Paying Homage to Donovan McNabb – Ten Takeaways from Eagles 23, Bengals 23 (OT)

The Eagles paid tribute to the great Donovan McNabb by battling the Cincinnati Bengals to a tie on Sunday afternoon.

The crappy, winless, rebuilding Bengals.

It was one of the worst football games I’ve ever seen, and you probably feel the same way. This one made the Iowa/Penn State 6-4 game look like an instant classic. It made the 2008 Sun Bowl, which Oregon State won 3-0, feel like a barn burner in comparison. The Birds played to a pointless stalemate after some chickenshit overtime meandering resulted in a 59-yard field goal attempt, which never even got to be kicked due to a FALSE START PENALTY, which knocked them out of range.

So they decided to play it safe, punt, and settle for a draw. They seriously could not even pick up 5-10 extra yards to give themselves enough breathing room as the clock ticked closer to zero.

It was a travesty of a mockery of a sham, as Woody Allen once said. What happened to fearless Doug Pederson? What the hell is going on with him?

That’s question number one, and rhetorical.

Question number two:

Why punt?

Well, if Jake Elliott misses, the Bengals have a chance to get in a quick play and then kick their own field goal, so the risk/reward didn’t seem to be worth it.

Said Doug Pederson after the game:

“We didn’t want to give them the ball towards midfield or even a chance to go for it on fourth down and long. Incomplete pass, something like that. They get the ball, short field, they could kick a field goal and win the game. Just made that decision. Hopefully something positive might have come out of the punt.”

Thing is, the NFC East stinks, and so the difference between 0-3 and 0-2-1 might actually be significant when it comes down to hideous possible tiebreakers in December.

And to put the cherry on top of this barf sundae, the Eagles lost Dallas Goedert, DeSean Jackson, Avonte Maddox, and finally Jason Peters at the end of the game. There are no words to describe the absolutely aggravating injury situation that has befallen this team in consecutive seasons.

1. Carson Wentz and a best-case scenario

Credit where it’s due –

The quarterback is mentally struggling and inaccurate. He’s pressing and overcompensating and his weapons are injured, again. So he used his legs and made some great plays to move the sticks, keep drives alive, and then tie the game in the fourth quarter, capping off an 11-play, 75-yard drive in two minutes and 44 seconds.

That little glimmer of hope is a blessing in disguise, and here’s why:

We all agree at this point that Carson doesn’t have it. Lack of confidence, interceptions, fumbles, etc. Jalen Hurts could/should start at some point this year, but week four in San Francisco, on primetime television, with no receivers, is going to be a BIG ask. Week five at Pittsburgh is a BIG ask. Week six vs. Baltimore = no bueno. Carson perhaps showed enough in this game that they can roll him out there until the playoffs become inevitably out of reach, then Hurts comes in to play week seven against the Giants and there’s more of a natural transition.

That might be the best-case scenario here. Wentz is undergoing an alarmingly intense regression, which is compounded by the fact that the coach is not himself and the injury situation is again a joke. I want to see Jalen Hurts, I just don’t want him to get pancaked by three good teams, three weeks in a row.

2. Inexplicable errors

The first interception was deflected, but there wasn’t much there in the first place.

The broadcast gave us a good replay of it (thank you) and showed a mesh concept (they run this a lot with the tight ends), and it looks like Wentz just didn’t see the linebacker, who might have picked this anyway:

On other plays, his receivers were having trouble beating man coverage, and Carson took a few coverage sacks. That’s fine, better than forcing it, but he looked very hesitant to get rid of the ball after the first pick, almost like an overcorrection to the point of being on the opposite end of the spectrum (which isn’t a good thing).

The second pick, it wasn’t a horrible decision, but this has to be on the back shoulder and put in a position where the tight end can get up and attack the ball:

He threw the same interception in the Washington game, too. You can throw 50/50 sideline passes no problem, they just have to be on the outside. He’s throwing them on the inside.

Later he totally missed a wide-open Miles Sanders:

It’s not sustainable. We all know this. Carson had some moments of brilliance in this game, but if he can’t overcome whatever mental roadblock is there right now, his time in Philadelphia might be over.

3. Justin Jefferson and DK Metcalf and Tee Higgins

Right, so two of these guys weren’t even part of this game, but how can you not be paying attention to what these receivers are doing? The Birds had opportunities to draft one or more of them.

And look, Jalen Reagor might grow into a great player some day, and he’s a N/A on evaluation since he’s injured, but it looks like the Birds missed on Justin Jefferson, who went for 175 and a touchdown on Sunday. He proved that he’s more than a slot receiver who got favorable matchups on a championship team. Metcalf went for 110 and a score. Higgins caught two touchdowns against the Birds and was targeted nine times.

There’s always one of these guys every year. The Birds passed on a couple of receivers who look like studs because they were enamored with Reagor, so hopefully he turns out to be quality and not the next J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who has done absolutely nothing this year.

4. The Jason Peters turnstile game

Horrendous Jason Peters game. The Eagles might have been better swapping “The Bodyguard” for Kevin Costner’s character in the 1992 film.

Here are some still frames showing a few times Peters got beat on Sunday:

Much respect to Jason Peters for his Hall of Fame career, but he executed the matador scheme in this game.

5. Going deep down the depth chart

Confession:

I didn’t even know Richard Rodgers was active for this game. He caught a pair of passes for 15 yards.

With Alshon Jeffery and Reagor already out, and Jackson and Goedert leaving the game, here’s what the Eagles’ pass catchers did on Sunday:

We’re three weeks into the season and right back to where we were at the end of last year. We’re relying on Greg Ward and Zach Ertz to carry us to the promised land. Only this time the promised land is a single victory, instead of the NFC East title and a home playoff game.

6. Mistakes and breaks

How much time do you have?

Mistakes:

  1. Carson’s first interception.
  2. Having to blow a timeout on a Cincy punt because there were too many men on the field.
  3. Malik Jackson 15 yards roughing the passer.*
  4. Bad penalty on a punt, giving Bengals the ball around the 45.
  5. Jalen Mills getting a DPI in the end zone, which was slightly iffy, though he did have his hands on him.
  6. Wentz second interception.
  7. Rodney McLeod personal foul.
  8. Overtime false start.
  9. Overtime holding.
  10. Overtime false start on the field goal attempt.

Three offensive line penalties in overtime alone is OUTRAGEOUS!

Here’s the Jackson hit* –

It’s not an illegal hit by letter of the law, but it’s just unnecessary, and if you give the refs the opportunity to throw the flag, they’ll do it. They’re gonna protect the quarterback whether we like it or not, so defensive guys are gonna have to learn to ease up.

Breaks:

  1. On the second drive, late hit penalty following the Wentz scramble.
  2. Play whistled dead prior to Boston Scott fumble.
  3. Bengals booting a kick off out of play.
  4. Jason Kelce falling on Wentz fumble.
  5. Bengals’ illegal touching penalty.
  6. Bengals dropping what might have been a third interception in overtime.
  7. Cincy holding on a big overtime completion.

It’s not like the Bungles were the ’85 Chicago Bears out there. They also stink. Joe Burrow is gonna be one hell of a quarterback, but they gave the Eagles some easy shit in this game and they went on to snatch a tie from the jaws of victory.

7. Ancillary wins and losses

Meh:

  • won time of possession 37:44 to 32:16
  • -2 turnover margin
  • 10-21 on third down (47.6%)
  • 0-0 on fourth down
  • allowed Bengals to go 3-12 on third down (25%)
  • lost 19 yards on three sacks
  • 1-2 success rate in the red zone
  • 11 penalties for 93 yards
  • 27 first downs, 24 for Cincinnati
  • ran 86 total plays, Cincinnati 70

Turnovers and penalties killed them. Everything else was pretty good. Time of possession, third down rate, sacks, total plays, and other volume-related stats.

8. Doug’s best call?

Hmm.. probably the decision to challenge for illegal touching, though somebody in the booth alerted him to that, and Cre’Von LeBlanc immediately pointed it out from the field. Big yardage swing by getting that call overturned.

I honestly liked the first play of the game. Take a shot down the field? Why the hell not? Reporters at the Linc said DeSean stumbled a bit out of the gate, or else it might have been there, and when your QB is low on confidence, if you can hit on that to start the afternoon, maybe it sets a different tone for the rest of the game.

The Jalen Hurts plays also resulted in some nice yardage. Just ignore the fumble on the third snap.

9. Doug’s worst call?

Some of his first down calls were totally whack. A failed screen for Sanders? A quick hitter to Greg Ward? There was a point in the second quarter when Sanders was on 6.8 yards per carry and Doug decided to pass the ball SEVEN STRAIGHT TIMES!

Here we are calling the police on Doug:

The opening drive of the third quarter, that third down play call was criminal. Another quick hitter to Greg Ward? On 3rd and 12? Throw the ball down the field and give yourself a chance to maybe go for it on fourth down. There was a lot of conservative play calling in this game.

Also, Wentz completed a third down pass in which two guys were running the same route, about three yards separated. Please tell me that was a mistake, or else whomever came up with that design should be fired.

And finally, what kind of chickenshit did we witness in overtime? Where is massive cajones Doug? What happened to him? He’s completely lost his feel for the game.

10. Put this one on the resume tape

Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta calling this game. Are they the D team? F team? Z team? I guess when you have a couple of 0-2 squads, you don’t get the top announcers.

But –

I honestly thought they were pretty good. Archuleta, especially, who leaned on his professional defensive back experience to explain in detail a lot of the man and zone concepts we were seeing from both teams. Really enjoyed his explanation of what Cincy was doing on the Ward touchdown.

Dedes didn’t strike me as any better or any worse than the other PBP guys out there. I think there was one play he called an RPO that was actually a zone read, but you’re trying to make these calls in real time and shit happens. He was fine.

My big takeaway from the broadcast is that I’d like for the networks to TURN OFF THE FAKE CROWD NOISE. I can’t take another week of phony, artificial, FAKE CROWD NOISE.

Donovan gets the last word this morning:

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