The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles have won a football game. Ravaged by injuries, traveling across the country, and playing the defending NFC Champions the Eagles went to San Francisco as nine-point underdogs and upset the 49ers in a 25-20 win. Let's take a look at who contributed most to the victory and who came up short.
STUD: Rodney McLeod
There was a handful of players who could have headlined the studs from Sunday night, but we're giving the nod to McLeod. He was all over the field Sunday night, piling up eight tackles while playing excellent coverage and securing the Eagles' first interception of 2020. His quality coverage was on full display on the late two-point attempt from the 49ers that would have cut the Eagles' lead to three, and he was making plays for the Eagles all night long. It was an all-around excellent performance from McLeod.
DUD: Zach Ertz
Look, we love Zach Ertz. He's been a phenomenal player for the Eagles and he scored the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. He's a certified legend in Philadelphia. But he didn't have it Sunday night. Ertz finished with four catches for just nine yards. Especially with the injury issues at wide receiver, the Eagles need Ertz to step up and performances like Sunday's aren't going to cut it. Adding to the frustration are Ertz's comments before the season regarding his contract situation. You can't talk about wanting to get paid and then not perform on the field, and by making those comments he invited questions about whether the contract situation is affecting his play. Regardless, he simply wasn't good enough on Sunday night.
STUD: Genard Avery
Avery's box score (one sack, that's it) doesn't jump off the page, but if you watched the game you know he had a huge impact. He was constantly in the backfield disrupting things and finished with five QB hits, including a huge one late as the 49ers attempted to mount a comeback. The defensive line as a whole had a great night, and Avery was a big part of that.
DUD: The running backs
Unlike the last three weeks, where duds were plentiful and we had to nitpick a bit to find studs, this week we're in the opposition position (and it's a much better position to be in). As a result, the running backs find themselves in the dud category. Miles Sanders was okay, toting the ball 13 times for 46 yards and adding two catches for 30 yards. Not a disastorus showing, but not the kind of performance we've come to expect from the electric second-year back. He also didn't get much help from his backfield mates. Corey Clement rushed two times for three yards while Boston Scott carried twice for one yard. Four carries for four yards isn't going to cut it, and it was the second week in a row where Clement and Scott were wildly ineffective. Add in Adrian Killins Jr.'s one carry for negative 12 yards and it was not a great night for Eagles ball carriers. The team finished with 93 yards on the ground, but 55 of those came on quarterback runs from Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts. If the Eagles hope to salvage the season, Sanders and his backfield colleagues will need to be better.
STUD: Travis Fulgham
Who? Even the most ardent Eagles fan could be forgiven if they didn't know who No. 13 was on Sunday night. And now they know.
The former 6th round pick out of Old Dominion, who spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad in Detroit and had a brief stop in Green Bay before landing on the Eagles' practice squad, was activited for the game as the injuries at wide receiver continue to pile up. He responded by making one of the biggest plays of the night, catching a 42-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to give the Eagles the lead midway through the fourth quarter. It was the longest Eagles touchdown pass since Week 1 of last season.
The catch was the second of Fulgham's career (he secured his first career catch early in Sunday's game). He finished with 57 yards and that key touchdown, making an impact play for an Eagles team that was desperate for impact plays. It wasn't an easy spot for Fulgham, and the touchdown catch wasn't a gimmie either. In fact, it's the type of play that we've seen Eagles receivers fail to make all too ofter over the past two and a half years. Fulgham made it, and as a result he gets stud designation in his first action as an Eagle.
DUD: Nathan Gerry
How is this guy still getting playing time? He's become a weekly staple in the dud category, and the trend continued Sunday night. You know the story by now: constantly getting beat, constantly out of position, constantly failing to make plays.
There was a time during the game where it looked like the entire linebacking corp would be joining Gerry on the duds list. On one particular drive, the 49ers constantly exploited the group, who missed tackles and continued to be out of position and unable to cover anybody and the 49ers' ability to easily isolate and take adavantage of the group would have been laughable if it wasn't so frustrating and rage-inducing.
Fortunatley, a couple other members of the group made a couple plays late, most notably Alex Singleton's pick six that ultimately sealed the win, so Gerry finds himself alone in the dud category. Something has to be done here.
STUD: Darius Slay
Once again, we hardly heard Slay's name on Sunday night, and as we mentioned that's exactly what you want from a lockdown corner. This guy has been everything he was adverstised to be and has done a great job taking the opponent's best receiver out of the game. His impact on the secondary, and on the defense as a whole, can't be overstated. We're so thankful he's here.
STUD Honorable Mentions...
As we celebrate the first Eagles win of the 2020 season, we're going to do something a little different and note some names we think deserve mention without giving them full stud designation or a complete write up. This is both to save time and to acknowlege some people who maybe don't warrant full stud designation but deserve mention nonetheless.
Carson Wentz has struggled to start 2020, and he was far from perfect Sunday night. He had another ball tipped for an interception, and he missed some key throws. But Sunday marked clear improvement as well. He had a pair of beautiful throws in the touchdown to Fulgham and the fourth-down slant to Greg Ward, for the second striaght week he showed his escape artist skills that are so important to what makes him a dangerous QB, and he used his legs to make plays. He played tough, inspired football and hopefully the performances is an indication he's getting back to himself.
We need to meniton Jordan Mailata. Yes, he had an aboslutely killer false start penalty, and in our opinion that's enough to keep him off the studs list. Still, he deserves a ton of credit. Making his first career start, Mailata acquitted himself well. With the offensive line already a patchwork, both Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce missed time during Sunday night's game, adding more pressure to Mailata and the rest of the line. Given the circumstances, they responded reasonably well, Mailata in particular.
Finally, a shout out for the defensive line. We mentioned Genard Avery, but his colleagues on the line deserve their own mention. The Eagles claimed another five sacks Sunday night (Avery 1, Hassan Ridgeway 1, Josh Sweat 1, Derek Barnett 0.5 and Javon Hargrave 0.5 with cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc adding 1) and they now lead the league in sacks. On the 49ers final drive, which started looking a bit threatening, the line calmed things with two huge pressures on C.J. Beathard to help salt the game away. This group has been very good, and they continued that on Sunday night.
Okay, one more, who was breifly mentioned in the last paragraph. Cre'Von LeBlanc had a very nice game. In addition to the sack, he had six tackles and was solid in coverage. He played a very good game, and deserves mention.