I’ll be honest with you; I really didn’t feel like writing about this game. Then I barfed out 2,600 words anyway.
The original lede was great. It was something about how Carson Wentz was phenomenal, the defense was suffocating, and Doug Pederson looked like the aggressive play caller we saw last season.
That was the story for three quarters on Sunday afternoon, then the Eagles suffered a 12-minute brain fart as they surrendered a 17-point fourth quarter lead and lost at home like choking dogs. In turn, postgame Twitter was a spectacular meltdown of outrageous takes and nonstop arguing over whether or not Jimmy Kempski drew a racist stick figure.
It was that kind of day.
I’m really struggling to remember a worse loss over the last ten years. Tennessee was bad, for sure, and that held the title of “worst loss of the Pederson era” for a whopping three weeks. This one takes the cake, easily. It felt like a 2016 game, did it not? They struggled to finish that year, and this loss was reminiscent of the overtime Dallas defeat when the Birds blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead. It even brought back vile memories of Andy Reid-coached NFC Championship Game losses.
Right, so let’s just get into it and try to make this as painless as possible.
1) Carson Wentz
30 for 37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns on the day. He played Pro Bowl football for three quarters.
He just didn’t get it done in the fourth, leading the Eagles on drives that resulted in two punts and a fumble with the most significant yardage gain coming on a defensive pass interference call on a deep ball to Alshon Jeffery.
When they got to the red zone, this happened:
On that 3rd and 2 play I was pretty sure I saw Smallwood wide open at the 12 yard line with nobody around him. I was right. He threw into double coverage to Jeffrey Instead of hitting him for a sure first down. pic.twitter.com/Yauipx0PUA
— TheAmishTerp (@TheAmishTerp) October 21, 2018
He made the wrong read on third down and fumbled on fourth down.
Wentz on the final drive:
“Fourth down, I saw Alshon open across the middle. As I stepped up and tried to make the throw, got hit and the ball came out. The play before, I tried to force one in there that I probably shouldn’t have.”
Yep, just tried to force it.
Carson certainly isn’t the problem, but you’d hope for more in those situations from your franchise quarterback.
2) weird Doug quotes
Pederson’s post game presser featured a couple of strange quotes.
I’ll give you the verbatim here, with the original question and a follow-up that was asked a few minutes later:
Q. What was the message to the team after a collapse like this?
PEDERSON: “The message is that – quite frankly I told them we have to learn from these. These are games that galvanize football teams, and this is going to do that. This is going to bring us even closer together. Basically told them pressure’s off of us. Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything. Pressure’s off, so we can go play, have fun, and just relax. A lot of football ahead too. We still have a bunch of games, and still anything’s possible, anything can happen. We still treat it as one week at a time.”
Q. What do you mean by the pressure’s off now? What do you mean by that when you say that to your team?
PEDERSON: “Number one, I think no one has really given us a chance anyway. Whether we’re putting pressure on ourselves to perform, to play, whatever it is, live up to a certain expectation, I think that it’s that point where I think that no one has given us that type of — maybe with the amount of injuries or whatever it is — given us much credit going into games. And I think sometimes we force issues. We try to press just a little bit instead of just — we don’t have to go searching for plays. When the plays come, let’s just make the plays that come to us, and right now we’re not doing that. So I think that’s the pressure that’s off of us, and we just have to get back to playing and executing better.”
Hmm.. is that true? Nobody is giving them “credit going into games?”
I think most people are rightfully acknowledging that they’re the defending Super Bowl champions.. Sure, the injury situation wasn’t ideal and it still isn’t ideal, but I don’t know if Doug is reaching here or what, trying to reignite the underdog thing or that “no one likes us/we don’t care” mentality.
There were two more follow-ups to the follow-up:
Q. Just to be clear, are you saying that the players are feeling pressure to live up to what you guys accomplished last year?
PEDERSON: No, I don’t think so. I just think that each week — and this is something I have talked about all season. When we talk about embracing something, it’s a choice, and we know that we get everybody’s best every week. It’s a good football team. Carolina’s a playoff caliber team. They were in the Super Bowl a couple years ago. It’s a good football team. And we know that — we don’t use injury, we don’t use whatever it might be as an excuse not to perform. Sometimes I think players [and] coaches just put added pressure when they don’t have to, and that’s something that we’ve got to – it starts with me there and just make sure we’re doing everything, even during the week, getting ourselves in position to win games.
Q. You’re still the defending Super Bowl champs. That doesn’t change. At 3-4, do you really think that pressure is off you guys?
PEDERSON: No, it won’t be, but it doesn’t have to come from us. There’s enough pressure. Just the game itself brings its own sort of pressure. We don’t have to go force anything. Like I said earlier, we don’t have to go looking for plays. Let the plays come to you and then make them when they come, and that’s where we’re at.
Of course anyone would like to play a pressure-free game, but I don’t sense that the fans or media have been oppressive in that regard. If anything, it’s been extremely lenient and benign because the city loves the team that brought home the first Lombardi trophy in franchise history.
3) Double moves for days
Devin Funchess is not a fast receiver. He’s 6’4″ and something like 230 pounds. He’s not 2009 DeSean Jackson.
So I don’t know how Ronald Darby bites on a simple sluggo route when he himself is speedy enough to break on an underneath ball in the red zone:
Devin Funchess from Cam Newton and the Panthers are within 3!
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 21, 2018
Jalen Mills, Darby, whomever. Just wouldn’t be a soul-reaving Eagles loss without a bad bite on a double move.
Also, why the hell is Dexter McDougle, who was signed three days ago, playing over Rasul Douglas? Put the guy in the game. It’s ridiculous that they think Avonte Maddox, a slot corner, should play safety, while a scrap-heap special teamer is good enough to play over a third round draft pick. And if they don’t think Douglas is a slot guy or dime safety, then give him a shot on the outside at some point and try Mills in another position where he can benefit from his physicality and combativeness.
— Martin Frank (@Mfranknfl) October 22, 2018
I really don’t know what they’re trying to do in the secondary.
4) Situational football
I did this the last two weeks and might as well make it a regular segment in this weekly article, because it’s super-important to what makes the Eagles successful or not successful.
I’m talking about the fringe stuff, the peripheral things that they’ve been so good at for the past year and a half.
- won time of possession, 35 minutes to 25 minutes
- -1 turnover margin (fumble on final series)
- 3-12 on third down (25%)
- 3-4 on fourth down (75%)
- allowed Carolina to go 5-11 on third down (45.5%) and 1-1 on fourth
- lost 26 yards on 4 sacks
- 2 for 4 success rate in red zone
- 4 penalties for 35 yards
Every single bullet I placed in bold font shows a regression from the win against New York.
There’s a lot of stuff in that list you can live with, and while 3-12 is not good on third down, they did correct those shortcomings with a couple of big fourth down conversions early in the game. Maybe the most disappointing thing there is that Carolina finished 5-11 on third down despite doing a whole bunch of nothing for three quarters.
5) Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery
Let me give you at least something positive in this story:
- Ertz: 9 catches for 138 yards
- Jeffery: 7 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown
Dallas Goedert also had a nice game, snagging 4 balls for 44 yards and a score.
Alshon looked really good out there (almost like a WR1 !!!!) and Ertz, we know, is a machine. He’s currently fifth in the NFL in total receiving yards:
Look at the names in that list. Thielen, Jones, Hopkins, Hill… and then Zach Ertz. He’s been targeted 78 times this year for an average of 11.14 targets per game. That extrapolates to 178 targets over a full season, which is ridiculous.
Ironically, it feels like the receiving corps is now a position of strength on the team. And yeah, Ertz is just as much of a receiver as a tight end at this point in his career.
6) Jalen Mills
Did he slip on the 4th and 10 play? I need another camera angle:
Torrey Smith for 35 yards on 4th-and-10, unreal pic.twitter.com/IxtOiUNQD3
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) October 21, 2018
Nice missed tackle there. Don’t need another camera angle for that.
The eye-rolling part of that whole sequence is that Mills was playing about five yards off instead of his typical 10. So it wasn’t like he gave Torrey Smith a huge cushion coming off the line. Either way, that’s twice now the Eagles have given up a 10+ yard fourth down conversion in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. They could very easily be 5-3 if they’d made a damn play against Tennessee or Carolina.
7) Eric Reid bullshit
By now you know that Eric Reid got into a pregame scrap with Malcolm Jenkins because he thinks Jenkins “sold out” the Players Coalition to take money from the NFL that was donated to social justice organizations.
Reid also called Jenkins a “neo-colonialist” after the game, which makes no sense to me, because “neocolonialism” is the use of political and economic pressure to assert influence or control over another country. An example would be how France had a heavy colonial presence in West Africa, and when a lot of those countries later became independent, France still held a lot of “unofficial” control over those nations. Google the term “Françafrique” if you’re bored at work.
That explained, I don’t really know what Reid is trying to say. I guess he’s trying to say that Jenkins wanted to control the Players Coalition and took the Roger Goodell hush money instead of continuing the fight for social justice.
Thing is, the hush money was $90 million dollars. Jenkins successful turned nothing into something by leveraging the national anthem protest into a tangible asset. Reid, I assume, felt it was more important to continue to movement with a different endgame in mind, so I can certainly understand why he and Kaepernick would be upset with Jenkins.
We also know that Malcolm has always put his money where his mouth is, and both Kaepernick and Reid do similar community work and donate their money as well, so really all three guys have the same goals in mind. The disagreement, in most simple terms, is that they were split on how to move forward. I guess Reid just felt like Jenkins quit on them, so he came out acting like an idiot and spewing a bunch of shit on Sunday. Jenkins took the high road in his post game comments and didn’t have anything negative to say about the Panthers’ safety.
The anger manifested itself in a late hit on Wentz that went unpunished, with Ertz getting involved:
Ertz gets a B+ for effort pic.twitter.com/cJBVLmNimi
— Nick Piccone (@nickpiccone) October 21, 2018
Takes a lot to piss off a nice guy like Zach Ertz, doesn’t it? Whether Reid is upset or not, you can’t be taking cheap shots like those.
But wait, there’s more!
The final layer to the story is Jimmy Kempski drawing a stick figure of Reid in the middle of the game, which was later deleted after a bunch of national media guys started calling him a racist.
Here’s the cartoon:
A writer from Bleacher Report shared the cartoon with Reid after the game, who said, “I’d expect nothing less from a racist.”
The problem people had is that they felt like the bug eyes and red lips were akin to the illustrations used to depict black men and women during the Jim Crow era. Cartoons created in this manner are seen to be insensitive and inappropriate.
But listen, like I wrote on Twitter last night, I’ll go to bat for Jimmy Kempski any day of the week. The guy is not a racist. If you’ve followed him or read any of his stuff, you know he’s been doing these goofy stick figures for years and that there’s no insidious Jim Crow motif disguised in the “art.” Jimmy deleted the tweet and apologized and Lexie Norcross, who runs PhillyVoice, rightfully backed him up.
Honestly, it’s pretty shitty that people like Bomani Jones and other national media cherry pickers can just swoop in and start throwing around accusations of racism without knowing anything about a person, their work, or their history. Suggesting that somebody is a racist is not something that you casually throw out there like it’s no big deal. We’re talking about people with wives and kids and families. We all fuck up at some point and have to face repercussions for things we do, but to start slinging around the Scarlet Letter and call for people to be fired without doing one iota of critical thinking, that puts us on a slippery slope to what?
Sure, Jimmy can be more aware of what he’s drawing and maybe identify the Jim Crow similarities before he hits the Tweet button, but showing a lack of awareness does not automatically mean you’re a racist. What kind of leap is that?
Either way, I thought it was equally shitty that the 85 people on the Eagles beat decided to remain silent and didn’t defend one of their colleagues.
8) Doug’s best call?
Big fan of Carson Wentz sneaking the ball a couple of times on 4th and 1. That was bread and butter last year and I’m glad they got back to it in this game.
On the opening drive, I also thought the the 4th and 5 play with the fantastic Jeffery catch was another wonderfully aggressive call.
9) Doug’s worst call?
Everything else. The fourth quarter play calling was stunning, just one called running play on the final three drives. Corey Clement only carried the ball eight times on the entire day. Why? Give him 10-12 carries per game and let Wendell Smallwood carry it eight to 10 times. Easy. I’m a Smallwood fan, but there’s no way he should be getting the ball more than Clement.
I’m also not sure what the hell Jim Schwartz was calling in the fourth quarter, if he was calling anything at all.
10) Awful announcing
The crew of Charles Davis, Kenny Albert, and Pam Oliver was whatever.
I really don’t have a problem with Davis, I just feel like the broadcast is 90% him talking while Albert barely gets a word in.
My only true gripe with Davis was that when the Eagles did the soccer routine, he identified it as a CORNER KICK instead of a free kick. I mean, really? Even the most hardcore “four for four” soccer hater knows that you don’t line up a wall in front of a corner kick:
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) October 21, 2018
I did some soccer/football crossover Tweets after that celebration that resulted in a lukewarm response. Maybe next time.
Also regarding the broadcast, I’m fucking over the political ads.
Commercial: Vote for candidate A because candidate B is an asshole!
Very next commercial: Candidate B is a douchebag! Vote for candidate A!
Those were worse than anything the Eagles actually did on the field Sunday afternoon.
I’m Kevin Kinkead, and I approve this message.