Eagles seize first win of season, NFC East lead thanks to big plays from unlikely saviors
Carson Wentz has been here before, of course, with a depleted corps of wide receivers in addition to injuries all along the offensive line.
And yet, somehow, Wentz found himself throwing to the likes of Travis Fulgham, promoted Saturday from the practice squad, for a 42-yard touchdown with 5:50 left in the game for the go-ahead touchdown.
That was Fulgham's second career NFL catch. The first came earlier in the game. Then linebacker Alex Singleton, formerly of the Canadian Football League, intercepted 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
Then the Eagles held on for dear life and beat the 49ers 25-20 on Sunday night. The 49ers had one last chance with 7 seconds left, but C.J. Beathard, who replaced Mullens after the interception, threw incomplete into the end zone.
It was the Eagles' first win of the season. And at 1-2-1, they took over first place in the NFC East.
The Eagles were already depleted at wide receiver, with their top four sitting out with injuries, thus necessitating Fulgham's callup. They were down three offensive linemen before Lane Johnson missed most of the first half with an ankle injury before returning in the second half.
Fletcher Cox missed most of the fourth quarter with leg cramps. And Edwards, a starting linebacker, left with a hamstring injury.
And the Eagles couldn't stop 49ers tight end George Kittle, who had 183 yards receiving. The rest of the 49ers had 118 yards receiving.
Still, the Eagles won even though Wentz threw his seventh interception of the season, matching his total in each of the previous three seasons.
They did it with a smart offensive attack, behind running both from Miles Sanders, who had 46 yards on 13 carries and Wentz with 37 yards on 7 carries.
After the slow start, Wentz finished 18 of 28 passing for 193 yards.
The Eagles didn't have much choice with all the injuries before the game, then another early when Johnson hurt his ankle and left the game early in the first quarter. Rookie Jack Driscoll replaced him.
At that point, the Eagles' offensive line consisted of Jordan Mailata, Nate Herbig, Jason Kelce, Matt Pryor and Driscoll. Kelce was the only expected starter before the season started.
Somehow, the Eagles were able to move the ball.
They took the early lead, smartly moving the ball down the field. Sanders gained 8 yards, giving the Eagles a 2nd-and-2 from the 49ers 39 when Wentz dumped the ball off to Sanders, who turned it into a 28-yard gain.
On the next play, Wentz faked a handoff to Sanders, then ran to his left and into the end zone. The Eagles went for the 2-point conversion, and got it when Wentz hit Zach Ertz, giving them an 8-0 lead with 3:51 left.
The 49ers answered as Mullens threw behind the line of scrimmage to Brandon Aiyuk, who ran down the right sideline. At one point, he hurdled Eagles safety Marcus Epps, and went 38 yards into the end zone.
The Eagles even got their first turnover on defense when Rodney McLeod intercepted Mullens at the Eagles' 6 yard line late in the first half.
Still, the Eagles had to be satisfied with a halftime lead considering all the injuries.
The Eagles were already shorthanded at corner as both Avonte Maddox and his backup Trevor Williams were ruled out with injuries. The Eagles moved safety Jalen Mills to corner, a position he played his first four seasons in the NFL, and Epps started at safety, his second career start.
It is similarly as destitute at wide receiver, where the Eagles started Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett and Fulgham.
That's because wide receivers DeSean Jackson (hamstring), Alshon Jeffery (foot) and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (calf) were not on the game-day roster.
The Eagles also lost linebacker T.J. Edwards (hamstring) and safety Rudy Ford (hamstring) to injuries in the first half.
Still, they found a way.
The 49ers took a 14-8 lead with 8:26 left in the third quarter on Mullens' 5-yard TD pass to Kittle.
The Eagles responded with a 16-play drive that lasted 7 minutes, 31 seconds. The Eagles got a field goal out of that.
Then Cre'Von LeBlanc, on a corner blitz, sacked Mullens and forced a fumble that Malik Jackson recovered, giving the Eagles the ball at the 49ers' 43. After some stops and starts, the Eagles faced a 2nd-and-18 at the 49ers' 42 when Wentz threw deep down the sideline to Fulgham.
Just like that, the Eagles were back in front.
The Eagles had yet to force a turnover on defense through the first three games of the season.
That changed Sunday as Rodney McLeod intercepted a pass in the second quarter, and Cre'Von LeBlanc forced a fumble that Malik Jackson recovered in the fourth.
LeBlanc blitzed and hit Mullens, giving the Eagles the ball at the San Francisco 42.
But Singleton's interception sealed the game for the Eagles, when he stepped in front of a receiver and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
Hurts almost throws
Jalen Hurts got in for a few plays Sunday night. Twice, he was in position to pass. The first happened when he was in the shotgun in the first half. Hurts dropped back, but then ran up the middle for nine yards.
In the fourth quarter, Hurts lined up wide, came behind Wentz, took the handoff and looked to throw. No one was open, so he kept the ball and gained four yards.
Going for 2
It appeared as if Eagles coach Doug Pederson was trying to get his aggressiveness back by having his team go for a 2-point conversion after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter.
Wentz converted, throwing a pass to Zach Ertz in the flat, giving the Eagles an 8-0 lead with 3:51 left in the first quarter.
The first quarter is a highly unusual time to go for 2.