By Al Thompson
The Eagles registered their first blowout of the 2017 season, exploding for 21 first-quarter points, then cruising to a 34–7 win over the Arizona Cardinals in front of 69,596 fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
The win puts the Birds at 4–1 and in first place in the NFC East.
The Dallas Cowboys (2–3) lost to the Green Bay Packers 35–31, and the New York Giants (0–5) fell to the Los Angeles Chargers 27–22. The Washington Redskins (2–2) were on their bye week.
Carson Wentz enjoyed one of the best games as an Eagle, going 21 of 30 for 304 yards and a career high four touchdown passes. He was sacked once and threw an interception.
The 24-year old hit Trey Burton with a 15-yard touchdown pass on the Eagles first possession. The score capped a 10-play, 54-yard drive.
The Eagles stopped the Cardinals, forcing a punt. Kenjon Barner, signed two weeks ago due to the loss of Darren Sproles for the season, took the punt back 76 yards, setting up a first down at the Cardinals 15-yard line.
It took Wentz just three plays to hit tight end Zach Ertz with an 11-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14–0.
After Arizona went three-and-out, The Eagles took over at their own 36-yard line.
Again Wentz made short work of the Cardinals secondary hitting much-maligned Torrey Smith with a 59-yard strike that the wide receiver took to the house to give the Birds a 21–0 lead.
Smith who has had a few drops recently, had not scored this season and had just 10 catches for 134 yards in four games heading into the game, talked about what it meant to finally find the end zone.
“I’m not trying to sound arrogant or anything, but it’s not like I expected my TD drought to last forever,” Smith said. “I believe in myself, and more importantly, my teammates believe in me, so I just know that I have to take it easy, focus, make the first things first, don’t take off without the ball, just make it happen and be who I am.”
Smith talked about the catch.
“It was a post, I saw he was off and he was looking inside a little bit,” Smith said. “So I just made sure I crossed his face and that no one was in the middle of the field. I know that on that play it never really goes there, but with that coverage I know what he (Wentz) is thinking and I was expecting it.”
The Cardinals scored their only touchdown of the day on a second quarter drive that went 10 plays for 75 yards culminating with a Carson Palmer 13-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.
Ertz led the Eagles again with six catches for 61 yards and a score.
Ertz, now in his fifth season, talked about Wentz taking another step toward being an elite quarterback.
“He played amazing today,” Ertz said at his locker. “Obviously there are plays everyone wants back. I’m sure he feels the same way. But four touchdowns to four different guys is a huge stepping stone, I don’t think he’s thrown that many in game yet. He’s the face of the franchise. As he goes, we go. The most impressive part is he’s so even-keeled through the high and the lows. We love playing for him.”
Wentz was asked whether he envisioned a start like that in his wildest dreams.
“You hope for that,” he said. “You hope for something like that. I’m kind of the guy and I know this offense as we expect to come out after a hot start. I didn’t imagine it going quite like that, maybe not quite that much, but the defense was rolling. We got the big punt return early and we just had the momentum and we just stayed on it.”
Wentz was asked about his success on third downs Sunday, and how much more equipped he feels now for third-and-longs than last year:
“It’s just guys playing on time, playing in rhythm and it’s something we just take pride in,” Wentz said. “I think I mentioned it earlier in the week just how we put so much extra time into it both in practice and then in the film and meeting rooms as well. I think we’re seeing that pay dividends on Sundays.”
The Eagles’ fourth touchdown came on an outrageous bomb from Wentz to Nelson Agholor that went 72 yards and saw the third-year receiver sidestep the defender twice before falling backwards (ala DeSean Jackson) into the end zone.
Wentz spoke about what he saw on the deep ball to Agholor.
“They brought an all-out blitz there,” Wentz said. “If you guys go back and watch it, Jason Kelce made an unbelievable play. He ended up blocking two guys so I shouldn’t have had the time to get that one off but he made an unbelievable play. And then Nelson did the rest. He made the catch and then made the guy look silly. Hats off to the big boys up front and then Nelly getting open.”
Wentz talked about what it felt like seeing Smith finally get a touchdown after struggling during the first four weeks of the season:
“That was big,” he said. “That’s big for both he and I. We’ve missed a couple down the field, both of us have had our share of faults on those so to hit that one today, hit it on a third down like we did, that was a huge play in the game and just good to see. Good to see. I’ve never lost faith in him and it showed today. Just keep going back to him and he got the job done.”
Former Temple standout linebacker Haason Reddick, taken with the №13 overall pick in the 2017 draft by Arizona, was on the field early and played most of the game.
Obviously this was not how he wanted to return to his home stadium.
“Most definitely,” Reddick said at his locker after the game. “We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted. But there’s still more ball to play. We’ll go back, watch film, see what we did wrong, what mistakes, what happened, correct them and get ready for next week. That’s all we can do, keep moving forward.”
Reddick said the Cardinals were caught blind-side by the Birds’ play on offense and defense at the start of the game.
“They were firing on all cylinders,” Reddick said.
Reddick said he was impressed with Wentz.
“I think the Eagles have a great quarterback in Carson Wentz,” Reddick said. “He want out there and played really well today.”
Cornerback Jalen Mills said it is great when the offense gets out to such a great start and gets the Linc rocking.
“It’s very big for us,” Mills said. “Especially playing at home, when the offense goes up like that, the crowd gets into it. And as far as us on defense, we start feeding off them, they’re feeding off us, so it’s very big for us.”
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if he thought his team would be this good and this deep at this point considering all the things that have happened, especially with key players missing:
“I know this about our football team,” Pederson said at his post game press conference. “And it’s been this way now for a year and a half: It doesn’t matter what happens with injury on our roster, the next guy — the coaches do an outstanding job of getting that next guy ready and prepared to play. Coming into this season, to kind of follow-up on the question, I think in the back of my mind you kinda — you hope and you want to be a good football team. Everybody aspires to be good football teams. But the way we’re doing it, with the amount of back-up players in these first five weeks, is a testament to the coaching staff and the players in that dressing room and the resiliency that they have to never quit and finish.”
Palmer was 28 of 44 for 291 yards on the one score, He was sacked twice and did not throw an interception.
The Cardinals registered just 31 yards rushing on 14 carries.
LeGarrette Blount rushed 14 times for 74 yards. Agholor finished with four catches for 93 yards.
Pederson talked about about where this team can go.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” the second-year head coach said. “The sky’s the limit. And the key is just staying grounded and staying focused on our job and focused on the next game. As you know, these wins, these losses, whatever, are short-lived in this business, and you have to get yourself ready to go within 24 hours.”
Now it’s on to Carolina.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii