the Eagles went 1-6 last season in games decided by a touchdown or less. They just couldn't win in the end.

    But all of that has changed during this 3-1 start for the Eagles after their 26-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Sure, the season is only four games old. But the Eagles have played three of them on the road, and won two of them — or one more road win than they had all last season.

    "We were in those games [last year] and we let them slip," running back Wendell Smallwood said. "We kind of didn’t respond to that adversity. This year, we’re responding to that adversity."

    Sure, there isn't much added adversity when Eagles fans outnumbered Chargers fans for a Chargers home game. Still, take a look at how the Eagles won the game.

    Twice, the Chargers had cut the Eagles' lead to two points in the fourth quarter. The first time, LeGarrette Blount answered with a 68-yard run down to the Chargers' 3 yard line. After a bunch of starts and stops, the Eagles finally scored on the seventh play from inside the 5, retaking a nine-point lead.

    "It was huge," quarterback Carson Wentz said about Blount's run. "The momentum had kind of been all over the place. They had the big score and they got close. Then LeGarrette’s run was a huge play … That was a big momentum play."


    That, however, was only the prelude to what happened next. The Chargers responded by marching down the field, buoyed by a 50-yard completion from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen. The Chargers would eventually score, and just like that, it was a two-point game again, with 6:44 remaining.

    But the Chargers never got the ball back. Twice, Corey Clement, the undrafted free agent from Wisconsin, converted third-and-short running plays to keep the clock moving.

    Clement, it should be noted, was a teammate of Chargers' running back Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin. Gordon was drafted 15th overall in 2015. But Gordon had 24 yards rushing on 10 carries, while Clement had 30 yards on 10 carries.

    And then, as the coup de grace, Wentz gave the ball to Blount on 3rd-and-1 from the Chargers' 29 with 1:54 left. Blount gained 16 yards as the Chargers defenders were completely worn out.

    The Eagles took a knee after that, and the game was over.

    "A great way to finish the game," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said.

    This is how a team has to win games on the road, with a powerful running game that saps the strength and wears down an opponent. The Eagles rushed for 214 yards on Sunday, one week after rushing for 193 yards in a three-point win over the Giants.

    The Eagles didn't have that last season, and had to rely on Wentz to keep throwing and throwing. He couldn't pull those games out. That's not the case this season — or at least it shouldn't be.

    Wentz only had to throw the ball 31 times on Sunday, completing 17 for 242 yards.

    And for the Eagles, who kept the ball for 39 minutes, 18 seconds compared to 20:42 for the Chargers, that was the best way to mask a defense that is riddled with injuries and has a rookie starting at cornerback in Rasul Douglas.

    Fletcher Cox, selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons, didn't play because of a calf injury. And at cornerback, the Eagles were down starter Ronald Darby and his backup Jaylen Watkins, leaving rookie Rasul Douglas to start for the second straight week.

    This time, it didn't go so well for the rookie as Rivers went to Allen pretty much whenever he was in one-on-one coverage with Douglas. Rivers also victimized Douglas on his 75-yard TD pass to Tyrell Williams in the second quarter, when the Chargers cut the Eagles' lead to 13-7.

    "I thought he handled that," safety Malcolm Jenkins said about Douglas. "He stayed locked in. Obviously, he’s going to have some things that he’s going to learn from."

    But the offense bailed Douglas and the defense out. There's no telling what Rivers could have done if he had one more chance at Douglas and the Eagles' defense after throwing for 347 yards and 2 TDs.

    The Eagles didn't have to find out, though.

    That's because they gave the ball to their running backs, led by Blount, and let them power their way to victory. And that's how a team wins the close games, especially on the road, the way the Eagles have so far this season.

    "Last year, we could never find a way to win tight ballgames," Wentz said. "And this year, we’re starting to learn that a little bit. We’re turning the corner a little bit, and it’s a big part of our character and our makeup.

    "We’re finding ways to win."

    And that's true for at home, on the road, or at home on the road.


    Wentz & Blount

    Doug Pederson & Howie Roseman

    Merrill Reese & Mike Quick

    Me & You
    Last edited by Talon_60; 10-02-2017 at 04:22 PM.
    "E-A-G-L-E-S ... EAGLES!"


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