Win or lose, this game was always going to suck. We knew it before it even started, because the Eagles are “who we thought they were,” as the late Denny Green once said.
But of course we would sit there and watch that slop anyway, because we’re spineless cowards. We fell into the trap of viewing this hideous team once again, and then found ourselves regretting the loss of three hours that could have been used for something more beneficial and productive, like watching paint dry.
In lieu of another paragraph, let’s continue with an Eagles haiku:
God, the Eagles stink
fire them into the sun
end this misery
You like that? I think it’s pretty good. It’s right up there with Robert Frost and William Butler Yeats. Send the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to Lansdale.
On a more serious note, the Eagles are atrocious, and who really cares if they’re in first place? Who gives a shit? Someone needs to intervene and end this pitiful charade. Throw in the towel.
1. Carson Wentz
Allow me to begin with an exercise.
I’m gonna give you four quarterback performances from Sunday, and you tell me which you’d prefer:
- QB #1: 18 for 23, 233 yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions, 10 runs for 51 yards and two TDs
- QB #2: 24 for 32, 258 yards, one TD, two interceptions, five runs for -2 yards
- QB #3: 21 for 35, 235 yards, two TDs, two interceptions, three runs for ten yards
- QB #4: 22 for 32, 203 yards, three TDs, one interception, three runs for five yards
Probably the first or fourth one, right?
The QBs, in order, are Taysom Hill, P.J. Walker, Carson Wentz, and Andy Dalton.
All three of those other guys, who are backups, outplayed the Eagles’ highly-paid franchise quarterback, or at least matched his production. Hill is a glorified tight end who we thought was a third stringer. Walker was playing in the XFL not long ago. Dalton is coming back from injury and 33 years old.
All three were better than Carson.
Here’s what Doug said after the game when asked if he considered yanking Wentz:
“You know, with the way the game was going, and the elements, we were just a score from putting ourselves back into this football game. I did not consider that.”
Follow up question – is Wentz next week’s starter?
“Yeah. No questions about it, he’s our starter.”
The problem is that the NFC East is so shitty that the Eagles, as bad as they are, simply cannot play themselves out of contention. So we’re in a situation now where the coaching staff and front office can justify keeping Wentz in the game because they feel like they still have a realistic shot at winning the worst division in football and hosting a playoff game. If the Birds were 3-6-1 in any other division, Carson would have been pulled by now and we’d be on a different path to somewhere else. This needs to happen, but it’s not happening. They are simply delaying the inevitable for reasons unknown. Perhaps they have no clue what they’re doing.
2. Can’t blame the defense
The defense began to tire out in the 4th quarter and pseudo-quit, and honestly, I don’t blame them. They earned the right to drag their feet to the finish line because they really played their asses off for the better part of three quarters. They completely stuffed Cleveland’s running game prior to the big Nick Chubb run and gave the offense plenty of opportunities to fucking do something.
There was a point in this game where the Browns were up 12 to 7 and the defense had only given up three of those points. Carson Wentz and the offense gave up the other nine. It’s absolutely impossible to pin this one on Jim Schwartz’s unit.
Couple of random defensive thoughts:
- Alex Singleton has looked like a legit enough linebacker over the past few weeks. Nate Gerry should sit on the bench whenever he returns.
- Fletcher Cox beat Wyatt Teller on the strip sack. Teller had allowed just one sack coming into the game and is rated as a top-ten NFL guard this season.
- Josh Sweat looks like a player. Had some really nice moments of edge sealing and penetration in this game. Yeah, he got faked out in that viral clip, but whatever. He was good.
- Davion Taylor got some run as the Eagles showed some early four linebacker looks.
- Poor Joe Ostman got stiff armed into oblivion, but it was nice to see him on the field after that bad injury and upward climb to make it into the 53-man roster.
3. Bootleg, misdirection, and play action
The Browns ran that play-action/bootleg with the Baker Mayfield shoulder dip five times on Sunday. It didn’t always result in a roll out, but it was part of a family of plays in which they sold the play to the right before coming back to the left and trying to sneak a pass catcher into space.
Twice Mayfield missed open receivers, one in the end zone, but they had a lot of success with that misdirection, since the Eagles still struggle with lateral movement of any kind.
Sometimes still frames don’t tell the entire story to a play, but I want to share two of them to show the moment of the fake and how the Eagles bite. Look at where their eyes are focused on this one:
It’s really simple stuff. The Browns love to get the defense moving one way, then they’ll sneak out that tight end and try to catch the weakside corner or linebacker out of position. That picture up there is from the play where Avonte Maddox committed pass interference.
The second time they ran this play, they adjusted the formation slightly and added a lead blocker, but they do the same exact thing and leak that tight end out. In this case, they got a matchup against rookie LB Davion Taylor:
The Birds were in a four linebacker set on that play.
Really nice play calling by Cleveland and they should have had a TD but Mayfield just completely missed a guy wide open in the end zone. The shoulder dips were great, though. He really sold the play action. He looked like Peyton Manning on the fakes, but not the passes.
4. The worst play of all time?
I’m 36 years old and my earliest memory of watching the Eagles probably goes back to the 1996 season, when the Birds went 10-6 under Ray Rhodes and lost to San Francisco in the playoffs.
In the 24 years since, there have been some absolutely terrible sequences, but this might be the worst Philadelphia football play of my lifetime:
Carson Wentz pick-six 😬
He leads the NFL in INTs.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 22, 2020
What in God’s name was that? Holy cow!
Some people were pointing out that Jalen Reagor was wide open here, and wondering why Wentz didn’t just deliver that ball to him when he had nobody in the vicinity.
Here’s a Super Bowl winner to explain what the Eagles were looking for:
This is a longer developing play where you stalk and then run the wheel. The only shot you have is to hit him on the back shoulder. He saw the safety driving towards it. It’s not as open as you think. https://t.co/bv6kgsVsWM
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) November 22, 2020
Doug said post game he thought Carson had an opportunity to get rid of that ball.
Regardless, the Eagles aren’t exactly the type of team you’d want to try to run a slow-developing wheel route with. You’ve got a line that isn’t performing the way they should and a quarterback who is a total shit show when spending more than two seconds in the pocket. It just seems counterintuitive from a schematic standpoint.
As a result, Wentz took a backside hit and floated the ugliest duck of a pass into the air, which was picked off for a touchdown. It’s like the polar opposite of a Donovan McNabb wormburner. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen, and I experienced the 1998 and 2012 seasons.
5. Institutional arrogance redux
Jason Peters did not have a good game.
We talked last week about the idea that they had the option of simply keeping Jordan Mailata at left tackle and moving Peters back over to right guard, which is where they PLANNED ON PLAYING HIM AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON. Instead, they used Peters at LT again and went with Matt Pryor at right guard, which, again, just feels like they are catering to Peters at the expense of putting their best group of five linemen on the field.
He did a horrendous job on the safety:
They got Jason Peters on skates, bruh. 😑 pic.twitter.com/wh3GiFw3BD
— Gayle Saunders (@EagleSessions) November 22, 2020
After the game, Seth Joyner called Peters “cooked” on the post game show, which was nice to hear from a former player. He’s not wrong. The Eagles look insane with their JP Stockholm Syndrome. They were extorted by him and now have developed an unbreakable bond with their captor.
But the Eagles are the smartest franchise ever, remember? We’re all dumb and they know everything. You can roll out a 38-year-old left tackle and keep the promising 23 year old on the bench. You can use your 2nd round draft pick on a gadget QB who doesn’t play. Use the third round pick on a project linebacker. Pass on Justin Jefferson. Pass on DK Metcalf. Keep Carson Wentz on the field and laugh off questions about his benching. So on and so forth.
It’s institutional arrogance, as Russ likes to say.
6. Mistakes and breaks
It’s not a long list, but it’s a bad list:
- Miles Sanders fumble on opening drive
- More pre-snap line penalties (in a mostly empty stadium)
- Carson Wentz pick-six
- Michael Jacquet being really casual on that punt that he couldn’t keep out of the end zone
- Another punt going right over the returner’s head
- Wentz taking a safety
- Alshon Jeffery doing whatever the fuck that was on the second interception.
On the interception that ended up being overturned on replay, it was pass interference. It was obvious pass interference against Travis Fulgham:
The left arm is draped over him, but I guess you’re just not gonna get that call when you lob one up into triple coverage. That play was goofy because Cleveland blitzed and Carson got the ball out, but still managed to find the dude surrounded by a crowd even though there were 1v1s elsewhere on the field.
The Eagles also got supremely dicked on that Mayfield non-fumble that was ruled as stopped forward progress. That could have been a huge play but it went in Cleveland’s favor and they ended up scoring via the Kareem Hunt rocket man jump into the end zone. Talk about a backbreaker of a sequence.
- Cleveland cowardly rushing three and allowing a 22-yard completion on the first Eagles drive
- Mayfield missing twice on the same exact play on Cleveland’s second drive
- Dummy Andrew Sendejo taking a penalty to negate a sack
- Mayfield’s third quarter fumble
- Blocked field goal
- Wentz end zone interception being overturned
Cleveland didn’t really light the world on fire in this game. They are not explosive and they’re pretty one-dimensional without OBJ. They’ll be an easy out in the playoffs for any competent team. The Eagles, however, are not competent.
7. Ancillary wins and losses
Look at this list, if you dare:
- lost time of possession 31:44 to 28:16
- -2 turnover margin
- 2-12 on third down (16.6%)
- 2-2 on fourth down
- allowed Browns to go 4-14 on third down (28.5%)
- lost 26 yards on five sacks
- 2-4 success rate in the red zone
- 5 penalties for 33 yards
- 19 first downs, 17 for Cleveland
- ran 65 total plays, Cleveland 65
2-12 on third down? After going 0-9 last week? That’s a 9% conversion rate over the past two weeks.
8. Doug’s best call?
Running the ball eight straight times on the first drive.
That’s all I could come up with.
9. Doug’s worst call?
We knew it was coming, didn’t we? After the fumble on the opening drive, fucking Doug had to throw the ball four straight times following the QB sneak to get out of his own end zone. Carson threw a couple of good passes then the inexplicable pick six took place.
If we take a quick glance, after the fumble, Doug threw the ball seven times and ran it three times, plus one situational QB sneak. Miles Sanders only got the rock 10 more times after the game’s first drive. That’s preposterous.
Here’s another call we hated:
3rd and 7 at midfield? Perfect time for a zone read with your slow quarterback!
I’m also not sure why Doug didn’t call timeout after Mayfield was sacked on the drive right before halftime. They let a ton of time tick off the clock. It’s like Pederson wasn’t even trying to win. Jeff McLane asked about this after the game and Pederson couldn’t even remember what happened. It was really awkward and uncomfortable to watch.
10. The broadcast, and a note about “rock and roll”
Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth, and Lindsay Czarniak on the call. A Pennsylvania native, Czarniak is.
Did you hear the part where Schlereth said, “I know how much they respect Jason Peters, but…“? I wanted him to keep going there. Call the nonsense out for what it is.
Couple of weird things going on outside of the commentary. What was with that whistling sound we kept hearing in the background? Some guy in the stands had a duck whistle or the world’s biggest kazoo. It was incredibly annoying and that gentleman, or gentlewoman, should be banned and jailed. Later, there was a sequence where we were getting audio from a different game entirely. Somehow we ended up with the Detroit/Washington feed and it ran for something like 30 seconds before production took notice and fixed the problem.
Finally, I need to say a few things about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was highlighted in a bump-in coming back from commercial break.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a joke. It’s not even about rock and roll music. Tupac and Janet Jackson, a rapper and a pop singer, are in the RRHOF. Rush didn’t get in until 2013. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, and Motorhead aren’t even in it at all. Who the fuck is in charge of this?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is absolutely pathetic. A big joke. Kind of like the Philadelphia Eagles.
(thanks for reading this column. I know the Eagles suck but we appreciate your continued support)