The Eagles returned to action today following a 10-day layoff. Here's what I saw in the first 30 minutes of action:
- Back to the future. The Eagles faltered on their first offensive drive, but they looked a lot like the offense they sported in 2017. Using power running, play action and aggressiveness on fourth down, the Birds drove 62 yards on 14 plays before Jake Elliott shanked a 36-yard field goal. It was arguably Doug Pederson's best drive as a play-caller in 2018. The long layoff clearly gave the head coach a chance to get his creative juices flowing.
- The Incredible Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery has looked elite since returning from shoulder surgery, but his performance in the first half was something else. Jeffery made a tremendous catch on the sideline to convert a fourth down, then scored a touchdown on the next drive. Perhaps Jeffery's best catch came on a back shoulder throw where he elevated over the defensive back and came down with a contested catch. It seems like with each week, the Wentz-Jeffery connection gets better.
- Running wild. The Eagles have done a great job of stifling Cam Newton and the Panthers passing attack, but Christian McCaffrey had a lot of success in the first quarter. The second-year back accounted for all 30 of the Panthers first-quarter yards from scrimmage. The Eagles entered today with the second-best rushing defense in the NFL, but the shifty Stanford product gave them some trouble. Luckily for the Eagles, Newton has been very ineffective.
- Blowing in the wind. Elliott's missed field goal was bad, but it wasn't nearly as awful as the Panthers' decision to punt from the Eagles' 31-yard-line following two false start penalties. The wind played a huge factor in the first half and if this game is close at the end, it will be interesting to see how it affects the coaches decisions.
The Eagles have controlled the ball on offense and forced the Panthers into some third-and-longs defensively. But a 34-yard reverse and 15-yard McCaffrey run really gashed the Birds defense. The second half will come down to whether or not Jim Schwartz's crew can limit the big plays and the Panthers' vaunted rushing attack.
Second-Half X-Factor: Corey Clement
Clement has just three yards on six carries after one half. The Eagles have struggled to rush the ball well, but screen passes and the short passing game have been efficient. If Clement can gain traction, it will help the Eagles' efforts in draining the clock.