Did you predict that Josh McCown would be throwing to Deontay Burnett and Shelton Gibson in the playoffs?
Yeah, me neither.
Shame it ended this way for the Birds, but at some point we knew they’d lose the war of attrition, with the medical tent finally running out of room to house all of the bodies the Eagles sent there this season. Sunday, in a grotesque and somewhat symbolic final act, that wretched and disgusting blue fabric pop-up claimed Carson Wentz, as if it remained dissatisfied and insatiable despite feasting on half the damn squad this year.
If the medical tent was a person, it would be an asshole.
But on a serious note, the best case scenario I outlined a few weeks ago came to fruition, somewhat. I think we all know this team didn’t have the horses to make a Super Bowl run, but they redeemed themselves at the end of the regular season, ripped off four straight wins to claim the NFC East, and turned a previously shitty year into a positive one. They were competitive in the playoff game, but not to the point where Howie Roseman could look at his roster next week and say, “I’m good.” The way this all played out, he knows, and you know, that this team needs reinforcements in a lot of areas on both sides of the ball. Some veterans need to ride off into the sunset as this team gets younger and more dynamic.
So we head into the offseason disappointed, but I think overwhelmingly the glass has to be half full when thinking about the 2019 Birds. This team could have folded at 5-7 and limped to the finish line, but they showed a lot of guts and a lot of heart, got themselves into the postseason, and then finally ran out of steam at the end.
They lost this game in the red zone and Seattle won it on third down.
Let’s dive in:
1. Carson Wentz’s first playoff game
Knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a head injury after taking a late and cheap hit from Jadeveon Clowney.
Maybe Lord God in heaven just doesn’t want us to see Wentz in a playoff game. Carson came a long way this season in answering questions about his health and durability over a 16-game schedule, won the division, and earned his first postseason berth. Then we got less than four minutes of play encompassing two drives before it was over.
Unfortunately the question of how he performed in his first playoff game will remain unanswered. It will continue to be a storyline this offseason and into next year, which is a shame, and also annoying, because we’re gonna have to keep hearing about it on the radio and through social media. Wentz didn’t really have much of an opportunity to get started either, and maybe we’re looking at this differently if he throws a TD pass and then leaves the game with the Eagles up 10-3 in the third quarter or something like that. We really don’t have anything to work with. There isn’t enoughn of a sample size to tell us anything.
He finished 1-4 for three yards on the evening.
2. Josh McCown tries to save the day
They tried to run the football when McCown came in the game, and it worked well initially, with a couple of chunky plays to get close to midfield. They lost some yardage on a bootleg and blown up screen and ended up punting after a declined block in the back penalty.
Then… he started to warm up a bit. He completed a nice third down pass to Dallas Goedert. He pulled the ball on a zone read and carried it for a first down. McCown looked comfortable enough out there, but you just sensed the lack of dynamic playmaking coming from a 40-year-old backup quarterback and his limited weapons.
One of the real killers was the red zone possession in which he took the 3rd down sack in the red zone, which resulted in a field goal instead. Then he threw behind Miles Sanders on 4th and 4, which was brutal. That ball was close enough to be caught, but McCown took the high road after the game, saying this:
That was just me. Just gotta make a better throw. Miles is a heck of a player and is gonna be a special player in this league. I love that kid. Just gotta give him a better ball and give him a chance to run, and I didn’t do that. We nailed the protection call and everything about it, and just didn’t get the ball on him. That’s on me.
The final, most excruciating dagger was the late stage fourth down play. 4th and 7, he steps up in the pocket, and then takes a sack without getting rid of the ball. That was brutal to watch and if that’s the last play of his career, he lives with it forever. ‘What if?’ is the question. What if he just shoveled that towards the end zone or tried to toss it up and there and let somebody try to go up and make a play? –
We’ll never know.
3. Getting beat deep
DK Metcalf was on the board when the Eagles drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. You’ve heard this 400 times before, but of course it was going to bite us all in the ass again.
First, I want you to watch this play from the first Seattle game, when Metcalf beat the Eagles deep but dropped a touchdown pass:
DK Metcalf had a long drop earlier but this one is just awful despite not a perfect pass. Would've been an easy touchdown.pic.twitter.com/FQ24AXkuys
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 24, 2019
This looks to me like a version of inverted cover two. In simple terms, the safeties are responsible for the deep portions of the field in a typical cover two. When you show an inverted version of the coverage, the corners take those areas instead.
I’m not entirely sure what happened this time around, but Avonte Maddox ended up on Metcalf with no help over the top, as Rodney McLeod came down to the line of scrimmage instead. Look at the NextGen graphic here to see how it plays out:
A look at the Russell Wilson-DK Metcalf TD, via NextGen. pic.twitter.com/tsMzHRfQ2b
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) January 5, 2020
Not sure. Malcolm Jenkins is deep in his half of the field, so it looks like half Tampa 2 (with a middle linebacker dropping into coverage) and half inverted cover two on the opposite side. Somebody did something wrong.
4. A late hit and the resulting takes
Jadeveon Clowney didn’t get flagged for the helmet-first hit that sent Carson Wentz out of the game, the officials saying this via pool report:
“He was a runner and he did not give himself up. We saw incidental helmet contact, and in our judgement, we didn’t rule that to be a foul.”
Yeah? Well he’s still lowering the helmet as he makes contact, which is penalty regardless of whether Wentz is categorized a ball carrier or quarterback. Watch it again, and notice how he’s leading with the crown:
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) January 5, 2020
That would have resulted in a review and likely ejection for targeting in the college game. It spawned all sorts of social media takes, and you knew that somebody was gonna do the ridiculous “Wentz can’t stay healthy” take. The worst of those takes I spotted was this garbage from former NFL receiver Brandon Stokley:
Carson Wentz hurt again. He’s just way to unreliable to be a franchise QB but the Eagles have no other choice now. Should’ve kept Foles he was a perfect fit for them #Eagles
— Brandon Stokley (@bstokley14) January 5, 2020
People hate the truth. Carson Wentz gets hurt a lot. He puts himself in a lot of bad situations when he runs with the football and he did it again tonight. It’s just the FACTS!!! #SEAvsPHI
— Brandon Stokley (@bstokley14) January 5, 2020
Yeah, look, if you wanna blame him for going head first and diving instead of sliding, okay, but it doesn’t change the fact that he took an illegal hit.
Next up, our friend Josina Anderson, who quote tweeted this nonsense from Torry Holt, which was later deleted:
Yes, “it’s always something” with Wentz, in this case an illegal hit to the helmet. These people are dumb.
To give you an idea how outrageous the bad takes were, Skip Bayless was one of the people on the right side of history:
I'm still trying to figure out how that Clowney helmet-to-helmet hit on Wentz as he was going to the ground didn't draw a flag. Clowney would've been ejected in college football. He got away with cheap-shotting Wentz out of the game.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) January 5, 2020
And even Dave Portnoy from Barstool had it right, though he spelled “vicious” wrong and wrote “viscous” instead:
“Viscous” means something is thick and sticky, like maple syrup on a waffle.
But think about it; if Skip Bayless and Dave Portnoy are the folks with the correct takes on Carson Wentz, then how embarrassing is it to have the incorrect take? Josina Anderson is the absolute worst.
5. Russell Wilson extending plays
You knew that he was going to be able to use his feet to keep a few plays alive, one of which would just torch the Eagles. I think the most significant one happened right before halftime on a third and ten, when he was able to do this:
I thought that was the killer, that sequence with the missed tackle, which was part of the nine play, 82-yard touchdown drive that put Seattle up 10-3.
The Eagles defense did a nice job against the run, just 64 yards on 26 carries (2.5 YPC), but only sacked Wilson once, which is par for the course for most teams playing against him. He’s a fantastic player and is now 5-0 all time against Philly.
6. Mistakes and breaks
I thought the Eagles actually limited the self-inflicted damage reasonably well:
- Wentz blown pitch to Sanders, miscommunication after the audible
- Craig James hitting punt returner after fair catch
- Zach Ertz second quarter drop (McCown pass a bit high)
- Derek Barnett late hit for a fresh set of downs
- delay of game penalty in the red zone
- Nigel Bradham missed tackle on 3rd and 15 sticks defense
- Seattle defensive holding on 3rd and long
- no call on Malcolm Jenkins 3rd down offside
- defensive pass interference on opening third-quarter drive
- Seahawks burning an early second half timeout
- Wilson had Metcalf on another deep look and overthrew him
- Sanders getting tackled forward for four yards, resulting in 3rd and short (horrible spot honestly)
- Shelton Gibson (!) drawing a pass interference penalty
RE: the officiating, the Seattle challenge on the incomplete sideline pass for Lockett was correctly overturned. And Barnett’s late hit was indeed late, so no issue with that call. There were calls for a late hit on McCown before halftime that looked rather soft to me, and the 3rd and goal tackle on McCown originally looked like a horse collar but was actually a hand around the helmet, which took place behind the line of scrimmage. I guess the refs identified him as a runner there, but who knows with these guys.
7. Ancillary wins and losses
They lost this game in the red zone and with these third down numbers:
- won time of possession 33:15 to 26:45
- 0 turnover margin (neither team coughed it up)
- 3-11 on third down (27.3%)
- 0-2 on fourth down
- allowed Seahawks to go 8-15 on third down (53.3%)
- lost 15 yards on 7 sacks
- 0-3 success rate in the red zone
- 7 penalties for 44 yards
- 16 first downs, 20 for Seahawks
- ran 61 total plays, Seahawks 57
Seattle had a ton of penalties – 11 for 114 yards as a result of those DPIs.
As for third downs, the Eagles were 4th best in the regular season at 45%. That 27% number they put up last night was worse than what the Redskins and Jets did over the course of 16 games.
For Seattle, they were only converting third downs at 39% in the regular season but finished at 53% Sunday. The Eagles defense was 4th best overall in this area, only allowing a 34% opponent rate. So that was disappointing, the fact that the third down plays skewed the way they did on both sides of the ball. Give Wilson credit for that, especially on the third and long where he beat Bradham in open space.
8. Doug’s best call?
Trying to establish the run and simplify the offense after Wentz left the game. I think that was probably the obvious thing to do with a backup QB, and Pederson noted that he removed some of the pre-snap motions and tried to run plays McCown was familiar with:
We eliminated some of the motions. We just kind of got back to some of the core plays, some of the things Josh was comfortable with in the run game and the pass game, and just we did some good things. Just kind of stalled out in the red zone a little bit tonight. Had opportunities, but just got back to some of the core stuff for Josh.
And no issue with him going for it on 4th and 4 in the fourth quarter there. McCown just threw that ball a bit behind Sanders, who I thought got caught looking upfield just slightly and maybe should have snagged it.
9. Doug’s worst call?
I thought he got a little tentative on the first Jake Elliott field goal drive when they ran the ball on 2nd and 10 and then threw a swing pass on third and long. Seemed like that drive just petered out for no real reason after the Birds were clicking offensively.
They also lost some yardage on the underhand flip to Greg Ward, which I don’t think is a bad play, but if you go back and watch that one again, Boston Scott got the timing a bit wrong on his side, and Clowney read it all the way. Bad combination there.
Also wasn’t entirely sure about the decision to run the clock to the two-minute warning at the end. They could have tried their fourth down play, then gotten four time stoppages if they failed. Instead, they failed to convert and only had their three timeouts since they hit the two-minute warning while still on offense.
10. The last broadcast entry of the season
Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya.
We got the stereotypical shot of William Penn over City Hall, though I don’t recall seeing a cheesesteak or Rocky, so that was nice.
I originally was bothered by the graphic they showed of Nick Foles, with stats and numbers on what he did in the playoffs. Then I thought to myself, ‘well, it is Carson’s first playoff game, I guess mentioning Foles’ playoff success does work as a storyline, for one final time.’ We’re not the only people in the country watching the broadcast, so even though we might be sick of the Wentz/Foles thing, it still plays nationally.
One thing that annoyed me and likely annoyed you was that there really was not a lot of talk about the Clowney hit on Wentz. Didn’t hear a single thing about it at halftime, either. It was almost as if it didn’t happen, when it was undoubtedly the most significant play of the game.
Collinsworth later said, “you can’t help but feel for Carson Wentz,” which sounds like something Booger McFarland would say, i.e. the ultimate Captain Obvious kind of statement. No shit people feel bad for him; guy was knocked out of his first playoff game on a cornball hit.
And last, but certainly not least, it felt like NBC was trolling us when Tafoya’s on-field interviews were Clowney and Metcalf, as if we need anything else to be pissed off about. Talk about a snotty game overall.
Decent season, but a lot of work to do. Let’s fire the medical tent into the sun as we look forward to the draft.
(On a serious note, thanks to everybody who read the Monday morning column this year. These take a long time to write and clock in at about 2,200 words each, so that’s 17 games X 2,200 words = 37,400 words on the Eagles. Appreciate everybody who clicks on this bad boy. You all are the real MVPs.)