EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — They say that winning cures all ills, and a healthy dose of the New York Giants certainly did wonders for the Eagles on Thursday night. The 34-13 win halted their two-game losing streak and solidified their standing as the team to beat in the underwhelming NFC East. It was a game they needed badly, and the Giants looked happy to provide.
But the final score didn't obscure all the blemishes that have arisen this season, and you can put the play of the offensive line at the top of that list. There is certainly plenty of indication that the line is being held together with athletic tape at the moment, and is just hoping to ride out its issues until the players are healthier.
Right tackle Lane Johnson was questionable until warm-ups Thursday night as he's battling a high ankle sprain, and left the game midway through the second half after tweaking it. Left tackle Jason Peters missed most of the Tampa Bay game this season with a calf injury and has practiced sporadically as he has recovered. He suffered a biceps injury in the third quarter against the Giants and had to leave the game in favor Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Center Jason Kelce is wearing a brace on his left knee, which probably indicates something going on there. Isaac Seumalo started his second game on Thursday after replacing Stefan Wisniewski at left guard.
>> PHOTO GALLERY: Scenes from the Eagles-Giants game
The jumble has resulted in inconsistency, particularly in the number of sacks and hits taken by Carson Wentz since his return, and the number of hurries that don't count in either category. It is a better run-blocking line, but the head coach hasn't always helped out with his play selection, and the quarterback sometimes has waited too long.
Nevertheless, the line has to get better, or the Eagles aren't going to be laughing through many games the way they did Thursday night. Even as it was, Wentz took a lot of punishment and coach Doug Pederson had to alter the game plan on the fly to get him out of as much danger as possible.
On the Eagles second series, Wentz was hit hard twice as protection broke down in drive that was further hampered by a holding penalty on Peters, his sixth penalty of the season, a team-high.
When they got the ball back – New York never made them wait very long for it – the Eagles changed gears. Pederson went to a combination of quick pass routes and running plays. The Giants never had time to put pressure on Wentz and the Eagles drove quickly to their second touchdown of the game and a 14-3 lead.
Prior to that series, eight of the first 10 play calls had been pocket passes on routes that needed time to develop. That didn't play to the best interests of the offensive line, but the quick hitters and handoffs, split evenly on the six-play scoring series, was a better formula. Pederson stuck with the better mix and the lower-risk passes for most of the rest of the game, which was easy to do once the Eagles took control of the scoreboard.
Wentz still took some hits. He was thrown down and earned a roughing penalty on a brutal smackdown by B.J. Hill, and was leveled by Olivier Vernon on another play, even though Pederson had moved the pocket on a rollout to the right.
Well, what of it? Wentz is tough and can take a lick, and that's football. To an extent, sure, but if opposing defenses can get pressure without blitzing, and can limit the Eagles' ability to throw down the field, better opponents will take advantage of that, and there are a few on the schedule. Wentz is good enough to overcome some of his line's deficiencies, but that won't work every time and, ultimately, a mix-and-match offensive line battling injuries can be an offense's downfall.
For the entire fourth quarter, the offensive line, left to right, was Seumalo, Wisniewski, Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Vaitai. The Eagles had the ability to be conservative with bringing back Peters and Johnson because the game was in hand, but that's not an array that inspires a lot of confidence if pressed into action too often. And heaven help them, if they didn't have the lead.