It keeps getting better for the Eagles. Whenever it seems they’ve played their best game, they surpass it. Whenever there’s an injury that could slow the Eagles, they overcome it. And whenever they’re hailed as legitimate contenders, they validate it.
They strutted to the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field after a 51-23 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday screaming “8-1,” the record of the best team in the NFL. The Eagles remain on pace with the 2004 team that went to the Super Bowl. They already topped their seven-win finish from last season, and they enter the bye week on a seven-game winning streak after sweeping a three-game homestand. With the way they played Sunday, it’s fair to wonder how the Eagles could possibly play better — and just how good they can become.
“We are where we are because of that group in that locker room,” coach Doug Pederson said.” They’re doing the little things right. …They do that, these types of games are going to happen.”
It was the Eagles’ first time topping 50 points since December 2013, but this might have been even more impressive. It came against the NFL’s top-ranked defense and without injured tight end Zach Ertz, yet the Broncos looked overmatched on the same field as the Eagles.
“They keep hearing all week how good [Denver’s] defense is,” Pederson said. “Our guys have a lot of pride, too. They wanted to take it upon themselves.”
The Eagles offense was the big story on Sunday. They totaled 419 yards against a defense that had allowed a league-best 261-yard average entering the game. The Eagles rushed for 197 yards — including a 46-yard touchdown by new acquisition Jay Ajayi, who had eight carries for 77 yards in his Eagles debut. Corey Clement rushed for two touchdowns and caught another.
Carson Wentz passed for four touchdowns with no interceptions, and it’s getting to the point that it’s not even surprising when he has that type of performance. He totaled only 199 passing yards, but he didn’t play past the third quarter. Wentz now has a league-leading 23 touchdowns, the most in franchise history through nine games.
“That’s all great, but being 8-1 is what it’s all about,” Wentz said. “I will say I’ve always had high expectations for myself and for this team, so we’re fortunate with where we’re at.”
He continued to spread the ball around — the Eagles still have not had a 100-yard receiver this season — and Alshon Jeffery led the way with six catches for 84 yards and two scores. Brent Celek and Trey Burton both contributed after Ertz was ruled inactive with a hamstring injury.
“I think that’s what makes us tough to defend, because we can spread it out,” Wentz said. “The best part about it is we have a ton of unselfish guys. Any week it’s somebody different and no one really cares who it is.”
Jeffery and Burton caught two of Wentz’s three first-half touchdown passes. After the Broncos opened the game with a 52-yard field goal from North Penn and Temple graduate Brandon McManus, Wentz found Jeffery for a 32-yard score. Pederson deserves credit for the play design: It was a run-pass option, with Jeffery running a hitch-and-go trying to get cornerback Aqib Talib to bite. Jeffery sold the fake and accelerated past Talib for the score. Jeffery’s performance came against a secondary with two Pro Bowl cornerbacks.
“I’m a Pro Bowl wide receiver, too,” Jeffery said. “It don’t matter who’s out there. It’s football. You’re going to get beat and make plays.”
The Eagles cornerbacks weren’t beaten much on Sunday, but that was also because the Broncos’ turnover-prone offense couldn’t threaten the Eagles. The Broncos started Brock Osweiler at quarterback and he put them in poor position when Patrick Robinson intercepted a first-quarter pass and returned it to the red zone to set up Wentz’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Clement.
With Denver settling for field goals in the second quarter, the Eagles pushed for touchdowns. Aided by three Broncos penalties to extend a drive, Wentz hit Burton for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 24-6 lead.
Ajayi produced the highlight of the game before halftime. The Philadelphia crowd applauded Ajayi from the moment he took the field for warm-ups. Pederson introduced Ajayi only to a limited sampling of 10-15 plays but wanted to get him involved. After barreling through the middle of Denver’s defense for a 14-yard gain, Ajayi stayed on the field in the no-huddle. The offensive line gave Ajayi a clean view of the Philadelphia skyline and no one could catch him on a 46-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a commanding 31-9 halftime advantage.
“Special,” Ajayi said of the moment. “First off, it’s my first touchdown of the season and it’s exciting for it to have been in Philly and my first game as an Eagle. I don’t think it could have been written any better than that.”
That’s when it became clear that the Eagles would ease to their next win. But for good measure, they kept inflating the lead. Clement scored twice in the second half and Jeffery caught another touchdown pass. Rodney McLeod intercepted Osweiler to ensure the Broncos were again in the red for turnover differential.
Nick Foles entered the game in the fourth quarter and the crowd started chanting “We want Dallas!” The Eagles have two weeks to enjoy this win before visiting the Cowboys on Nov. 19 to try to extend their streak and maintain the NFL’s best record. Pederson gave the players the week off. They’ve answered the bell all season, and he wants them prepared for the final seven games. With the way they’re playing, it could be a few more games thereafter.
“I want them to remind themselves that this is a special group,” Pederson said. “We’re at 8-1 for a reason and we don’t need to go backwards now.”
Get insights on the Eagles delivered straight to your inbox with Early Birds, beat writer Zach Berman’s newsletter for Eagles fans. Click here to sign up.