burlingtoncountytimes.com
Tom Moore

PHILADELPHIA The Eagles own the NFL's best record for a bunch of reasons.

The high-level performance of quarterback Carson Wentz, who has thrown 17 touchdown passes to just four interceptions, the improved receiving corps and the play of the defensive front seven are three.

Head coach Doug Pederson is another.

Since Pederson's early-season missteps in which he called 56 passing plays and just 13 runs in a Week 2 road loss to the Chiefs and an ill-advised decision to go for it on fourth-and-8 at the New York 43-yard line in the second quarter of an eventual Week 3 win over the Giants, he has been solid.

Pederson, who calls the offensive plays, has gotten back to the running game and the offense has flourished.

After getting no carries against Kansas City, big back LeGarrette Blount is a factor again. That also means less pressure on Wentz to make things happen all the time, which benefits the second-year QB and the Eagles.

Pederson is a players' coach whose guys know he supports him. And that goes a long way in the locker room.

His players responded again Monday night with a 34-24 victory over Washington at the Linc, moving the Eagles to 6-1.

Perhaps the 11-day layoff since defeating the Panthers contributed to the Eagles' relatively slow start and the offense's early difficulties, which featured three first-half sacks.

But the offense came to life with touchdowns on three straight possessions from just before to right after halftime. Wentz, who tossed four touchdown passes, got it started by unleashing a 60-yard throw to connect with rookie Mack Hollins for the tying TD 3 minutes, 29 seconds prior to the half.

Wentz then found favorite target Zach Ertz for a 46-yard gain to set up tight end Ertz's career-best fifth TD catch (a 4-yarder) with 22 seconds remaining in the opening half. The quick-strike Birds registered those two touchdowns in less than three minutes.

The lead increased to 24-10 on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive to begin the third period. Wentz somehow avoided the Washington rush and found undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement in the corner of the end zone for a 9-yard TD.

"He's doing amazing things," said Ertz of Wentz.

Right tackle Lane Johnson is one of the players firmly in Pederson's corner. Johnson's return Monday night gave the Eagles a big boost after sitting out the Charlotte game due to a concussion he suffered in the win over the Cardinals. Johnson is significantly better than fill-in starter Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

The absence of starting linebacker Mychal Kendricks with a hamstring injury against Washington didn't help matters. Kendricks had a season-high 13 tackles in the Oct. 12 road win over Carolina. Najee Goode started in place of Kendricks on Monday.

When top linebacker Jordan Hicks left for the evening with an ankle injury on the second play, the Eagles were down to Goode and Joe Walker alongside Nigel Bradham at the position. That was another blow to the defense. Hicks was on crutches and wearing a boot afterward.

Goode appeared to lose track of running back Chris Thompson, who was wide open for a 7-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Kirk Cousins in the middle of the second quarter.

The biggest loss literally and figuratively was veteran left tackle Jason Peters 54 seconds into the third period. Washington nose tackle Ziggy Hood appeared to be pushed into Peters, whose right leg bent a way it shouldn't. He was carted off the field and replaced by Vaitai.

Pederson showed he's learned from his mistakes early in the second quarter by having rookie Jake Elliott kick a 50-yard field goal on a 4th-and-9 situation to tie the score at 3-3. It was Elliott's fourth made field goal from 50 yards or more in six games since replacing the injured Caleb Sturgis.

All the while, the second-year head coach studied his play sheet and communicated with coaches in the press box via head set a sea of calm amid the mayhem on the field and the sideline.


His mid-west demeanor didn't sit well with the street smart pack of ( wolves ) writers ; who only saw a former bench warmer and a newly minted OC before last season .