The Eagles won for the first time in a month of football, the first time in 2020, and are somehow a first-place team in the dismal NFC East after outlasting the San Francisco 49ers, 25-20, on Sunday Night Football.
The key sequence happened over an eight-second span with just under six minutes to go in the game.
Trailing 14-11, Carson Wentz finally emerged from his slump with a perfectly thrown 42-yard touchdown pass to the little-known Travis Fulgham, a lengthy 6-foot-2 receiver out of Old Dominion who started the season on the practice squad after being claimed off waivers from the Green Bay Packers. Fulgham was elevated to the 53-man roster due to injuries on Saturday and was able to make a game-changing play by hauling in the TD on a go-route thrown down the left sideline.
After the ensuing kickoff, 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens tried to throw a quick comeback pass but Alex Singleton, playing in place of the injured TJ Edwards, had settled underneath in zone coverage and picked off the pass, returning it for a 30-yard score.
San Francisco benched Mullens, who was starting in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo to begin with, in favor of third-stringer CJ Beathard, who nearly brought the Niners back in the final minutes but his last-second desperation Hail Mary in the end zone came up empty.
Here’s the report card for Philadelphia’s first 2020 win:
Doug Pederson – A: Fearless Doug was back after taking a week off, setting the tone early by calling for a two-point conversion after the first touchdown of the game.
Trailing by a field goal late he also decided to skip a potential 55-yarder from Jake Elliott in favor of a 4th-and-4 conversion where he trusted rookie John Hightower and Fulgham to run a somewhat intricate pick route that was converted with a slant to Hightower.
Then there’s also putting together a game plan with your top four receivers out and down 80 percent of your projected offensive line for large portions of the game.
Jordan Mailata – B: Mailata held up pretty well in his first NFL start. He and left guard Nate Herbig struggled a bit with a few stunts and Mailata got a little antsy killing a 3rd-and-1 sneak with a false start but for a guy with 20 NFL snaps coming in, you shouldn’t have expected much more from the former Australian rugby player who insists he’s now “a footballer.”
Horizontal Stretch – D: You were warned about the numbers that were going to be there for Justin Jefferson in Minnesota with a high-volume thrower like Kirk Cousins.
The Eagles wanted a different type of player in the draft, however, and it’s still to be determined if Jalen Reagor can offer the horizontal stretch element Philadelphia wants in its offense but any real debate should be about Reagor, the No. 21 overall pick, vs. Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers first-round pick at 25 who went scorched earth of the Eagles’ secondary during a 39-yard TD run ending with a leap over Marcus Epps.
The Eagles, meanwhile, tried to get something out of undrafted free agent Adrian Killins, a development that was asked to be kept hush-hush in practice last week. It didn’t work all that well with the only time Killins getting the ball resulting in a 12-yard loss, although the Eagles were able to overcome that.
Secondary Changes – B: Instead of playing Cre’Von LeBlanc outside for the injured Avonte Maddox, Jim Schwartz moved Jalen Mills back to cornerback and went with both K’Von Wallace and Epps at safety.
Each took his lumps with Wallace having a welcome-to-the-NFL or perhaps a come-to-Jesus moment when George Kittle used him as a punching bag and Epps being posterized by Aiyuk but that’s fan nonsense.
Good players make plays in this league and the Eagles defense held its own and generated three turnovers with two coming from the secondary, a strip sack by LeBlanc and an interception by Rodney McLeod.
The Defensive Line – A: The line is the clear strength of the Eagles right now and it’s only getting better with Derek Barnett and Javon Hargrave getting healthier.
Barnett had one of his best games as a pro against Trent Williams and Genard Avery came out of nowhere with a sack and two big hurries, one that forced the Mullens interception to McLeod.
NFC East – F: The Eagles are 1-2-1 and the clear favorite in a division that is now 3-12-1 as a whole.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com’s EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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