Of course the Eagles made Kirk Cousins look like the second coming of Joe Montana, again.
I blame Zach Brown, who provided bulletin board material when he said this about his former Washington teammate:
“Cousins, I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball. For me, that’s probably the weakest part of their offense is him. Everything else is good. They’ve got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers. You just want them to pass the ball. You want Kirk Cousins to get it in his hands.”
Cousins then went on to throw for 333 yards and four touchdowns in an 18-point win. The interception wasn’t his fault, since the ball went right through Stefon Diggs’ hands and single-doinked off his facemask and into the outstretched arms of Andrew Sendejo.
As penance, Brown is longer allowed to talk for the rest of the season, like an NBA player visiting China. He needs to say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys before apologizing to the Greater Delaware Valley for his transgression. Finally, as the ultimate punishment, he needs to listen to the Zac Brown band until his ears bleed. Then all will be forgiven.
But seriously, what a horror show in Minnesota. The defense looked like Swiss cheese, the offense lacks dynamism, and Doug Pederson had what I thought was one of his worst play-calling and decision making performances since taking over for Chip Kelly back in 2016.
1. The secondary
Where to begin?
Well, Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Cre’Von LeBlanc, and Avonte Maddox are all injured. Do those guys improve the situation? Probably.
But they weren’t out there, which means you’ve got Rasul Douglas, not known for his foot speed, being placed 10-yards back in off coverage for whatever reason. Sidney Jones appears to be inside his own head and Craig James is a backup who has to be thrown out there because the Eagles don’t have anyone else, unless you want to give Orlando Scandrick a try.
So figuring talent and scheme-fit, that group isn’t great to begin with, but these breakdowns also include veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, and they are brutal to watch.
Take the second Stefon Diggs touchdown, for instance, where Douglas is expecting help over the top but the Birds are playing single-high safety and somehow let two guys beat them deep:
— J🦠sh (@___Joshua_____) October 13, 2019
This is when I need the all-22 film to show you the better view, but basically the entire left side of the Eagles defense blew their coverage, Jenkins took the crossing route, and Douglas had nobody behind him. I don’t know why Jenkins was the free safety anyway, since McLeod is typically there while Malcolm goes up to the line of scrimmage.
And then on the first Diggs touchdown, the Eagles have two safeties back in quarters coverage, which FOX thankfully gave us a nice wide view of:
Bottom line, it was bad all around, with blown coverages, bad technique, and a lack of baseline talent also evident.
2. Carson Wentz
Can he be better? Sure.
Are the Eagles losing because of him? No. Sunday, he was saddled with bad play calling and a lack of play-making from his “weapons.”
I re-watched every offensive play this morning and these are the Carson negatives that stood out to me:
- 3rd and 6, the batted ball, I don’t know if there was any way to squeeze that pass through Eric Kendricks, risky and close to being an interception
- the 4th and 2 pass to Alshon Jeffery was slightly high, but that’s a catch he typically makes
- just barely high on the end zone shot to Mack Hollins, which Hollins could have done a better job with
- telegraphed a second half pass to Jeffery (opening drive)
- overthrew Agholor on the deep look in the end zone
- delay of game on 3rd and 4 (this goes down as the his biggest error I think, the penalty and ensuing sack on a Minnesota blitz)
- telegraphed another pass that Anthony Barr almost picked off
- threw behind Ertz on 3rd and 15 (then converted 4th and 15)
- the interception
That’s about it. Those last three bullets took place when Minnesota was up by three scores and the Eagles were just chucking the football.
But Wentz had two tight window catches that were dropped. The first deep ball to Agholor, you could argue for pass interference, while the audibles are impossible to qualify since we don’t know the original play call. The pair of touchdown passes were brilliant plays and he put a sideline dime right into Jeffery’s bread basket that should have gone for more.
I don’t want to see Carson running for his life on every play, but I’d like to see Mike Groh and Doug Pederson get him out of the pocket a bit more, get him rolling to his right, scheme up some under-center play action and stuff like that. Sometimes Wentz looks static inside the pocket, and I think you have to try to get him in a rhythm earlier in the game with some non-linear movement. Also, for God’s sake, please take the ball to start the game instead of deferring to the second half. Give yourself a chance to play with a lead.
At this point, Wentz is never gonna get a fair shake from the Nick Foles people, because they’ve made up their minds and aren’t changing their stance anytime soon. The ‘Folesian Society’ ain’t coming around any time soon, but honestly, if you think Carson Wentz is part of the problem right now, you might be smoking crack.
3. Help a brother out
Remember how the Eagles were supposed to be really skilled on the offensive side of the ball this year? Playmakers all around and yadda yadda yadda?
Here’s my synopsis after Sunday:
- Zach Ertz – AWOL in Minnesota, one of his quietest/worst games as an Eagle
- Nelson Agholor – a nice WR3/slot receiver, just not a big play guy
- Alshon Jeffery – good game for him, but just 7.6 yards per catch and he needs more downfield targets
- Mack Hollins – I’d honestly rather have Greg Ward out there
- JJ Arcega-Whiteside – could possibly be a bust
- Dallas Goedert – some decent plays on the afternoon
- DeSean Jackson – badly needed
- Miles Sander – biggest downfield threat?
Somebody has to make a play. Who is making a play? Wentz can spread the ball around, sure, but who is the game changer out there? The Eagles just do not have a Tyreek Hill, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, or DeAndre Hopkins kind of guy out there, i.e. one dude who can put his imprint on a game and change it. DeSean might be that guy, but the Eagles have gotten four whole quarters out of him since his return to Philly.
Another thing that baffles me is this Alshon Jeffrey route chart:
I don’t get it. You’ve got a big-bodied possession receiver who can catch those tough intermediate routes, yet look at all of the five-yard and line of scrimmage nonsense there. That is not the proper way to use him.
The more I think about it, the more this feels like a Howie Roseman and Mike Groh problem to me.
4. That damn bubble screen
A word about the wide receiver bubble screen:
It’s a college play. It’s for college offenses.
It’s a play that superior programs use to put talented skill players in space against lesser-skilled players, where they can then chunk it up on yards after the catch. You don’t see it as much in the NFL because there’s no gross talent gap between pro receivers and pro cornerbacks.
Doug Pederson called four of these plays in the first half alone. Four receiver screens! And three of them were to Alshon Jeffery, who is the slowest receiver in the entire unit. He even went back to it on a 3rd and 2 that went for zero yards.
I truly do not get why you would throw behind the sticks to a guy whose strength is making difficult contested catches on intermediate routes. He is not a short-route guy who excels in space.
But yet, we get this on 3rd and 2:
Pathetic effort there from Mack Hollins, for what it’s worth. He’s been less than impressive this season.
If Doug insists on throwing laterally, you have to let Nelson Agholor catch the ball, because he’s a better YAC guy and is quicker off the blocks when receiving these types of passes.
Do it that way. Use that RPO action, kick out a tight end and an offensive lineman, then hit Agholor in more of a tunnel fashion instead of that flat bubble screen to get him moving. Nice pickup there, nice quick hit and YAC run.
5. The game plan kind of, sort of worked..
For all intents and purposes, the Eagles defense did what they were supposed to do early in the game. Theoretically you shut down the Vikings’ outside zone and off-tackle running game, make “Kurt” Cousins throw the ball, and then tee off on obvious passing downs.
They did the first part, limiting Dalvin Cook to just 2.6 yards per carry.
Here’s his chart:
Alex Mattison got free on a 35 yard run, which made for 29% of the Vikings ground yardage on one play, so the Birds did fine in this department.
The problem was that they blew a couple of early third down plays, allowing the conversion of a 3rd and 13 and then committing a penalty on a third and six, which kept Minnesota ahead of the chains. Then the Vikings got smart and just started chucking, which resulted in them putting up 38 points despite going just 2-10 on third down.
Nice job by offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who showed a mix of play-action, bootleg stuff, and misdirection, which kept the Birds off-balance for much of the afternoon. Philadelphia successfully forced to Cousins to win the game, but then got carved up anyway.
6. Mistakes and breaks
Not a ton of backbreaking individual screw ups in this game, since it was more about a general inability to stop the Vikings’ offense.
- holding on kickoff return before 1st possession
- defensive holding on 3rd and 6 for an automatic first down
- dropping some 50/50 balls
- the fake field goal was UGLY as hell
- thinking that Jason Peters would make it through a season healthy
- killer delay of game penalty on 3rd and 4 in the fourth quarter (which was followed by the sack)
- Diggs drop, leading to interception
- Andrew Sendejo diving into a crowd of players on 3rd and 33 (like an idiot), but missing, which thankfully helped avoid another stupid penalty
Beyond this stuff, I thought in general the refs were wildly inconsistent with pass interference, allowing some hand fighting earlier then calling DPI in other instances. You might have caught that shot of Doug shaking his head after the Jones and Diggs play. They hit the Vikings with a make-up call afterward, resulting in a third and long on that drive.
Here’s a picture of the officials that I clipped from the broadcast:
7. Ancillary wins and losses
Here’s the damage:
- lost time of possession – 32:02 to 27:56
- -1 turnover margin
- 4-12 on third down (33%)
- 1-3 on fourth down
- allowed Vikings to go 2-10 on third down (20%)
- lost 14 yards on two sacks
- 1-1 success rate in the red zone
- 7 penalties for 49 yards
- 19 first downs, 26 for Minnesota
- ran 65 total plays, Minny 65
The Eagles typically lose the game when they lose time of possession, and that first quarter just killed them in this department, conceding the early score and playing from behind.
You look at that 2-10 number on Minnesota third downs and think it’s fantastic, but the Vikings didn’t need to convert on third down because they were slicing the Eagles up on 1st and 2nd, moving the sticks 23 times on those downs.
I think the biggest loss that I listed above is the 4-12 third down mark, for 33%, which is where the Eagles typically excel. They were up in the 55% range on third down conversions through the first four games this season, but when they aren’t moving the chains they just don’t have enough downfield firepower to gain chunk yardage and play effectively from behind.
8. Doug’s best call?
9. Doug’s worst call
Carson Wentz finished the first quarter 1-1 for four yards. Doug did call a second pass play, but Wentz pulled the ball down and ran instead. Still, I didn’t get three straight runs to open the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that from him.
The fake field goal. Jesus, the fake field goal. Okay, so you don’t have a timeout, and if you convert the first down then what? You can’t stop the clock anyway! It was TD or bust on that play and you should have just taken the points.
Here’s Doug’s reasoning:
According to Doug Pederson, the idea on the fake FG was to complete the pass, get the first down, get out of bounds to stop the clock (with no timeouts), and then take shots into the end zone.
— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) October 13, 2019
I also want to take another opportunity to say that I hate the Jeffery WR screen.
And the 4th and 2 attempt was… whatever. That’s a panic play disguised as “aggressiveness” because you don’t trust the defense and know you’re gonna get cooked if you give the ball back, which is exactly what happened.
10. Broadcast notes
Kenny Albert, Charles Davis, and Pam Oliver for this one.
Davis seemed confused on the Adam Thielen non-touchdown, originally saying that the receiver had one foot in before correcting himself after the commercial to explain the play correctly. Not sure if he just got his college and NFL rules mixed up there on that one.
This might sound random, but something bothers me about going to commercial during a review. I’d like to see at least one replay before leaving the game, and the broadcasters can say, ‘the officials will take a look while we go to commercial break.‘ Sometimes it feels like we’re coming back from a break and it’s like, ‘oh by the way, here’s what the challenge is all about.’ It feels.. jarring? I don’t know how to explain it. I would love for them to double-box and let us watch the review while playing the commercials (with volume) in the bigger box instead. Advertisers I think would be okay with that, or you could sell those ads at a discounted rate since they don’t occupy the full screen.
Finally, shout out to the FOX producer who played Judas Priest to commercial break after the Jeffery TD catch. It was an all-time Priest banger, the Painkiller, and you might need a few of those to help with your Eagles-induced headache on a Monday morning: