Not an Instant Classic – Ten Takeaways from Eagles 23, Cowboys 9

Thanks to our merciful God in heaven, that game is over. It was one of the worst football games ever to be played, a game that makes one yearn for the 2019 Eagles, or Andy Reid’s 2012 squad. We might lust for the halcyon days of Kevin Kolb following that Carson Wentz performance.

The Eagles covered, but be honest while answering these deep and introspective questions –

Did you enjoy that game?

Was it satisfying?

Did it do anything for you? 

It didn’t do anything for me. Four turnovers, losing to the Cowboys at halftime, horrible QB play, etc. They scored 15 points at home against the league’s worst defense and benefited from a fumble recovery touchdown and two free points after Dallas decided to snap the ball through their own end zone. It was just a wretched excuse for a football game and I found myself praying for its end about midway through the third quarter.

This was supposed to be a comfortable win, a game where the Eagles go out and blast some scrubs and then we all feel better heading into the bye week. You get healthier with the time off, dispatch the Giants in New York, and then look at the standings and you’re 4-4-1 with the NFC East lead.

But it doesn’t feel reassuring. It feels hollow, like this team failed to take a step forward.

We knew they weren’t gonna lose to Ben DiNucci. No way. This dude de-committed from Penn to go to Pitt, then transferred to James Madison and found his way to the NFL as a 7th-round draft pick. They weren’t going to lose to a Yinzer side-arm thrower who was third on the depth chart. I mean, you had Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore out there running wildcat and doing gadgety stuff to take the ball out of DiNucci’s hands, because they didn’t trust him.

Unfortunately we’re starting off with Negadelphia today. You should never feel dissatisfied after beating the Cowboys, but that’s the sad reality on a Monday morning.

1. Carson Wentz

Absolutely horrible.

This was 2008 Donovan McNabb against the Ravens, only the Birds weren’t losing 10-0 in the second quarter, so they weren’t going to pull their starter in a winnable game prior to the bye week. Carson’s play justified his benching, but the circumstances otherwise did not, which Doug Pederson pretty much said when he dropped this postgame quote in response to a question about Wentz’s end zone interception:

“The conversation was, again, explaining that just, hey, we can’t do that. We’re in a position to put points on the board and continue a drive if we just throw the ball away and that’s something that we’ve got to learn from.

And no, there was never any of that conversation to pull him.”

This was a game in which Wentz should have lit it up, yet he went 15 for 27 for two touchdowns with two interceptions and two lost fumbles. He leads the NFL with 12 interceptions and has fumbled the ball 55 times in 64 career games.

If anybody cares, here’s what he said about the interceptions:

“Definitely the second one, we weren’t on the same page with the angle of the throw there. Both of them, Trevon Diggs made great plays and hats off to him. The first one I have to go back and watch. I thought  Reagor had a step on him, so I was out of the pocket and I pulled the trigger quick. I was trying to give him a chance but Diggs beat him to the spot. So I’ll have to back and critique that one and look harder at it. But the second one, the coverage definitely dictated that was where to go with the ball and John (Hightower) and I just weren’t on the same page.”

I’d give Carson some time off during the bye, let him go back to North Dakota and do some hunting, maybe hike in the woods or chop wood or something along those lines. Let the wife and family handle the baby and he goes and clears his mind, then comes back refreshed and rejuvenated. Obviously he’s over-thinking things right now a mental break could be good.

2. Travis Fulgham, Mr. Reliable

Posidelphia –

Travis Fulgham is the real deal. It’s kind of a shame that the Eagles stink as much as they do, because it’s glossed over what would normally be a fantastic success story.

Yet the irony is that they probably would not have stumbled upon this diamond in the rough it wasn’t for the prolonged and ridiculous injuries to Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. In a weird way, the outrageous and frustrating piling of bodies on IR resulted in them unearthing a bona fide starting receiver.

Fulgham caught six of seven targets for 78 yards and a score last night, and is now up to 435 yards and four TDs on the season, having played only five games. For context, he’s one yard behind Robert Woods and three yards ahead of Michael Gallup, who are two guys that have played all eight games this season. Fulgham has the 27th-most receiving yards this year and is one of just two guys in the top 30 who has only played five games.

The other is Davante Adams.

3. Rub me the right way

Nice play design on the opening touchdown.

You’re gonna see Jalen Reagor moving pre-snap here into a jet sweep motion, then Greg Ward is going execute a quality rub route to free up his teammate on the goal line:

These can be tricky to pull off.

You can’t just run into a defender, or else it’s a penalty, so you have to sell the play and show your hands to make it look like you’re running a legitimate route. In this case, Ward turns and faces, asks for the ball, and makes the non-route work the way its intended, with lateral misdirection and traffic on the goal line:

Good design, good execution, nice job by Reagor to get that ball across the pylon.

4. Stupid stats

Dallas entered this game as the NFL’s worst defense, by a long shot. They had conceded 25 or more points in five straight games and were allowing more than 150 yards per game on the ground.

Then this happened:

That’s how bad it was.

And again, this was a ball game in the 4th quarter, with Dallas facing a 3rd and 6 on the Eagles’ 21 yard line, down just six points. The only reason the Birds covered was because of the safety and the fumble return touchdown.

5. A total violation

At the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, or an angry WIP caller, I want to point out what I felt was a ridiculous sequence from the game’s first drive. Watch here as Avonte Maddox goes up to DiNucci for a fist bump and greeting after a play in which Dallas ran wildcat with the quarterback split out wide:

I get it; you were teammates. You went to Pitt together and you’re just saying hello, as one would expect.

But can you please leave that shit for after the game? At this point in time you’re trying to destroy the other guy and his team, and solidify your division lead, so you don’t need to be saying hello in the middle of a drive. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much, but it does. Go say hi before the game or exchange jerseys afterward, but during the game, your job is to grind the other dude into the dirt.

Jesus, I sound like Angelo Cataldi.

6. Mistakes and breaks

It’s a long list:

Mistakes:

  1. Wentz absolutely ridiculous first fumble.
  2. Corey Clement dropped screen pass.
  3. Delay of game on the first Jalen Hurts snap.
  4. Two penalties on one punt return.
  5. Second Wentz fumble.
  6. Wentz first interception.
  7. Wentz second interception.
  8. Ward 3rd and 6 drop.
  9. I was falling asleep, but I think I saw Rodney McLeod drop a pick late in the fourth quarter.
  10. Not properly fielding that ridiculous kick after the Dallas safety.

 

Feels like the Eagles dropped three or four picks in this game, right? Jacquet (who?) had one. McLeod had another.

And on the first Wentz fumble, Cris Collinsworth pointed this out, but he rolled out to the side where there were zero receivers. That play was max protect, with only two routes, but the play-action was botched (somebody was on the wrong side), and then he tried scrambling left when the two receivers were on the total opposite side of the field.

Breaks:

  1. Fumble recovery after turning ball over early.
  2. Randy Gregory third down roughing the passer penalty (horrible call, honestly).
  3. Cowboys dropped passes.
  4. Greg Zuerlein missing a field goal.
  5. Dallas holding on good DiNucci run.
  6. DiNucci fumble on the big blitz.
  7. Refs allowing the McLeod touchdown to stand after it looked like Vinny Curry might have secured it.

 

Weird play, the fumble recovery. I thought for sure they might just give the Eagles possession, but they didn’t have conclusive evidence I guess, so we’ll take the touchdown.

Thank you, refs.

7. Ancillary wins and losses

Mostly slop:

  • lost time of possession 32:50 to 27:10
  • -2 turnover margin
  • 3-8 on third down (37.5%)
  • 0-3 on fourth down
  • held Cowboys to 4-16 on third down (25%)
  • lost 29 yards on four sacks
  • 2-2 success rate in the red zone
  • 4 penalties for 28 yards
  • 18 first downs, 21 for Dallas
  • ran 58 total plays, Dallas 79

 

Penalties were fine, sacks were fine, but obviously the turnovers just killed time of possession and resulted in no true offensive rhythm. Dallas helped though, especially by giving the Birds four first downs off of their penalties.

8. Doug’s best call?

The early Reagor plays were good. There was some orbit motion and other stuff when he was involved. That’s about it, though.

I’ll put this tweet here because I’m not sure where else in the story it should go. I laughed out loud when I saw it because of the juvenile sexual phrasing that certainly was not intended:

What?! They’re trying to out-suck each other?

9. Doug’s worst call?

Third drive, 4th and 3, why go for it there? You’re up 7-3, DiNucci stinks, just punt the ball and flip the field. Instead Dallas gets the fumble, good field position, and takes back some momentum. I just don’t get it. There’s no need to be ultra-aggressive there.

And on the play itself, they only broke the huddle with something like seven seconds on the clock, so they were rushed to begin with. Here’s former pro lineman Geoff Schwartz explaining it from there:

Another candidate for worst play call was the reverse and Ward pass that was sniffed out on 3rd and 6. And then after that play Doug DID decide to punt but K’Von Wallace outran the ball and they couldn’t down it despite getting a perfect bounce inside the five yard line. That was a tough sequence to watch.

Also, in general, Doug, just runnnnnn the fuckkkkkking ball. The 4th down attempt right before halftime was… what? Why throw that? Boston Scott had over 60 rushing yards at that point and the Eagles decided to throw an out route on fourth and one for whatever reason.

Finally –

Don’t even get me started on the Hurts two-point conversion. If you’re not giving him a throwing option he’s gonna get killed, because teams know exactly what’s coming with the gimmicky and gadgety goal line bullshit. Enough already.

10. An award-winning broadcast (sarcasm)

Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya. God bless them for calling that game, because it was garbage.

Minor detail, but it was bothersome to hear Michaels say a few times that 7,500 fans were in the building, because that’s not true. There were 7,500 people allowed in the building, which includes players, coaches, refs, media, etc. The number is the threshold set by Governor Wolf, not the amount of fans.

Production notes:

  1. Quality use of “Nightmare on My Street” by the audio guy/gal. Nice job there.
  2. What was up with Sam Bradford and Trent Cole showing up in that SNF teaser clip? I thought I was on drugs watching that.

 

One other thing I found odd was that it seemed like Collinsworth was in pseudo-love with DiNucci. How many times did he mention the side arm passes? I think I even heard a Patrick Mahomes comparison in there.

Finally, and we’ll end it on this, I loved this shot of Jerry Jones sitting in the box. Reader Drew pointed out that they held this shot for 15-20 seconds while Jerruh wasn’t even doing anything. He was just sitting there watching the game with a blank look on his face, kind of like the rest of us:

Good morning.

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