Make no mistake, that was an absolutely ghastly Eagles loss. Just hideously appalling. There really is no word in the thesaurus that is apt for describing the horror show that unfolded at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Maybe abhorrent? Abhorrent is a good word. That loss should fill you with an indescribable abhorrence and disgust.
It was a travesty of a mockery of a sham, as Woody Allen once said. He was talking about a fictional court case back in 1971, but that line works to describe your 2019 Eagles, who look exactly like the 2018 Eagles – a squad that has played basically two above-average quarters of football this season. You can talk about injuries and you can talk about the refereeing, but this team really truly has underperformed across the board. The offense can’t find any consistency, the defense can’t find the opposing quarterback, and Carson Wentz is leaving just enough plays on the field to allow his doubters to continue to feel the way they do.
This all comes less than two years after Doug Pederson stood on the Art Museum steps and declared a “new norm” for Philadelphia Eagles football, an expectation to play in February again. But instead of getting the symbiotic juggernaut we saw in 2017, the post-Super Bowl iterations of the Birds look like squads that just don’t have ‘it.’ They lose close games, make cheap mistakes, and never seem to have all cylinders firing at the same time.
So here we are on September 23rd, just three weeks into the season, sitting at 1-2 with a trip to Green Bay on deck. Dallas looks fantastic. Minnesota looks solid. The Bills ain’t bad and the Giants actually won a football game with a quarterback not named Eli Manning.
I’m not a “sky is falling” type of person, but if the Eagles slide to 1-3 in five days’ time, this thing could potentially get out of hand.
1. Killing your own momentum
One of the great things about the 2017 Eagles is that each unit fed off the other. The defense would create good field position for the offense, who would in turn put points on the board, allowing Jim Schwartz’s guys to play with a lead. It’s that “symbiotic” thing I mentioned earlier, a cumulative gridiron snowball that rolled over most of the NFL en route to home field advantage.
The Birds just could not sync up those units last year and they haven’t been able to do it this year either. Swings in momentum just do not seem to carry over when the field flips.
Sunday, the Birds marched down the field and scored to make it 20-17. Then what? The defense couldn’t hold, allowed a 75 yard touchdown drive, and the offense went -10 yards for a three and out. Just absolutely brutal.
The offense goes 10 plays, 80 yards, and cuts the lead to 27-24. The defense bends, but doesn’t break, and gets the ball back. The offense then goes four plays and eight yards before turning over on downs. Another killer.
Blocked field goal, huge momentum swing, right? Nope. The Eagles took a block in the back penalty, started at the 50 yard line, then committed offensive pass interference, dropped another pass, and couldn’t move the sticks at all. They didn’t even get into Jake Elliott’s range while down by three points.
It’s absolutely aggravating, just a vicious cycle of momentum killing that plagued this team last year and is still lingering in the 2019 squad.
2. Playing without the lead
Without the services of Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, Doug Pederson tried to get the offense going early with a college approach.
He used five-wide sets, no huddle, empty backfield looks to find that rhythm early, and to his credit it worked, as the Eagles opened up with a ten points on two nine-play drives, one going for 69 yards and one for 75 yards.
That Elliott field goal was the first time the Eagles have scored in the first quarter this season. And yet they shot themselves in the foot by following that solid opening drive by allowing a 100-yard kickoff return. The second drive was then followed by a 13-play Detroit drive and score.
Here’s how long the Eagles led in this game:
- 14 seconds (3-0 scoreline)
- 7:16 (10-7 scoreline)
That’s it. After Detroit went up 14-10, they held that lead until the end.
In Atlanta, the Eagles led for lengths of:
- 1:03 (20-17 scoreline)
That’s it. They trailed the entire game, finally took the lead, and then Atlanta scored on the 54-yard Julio Jones screen pass.
One more game, week one against the Redskins:
- 20:07 (21-20 scoreline, then extended the lead from there)
So if my shitty math is right, the Eagles have played 180 minutes of football this season and led for just 28 minutes and 40 seconds, which equates to around 16%. They just are not putting themselves into positions where they can make teams one dimensional and tee off on quarterbacks, which they did to perfection two years ago.
3. Running back usage
Let give you one of those “mystery player” things that you see on Twitter:
- Player A: 34 carries, 106 yards, 3.1 yards per attempt
- Player B: 25 carries, 99 yards, 4 yards per attempt
Which one are you going with?
You’re going with player B, who is Jordan Howard, the experienced former 1,000 yard rusher who you acquired in the offseason. Yet, for whatever reason, the Eagles love second round draft pick Miles Sanders, who has been less efficient on the ground and fumbled the ball twice in this game (though his pass catching skills are obviously better).
One thing about Doug is that he’s not really a “go sit your ass on the bench” kind of guy. He doesn’t necessarily yank dudes or punish them for mistakes on the field. You probably remember Jay Ajayi fumbling on the opening drive of the 2018 divisional round playoff game, then Doug went and gave him the next three carries.
Of course Ajayi was a trusted veteran and Sanders is a rookie, but they gave him that treatment Sunday, keeping him in the game despite the errors. He made some decent second-half plays, but it’s just baffling to me how marginalized Howard has been through three games. The script should have been establishing Howard as a 1st and 2nd down back, bringing Sanders up to speed as a third down guy (or on obvious passing downs), and letting Darren Sproles return punts while stepping in to carry the ball only when necessary.
Give the ball to Jordan Howard. You are overthinking this.
4. Where is the quarterback pressure?
The Eagles are not generating QB pressure with their banged up defensive line. They mustered two quarterback hits and zero sacks in this game, which is unfathomable considering how good that unit has been over the past two seasons.
What they’re doing to compensate is throwing some blitzes at the opposition, and they did it well last week before the Falcons’ game winner.
This week they missed on a couple of occasions, actually twice on one drive, first when Andrew Sendejo came inside and through the A gap and second when Marvin Jones caught this touchdown:
That’s a max protect design with two downfield routes and one swing pass dump off option, so the Lions are keeping seven blockers in. The Eagles are rushing eight. It was an 8v7 and they couldn’t get to Stafford, who did a nice job of reading the play and floating that pass up there:
That’s six blockers on the line, plus the running back, who is assigned to blitz pickup coming off the play action. The Eagles keep three back to cover the routes and send eight men after the QB.
5. The worst missed facemask you will ever see
This isn’t really a “takeaway” per se, but holy cannoli I don’t think I have ever seen a worse missed call in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE:
Not a flag in the NFL
Absolutely pathetic pic.twitter.com/dgeHuN6svA
— Philadelphia Eagles – TPL (@EaglesTPL) September 22, 2019
This was egregious, even worse than Nick Foles with Jadeveon Clowney last year, which was very bad because Foles was irate (and he’s never irate).
6. Mistakes and breaks
We started doing this segment last week and I’m gonna keep it. It’s a good way to compartmentalize the various fortunes and boons that affect the outcome of a game:
- allowing a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown
- neutral zone infraction on 3rd and goal during first Lions drive
- Nelson Agholor 3rd down drop on third drive
- Nelson Agholor fumble
- Miles Sanders fumble
- two offensive pass interference penalties on Mack Hollins
- Dallas Goedert dropped TD pass
- block in back by Malcolm Jenkins after the field goal block
- Mack Hollins 4th quarter drop
- JJ Arcega-Whiteside 4th quarter drop
- whatever other drops I forgot to write down
Just a mess across the board. The Goedert drop was beyond brutal. And the Jenkins block in the back was a killer after a fantastic special teams play, a penalty which actually took the Birds out Jake Elliott’s range and pulled them back about 30 yards.
- Detroit with two third down penalties on the opening drive (pass interference and neutral zone infraction)
- Lions somehow not recovering the first Miles Sanders fumble
- Detroit third and five encroachment penalty for a first down
- Matt Patricia losing a timeout on a pass interference challenge
- Darius Slay dropping a possible pick six and hurting his leg in the process
- T.J. Hockenson play in end zone ruled incomplete pass instead of touchdown
- Lions offside on kickoff (that resulted in good field position for their defense)
- Matt Stafford unable to hit an open Marvin Jones on 3rd and 8 of their final drive
- blocked field goal
Detroit was sloppy as hell, too. They committed multiple third down penalties on defense, which kept Philadelphia drives alive and really hurt them in time of possession. A few of those bulletpoints I listed above would have extended their lead, but they just couldn’t finish those plays.
7. Ancillary wins and losses
Let’s check it out:
- won time of possession 32:18 to 27:42
- -2 turnover margin
- 7-13 on third down (53.8%)
- 0-2 on fourth down
- allowed Lions to go 6-14 on third down (42.8%)
- lost 13 yards on 3 sacks
- 3-4 success rate in the red zone
- 4 penalties for 30 yards
- 22 first downs, 16 for Detroit
- ran 69 total plays, Detroit 60
Time of possession again looks good, but the Lions’ kickoff return for TD basically wiped out their first drive entirely, so that certainly contributes to the skew there.
The turnover margin was negative for the first time this year, but everything else looks good across the board. The Eagles, if you can believe it, are #2 in the NFL in converting on third down, but they are 1-2. So go figure.
8. Doug’s best call?
I’ll give you an unorthodox one –
It was the Nelson Agholor reverse. The running play. Why? Because it was a confidence builder. It was a, “we believe in you and we’re gonna give you the ball” type of play.
Beyond that, I think Doug got it totally right with his clock management at the end of the game, burning that first timeout before the two minute warning and not allowing the Lions to kill too much time. The Birds’ offense ultimately sputtered out, but Pederson handled that well. Andy Reid would have had maybe one timeout left by that point.
9. Doug’s worst call?
For the second straight week he was passive going into halftime. I thought he might try to do more with that drive considering that Detroit was getting the ball to begin the third quarter.
Also, I don’t know what the hell the Carson Wentz read option was all about. I originally thought this was a Doug call, but when I watched it again Wentz actually audibled into a ridiculous Rich Rodriguez college play. Here he incorrectly reads the linebacker and runs the ball himself, two years removed from an ACL tear and less than one year removed from a fractured back:
I dunno. Zach Ertz is blocking, as is the left side of the line, so it looks like an RPO but it’s really not. That’s either a busted play or a bad audible.
10. Basic broadcasting
Sunday we got Thom Brennaman and former Detroit Lion Chris Spielman along with Shannon Spake.
Spielman I feel was hit or miss on the entire afternoon. He seemed a little “sleepy,” to me, wouldn’t you say? He seemed a little bit ‘off’ on some things, or he was kind of slow on the uptake, but when he did sense what was going on, I felt like his explanations were solid. A good example of that was when he noticed the Mack Hollins pick play, then corrected himself to explain why the officials picked up the flag.
Brennaman is usually okay, but there were a couple of instances where he mis-identified guys on the field. The blocked field goal was one, and I know those are difficult, bang-bang type of plays, but he said “Malcolm Jenkins” about three times before realizing that Rasul Douglas was carrying the ball and Jenkins was actually the guy who blocked the kick. Merrill Reese sometimes has trouble with these sequences, too. Typically you’ve got a “spotter” helping out, but I’m not in the broadcast booth, so I don’t know what the FOX setup is like.
One thing that bothered me was that we never got a replay showing the JJ Arcega-Whiteside catch on the blown dead 3rd and 5 play. The camera stayed on Wentz while you could hear the crowd going crazy in the background, thinking it was going to be a touchdown on a free play. Later, though, they did get Dean Blandino in a double box, and he explained that those plays are sometimes whistled dead right away in order to prevent free shots at the quarterback. Tough break, but I guess it is what it is.
That’s about it. I hope you have a great Monday.