The Philadelphia Eagles did not necessarily have a pretty night in San Francisco to close Sunday’s Week 4 action, but they did, in fact, get the job done. Despite a rough start, in which Carson Wentz threw his seventh interception in just four games, as well as a late push by C.J. Beathard, who took over for a struggling Nick Mullens at the helm of Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Philadelphia stepped up when it mattered. Working with a makeshift supporting cast, Wentz threw a perfect fourth-quarter touchdown to put the Eagles in front, while the Birds’ defense broke a streak of zero-turnover games with a trio of them against Mullens, sealing a 25-20 upset.
With the win, the Eagles’ first of an injury- and turnover-riddled 2020 season, Philly vaults into an improbable first-place standing in the woeful NFC East. The Niners, meanwhile, fall to .500 in a competitive NFC West that also saw the Arizona Cardinals lose on Sunday.
Here are some immediate takeaways from the Eagles’ much-needed upset of San Francisco:
Why the Eagles won
Carson Wentz finally got to play with practice-squadders? No. 11 was not perfect on Sunday night, with an early pass unluckily falling into the Niners’ hands and a few others going off the mark, but just like late in 2019, he also thrived when it mattered most alongside a makeshift supporting cast. With only Greg Ward, John Hightower and scout-team call-ups Travis Fulgham and Deontay Burnett active at wide receiver, Wentz did just enough with both his arm and legs, most notably floating a perfect deep-ball TD to Fulgham in the fourth quarter. (Fulgham, by the way, had maybe the best play by an Eagles receiver this season.)
Jim Schwartz’s defense deserves just as much, if not more, credit for the win, however. The linebackers were largely atrocious in their defense of George Kittle and the Niners’ motion running game, but the front four dominated much of the night, putting Nick Mullens under duress (and eventually on the bench) and setting up three key takeaways that injected tons of life into Philly.
Why the 49ers lost
Nick Mullens may have filled in admirably for Jimmy Garoppolo against the Giants, but against the Eagles with pressure in his face, it was an entirely different story. Kyle Shanahan did a fine job scheming up quick strikes and run-based motions early in Sunday night’s contest, but whenever Mullens dropped back and didn’t find Kittle, things were ugly. C.J. Beathard looked sharp and comfortable in the final few minutes after taking over under center, but that was too little, too late. Speaking of the run game, Shanahan probably could’ve turned to Jerick McKinnon just a touch more throughout the evening.
On the other side of the ball, San Francisco wasn’t bad, especially considering their injury report. But they probably should’ve had a bit more heat on Wentz, who was playing behind an almost completely-backup O-line. In the secondary, meanwhile, they kept Eagles targets in front of them for almost the entire night — except for at one of the most critical points in the game, when Wentz found Fulgham for that huge fourth-quarter score.
Third-and-10, Niners ball at their own 45, with San Francisco up by three and only 10 minutes on the clock. Just a single first down would’ve allowed the 49ers to keep milking the clock and ice away their lead. Instead, Mullens held the ball with nobody open, and Eagles cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, coming in hot on a rare Jim Schwartz blitz, popped the ball right out of his hands and into the waiting arms of his teammate. That turnover set up Philly’s go-ahead drive and completely swung momentum back in the visitors’ favor, with the Eagles also picking Mullens off San Francisco’s subsequent drive.
Play of the game
In a game that was low-scoring until the fourth, with some sloppy offense from both sides, Wentz’s beauty of a sideline-touch TD to Fulgham was easily the highlight of the night:
The Eagles (1-2-1) will face another tall task in Week 5, when they travel to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0), who are also coming off an early bye week thanks to their postponed game against the Titans. The 49ers (2-2), meanwhile, will stay home to host the Miami Dolphins (1-3), who fell just short against the undefeated Seahawks in Week 4.