I was gonna start this one off with a Brexit joke, but didn’t think it was appropriate.
So instead I’ll ask a question –
Are you satisfied with that win?
I’m not asking if you’re happy with the victory, I’m asking how you feel about it, because a lot of the same issues that we saw against Carolina and Tennessee popped up again, specifically the Eagles’ inability to put their foot on an opponent’s throat and just kill off a game.
It was 17 to 6 when the Birds allowed Jacksonville to respond to a touchdown with a touchdown, conceding a 75-yard, 9-play drive that put the Jags back in business going into the fourth quarter. This time, however, the offense was able to help the waning defense by extending the lead with a 75-yard scoring drive of their own, a Dallas Goedert touchdown that would ultimately close the deal.
In truth, this game really didn’t stray too far from the Eagles’ 2018 script; they just made a few more plays this time around. They got the defensive stop they needed, the stop that never came against the Titans or Panthers. While the Eagles certainly don’t look like Super Bowl champions at the midway point of the season, pulling back to .500 as they head into the bye week should allow them to refocus and refuel and turn their attention to a massive prime time matchup with the Dallas Cowboys in two weeks’ time.
As for the Jags, those bloody wankers are 3-5 and pretty much done. They’ve cocked up their season like the bunch of dirty tossers that they are.
Wanted to work some British slang into that lede.
1) Sir Carson Wentz
21 for 30, 286 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and a fumble. Six runs for 28 yards to go against four sacks for 24 yards.
It was a performance not dissimilar to what happened last week, only this time he made his couple of misreads early in the game before it really hurt the Eagles. The first was on the interception, when he had Wendell Smallwood open to his left but instead tried to find Josh Perkins down the middle and didn’t see Jalen Ramsey “cluing” from the jump:
Smallwood wide open, blown coverage at the top of the screen pic.twitter.com/iJPCYfgnOc
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 28, 2018
That’s one you want back, and Wentz made up for it by passing for 15 first downs and leading the team to a 7-12 third down conversion rate, which is 58.3%.
The Eagles have only averaged 39.2% for third down conversions this season, which is 17th overall, so Sunday’s performance was about 19 percentage points better than their average. Additionally, Wentz is now 8th in the NFL with a 109.6 QB rating and tied for 4th among passers with a 70.7 completion percentage. Even his yards per attempt is 7.95 right now, which is 11th best overall.
It feels like the couple of turnovers we’ve seen in recent weeks, plus the failed drives against Carolina, are really steering the narrative in a negative direction, because when you take a step back, you realize that Carson is playing like a top six or seven quarterback right now.
2) Explosive plays
One of the real issues hurting the offense this year was the lack of game-changing chunk yardage gains. They were moving the ball okay, but they weren’t getting huge field-flipping and momentum-changing plays. The longest run of the season is 21 yards, which is tied for worst in the league. The longest pass of the season is 58 yards, which is tied for 24th.
The positive is that they put up four plays of 30+ yards on the afternoon, which were:
- Jordan Matthews 31-yard catch on 3rd and 14
- Nelson Agholor 39-yard catch
- Dallas Goedert 32-yard touchdown catch
- Wendell Smallwood 36-yard screen pass touchdown
The first two plays were wiped out by turnovers but the second two were total game changers, and they were the types of plays that have been missing all season long.
3) Dialing up more pressure
Jim Schwartz really is not much of a blitzer. You don’t have to be when your front four typically generates quality pressure.
But he dialed it up a lot more in this game.
“That might be the most he’s blitzed in his career,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said after the Eagles sacked Blake Bortles four times…. “But it worked. Guys were getting to the quarterback. Especially early. Bortles eventually started stepping up and avoiding some of the rushes, so we had to take our foot off the gas a little bit. But especially early, it worked really well for us.”
Sometimes the blitzes landed and sometimes they didn’t. In the clip below, they actually went after Bortles two times in a row, and in the first sequence they got to him while the QB used his legs to avoid the second rush and move the chains in the second sequence:
They rush six and get the sack with Carlos Hyde not knowing who to pick up. Then they rush five while the Jags keep an extra blocker inside, and that’s when they weren’t able to reach him.
Might be worth a sidebar story to go through the film again and count how many times they blitzed, how many guys they brought, how many blockers the Jags deployed, and how many times they reached Bortles. Or I could pay Pro Football Focus to do it, but then it wouldn’t be much of an exercise, would it?
4) Never again
It should be a borderline fireable offense when a defensive coordinator rushes three and drops eight into zone coverage. Only Big 12 coordinators do this. If you do it in the NFL, you’d better be winning the game by four touchdowns, because any offensive line and quarterback worth half their salt should be able to find a spot in the zone to pick up 10 to 15 yards.
Case in point, Sunday afternoon:
They line up seven guys on the line of scrimmage to disguise what they’re going to do, but they drop four and rush three.
Now that I watch it a few more times, I actually think this might just be a botched play, because Michael Bennett drops into coverage and then pushes the line late, almost as if it’s a delayed blitz, which makes me think he was originally supposed to be part of a four man rush:
I’ve never seen the Eagles drop eight on a 3rd down, ever. I’d have to go back and watch 19 games worth of tape from last year, but I swear to God that I’ve never seen this before. I know they will sometimes drop linemen into coverage to disguise what they’re doing and throw curveballs at the offense, but I’m fundamentally opposed to using Fletcher Cox in this way.
I said I was going to make this a weekly entry in the column, so here ya go – auxiliary statistics and story telling numbers:
- won time of possession, 33 to 27 minutes
- -1 turnover margin (fumble and interception)
- 7-12 on third down (58%)
- 0-0 on fourth down (N/A)
- allowed Jacksonville to go 6-14 on third down (42.8%) and 1-2 on fourth down (50%)
- lost 24 yards on 4 sacks
- 1-2 success rate in red zone
- 4 penalties for 36 yards
Last week, the Eagles regressed in six of those eight categories. This week, they improved from 25% to 58% on third down and also cut down the opponent’s third down conversion rate from 45.5% to 42.8%.
Everything else was almost exactly the same. The penalty yardage last week was 4 for 35 yards. The sacks conceded 26 yards total. And they only had two red zone trips in this game because they scored on the two explosive plays I mentioned above, which started outside of the area.
Time of possession is the one constant here through almost every game, and chalk that up to the Eagles always seeming to being able to sustain 1-2 long drives per game while the defense limits opponent running totals. Jacksonville did this on the ground yesterday:
When you hold two running backs and a receiver to 9 carries for 27 yards, it really doesn’t matter what Blake Bortles does with his feet. You live with that and generally win with that, which was the Eagles’ bread and butter en route to a Super Bowl last season.
6) 3rd and 22
We argued about this on Slack and I heard people complaining about it on both 94 WIP and 97.5 the Fanatic. It was the prevent play before halftime where the Eagles allowed Jacksonville to pick up enough yards to snag a 57-yard field goal:
I really don’t have an issue with that.
The Eagles always play the line of gain on third and long when the opponent has the ball inside their own half. In this case, ball was at the Jacksonville 46, and they allow the underneath completion and swarm the ball to prevent the first down. The issue on this play was more about not blowing up those two blocks and making the immediate tackle. That gain went about 4-5 yards further than it should have.
That said, 9 times out of 10, teams are not attempting a 57 yard field goal there, so sometimes you just credit the opponent and move on. The Eagles used this scheme frequently last season and the concept is that you don’t want to risk anything over the top, so they simply allow the catch and snuff out the YAC gain.
Maybe the way to improve this is change the yardage parameters on your analytics sheet. So moving forward, you would only use this scheme when the ball is on the opponent’s 40 yard line or further back. That way you aren’t risking teams with good kickers trying something in the 55 to 60 range for three points. But if they make the tackle at the first point of contact, Jacksonville is trying a 60 yarder instead of a 57 yarder, and you play those odds almost any day of the week, because a miss puts your offense in excellent field position.
Bob and Jeff thought it was a “loser” play but I thought it was more about the execution and less about the design.
7) Twilight of the Idols
Jason Peters had to come out of the game again.
Russ was right; the Eagles probably should have just moved on from him in the spring. Same with Darren Sproles, who apparently is suffering from a grade 400 hamstring strain.
One of the things Howie Roseman got wrong this year was bringing both guys back, when sometimes you have to just cut ties with your fading veterans and move on. Brent Celek did it the right way by retiring on top and going out as a world champion… a world fucking champion. When you get sentimental and bring back guys who are on their last legs (and coming off injury), that doesn’t do anything for you, them, your team, or the fans.
It was Friedich Nietzsche who once wrote the following about Peters and Roseman:
“Even the most courageous among us only rarely has the courage to face what he already knows.”
Nietzsche saw this coming, way back in 1888.
8) Doug’s best call?
The screen pass touchdown was beautiful, a perfect counter to what Jacksonville was showing. Shelton Gibson, Isaac Seumalo, and Jason Kelce all threw really nice blocks on that play.
The run/pass split was very similar to what we’ve seen in recent weeks, I just still don’t understand what’s going on with Corey Clement and why he’s only seeing a handful of carries per game while they insist on using him on every special teams snap. You can find plenty of guys to play special teams. This was the year Clement was supposed to take a big step forward, so what’s the deal?
9) Doug’s worst call?
I loathed the 3rd and 13 fourth quarter bubble/screen pass to Nelson Agholor.
I honestly cannot find a word strong enough for how much I hated this play call, which took place with 5:57 on the clock while the Eagles were clinging to a six-point lead:
Maybe if Zach Ertz hits that first block the play turns into something, but I just have a fundamental issue with throwing the ball behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 13 when it’s a one score, fourth quarter game.
Is it abhorrence? I abhorred that call. I detested it.
Lemme see what else is in the Thesaurus here…
I felt all of those things after witnessing that play call.
10) Four man booth
The crew of Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner, Steve Mariucci, and Michael Irvin was a four-man booth that felt like a two-man booth.
Because it seemed like Eisen was doing most of the talking while the other three popped in here and there, but didn’t seem to have a lot of enthusiasm or passion for the game. I don’t blame them too much, since early on it was kind of a shit game, or “shite” as the English would say. I feel like Charles Davis last week spoke as much as Warner, Mariucci, and Irvin combined.
The NFL Network broadcasts are a little funky, aren’t they? I don’t like how they cut to commercial during a review, because when they come back and toss to Dean Blandino, they don’t give him enough time to share his opinion before the on-field official announces the decision. They got stuck yesterday with Blandino in mid-sentence while the referees were finishing up with the review and announcing their ruling. It was awkward for Blandino, who had to stop talking and let the audio roll instead. The broadcast producer should never put the talent in that kind of situation.
The entire production felt somewhat “low energy” to me, though Colleen Wolfe did a nice job with the halftime show, as she usually does. How about her career trajectory since leaving Philadelphia? Hard to believe NBC Sports Philadelphia didn’t identify her as viable talent. Actually, wait, no it isn’t. They’ve made a bunch of terrible decisions over the years.
Eisen also called Josh Adams “Jamal Adams” and the sideline reporter, Melissa Stark, I believe said that Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo “played MLS all over Europe.” Dude was actually a former FC Dallas player before becoming an NFL kicker, so I think that’s what she was trying to say. I might have heard that wrong, but it came out weird.
Anyway, sorry this recap wasn’t more British, but at least the Eagles looked more like Chelsea and less like Arsenal on Sunday.