It only took four weeks for the Eagles to lose 80% of their offensive line. Makes it kind of hard to win when you go into a game without your starting left tackle, left guard, right guard, and right tackle.
But that was actually the least of the Birds’ concerns on Sunday afternoon. The offense put up 30 points and moved the ball up and down the field. It was a combination of matador defense, untimely penalties, and questionable game management that resulted in a third-straight loss.
Nobody should be surprised, because the Eagles weren’t supposed to be good this season. Some people got sucked in, and allowed Eliot Shorr-Parks training camp tweets to convince them that this was a nine-win playoff team, but the vast majority of common sense thinkers knew this was going to be a rocky transition year with a new coach and quarterback. With that being the subtext, the ‘Posidelphia’ outlook was that this team could stay healthy and at least be competitive, which would allow us to get a true evaluation of the young talent at hand. This was always a fact-finding mission to help us answer as many questions as possible as we look ahead to 2022.
That’s why it’s hard to get down after a game like this. Yeah, they gave up 42 points at home, but the Chiefs were a -6.5 road favorite and have a former MVP under center. They’ve got Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and Big Red calling the shots. The Birds were a heavy home dog with a first year QB and head coach, so you can’t feign shock when the outcome was not at all shocking.
The Dallas game was an embarrassment, but this one at least gave us enough raw material to craft into a moral victory Monday.
1) Not the quarterback’s fault
Jalen Hurts played relatively well under difficult circumstances. He completed 32 of 48 passes for 387 yards and two touchdowns, which, on most occasions, is gonna be good enough to win you a football game.
Of the plays Hurts would want back, you could point to missing Zach Ertz in the end zone in the first half. And throwing out of bounds on that late fourth down play. You’d like a redo on the near-interception and the lost ball that Nate Herbig fell on. But over the course of a game, every quarterback is going to have plays like that. Mahomes threw a pick in this game and would have liked to take a mulligan on a couple of sequences as well.
After two less than stellar weeks, Hurts was much better in this game. We’re using this season to determine if he’s QB1, and if he builds on what we saw Sunday, the answer to that question may indeed be ‘yes.’
2) Rolling that Blount?
There was a lot of talk last week about the Birds’ lack of running, and in this game the box score shows 19 rushes. 10 went to running backs, eight went to Hurts, and Jalen Reagor got a carry as well. They ran Miles Sanders twice on the first drive, which matched his total from last week, and he finished with seven carries overall.
It’s still a significant skew in the pass/run ratio, with 71.6% passing in this game. The Eagles were, however, playing from behind during the second half and pushed that number higher than it might have been had the game been unfolding differently. Last week was a joke, but this ratio was a little more tolerable in the pass-happy NFL.
Sanders got ten touches total, but keep this in mind:
Nuance has to be drawn between Sanders not touching the football vs. read plays where he COULD get the ball, but Hurts has the better option to pull it.
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) October 3, 2021
That’s a sequence where Sanders is involved, but the read favors the quarterback, so it is what it is. We have to keep that nuance in mind.
I think the bigger problem is that they still aren’t running enough in the red zone. You saw them finally give the ball to Kenneth Gainwell in the fourth quarter, and he got in for a touchdown. They spread it out and then just ran it down the middle. The ole’ Dana Holgorsen play. But there’s no power running game, no downhill back who can get you three yards and a cloud of dust, and sometimes on the goal line that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
3) Swiss cheese defense
The Eagles’ defense has now given up 35 points in consecutive games. First time since 2019, when they lost 38-20 in Minnesota and then 37-10 in Dallas.
The Eagles allowed 40+ points once in 86 games under Jim Schwartz.
The Eagles have allowed 40+ points twice in 4 games under Jonathan Gannon.
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 3, 2021
Biggest issue for me is that the Birds are sitting back in a lot of that Cover 2, and while it’s helped them become a top-7 passing defense this year (no joke), they are getting absolutely killed in the running game. 150 rushing yards per game is third-worst in the NFL, and so they’re really unbalanced right now. They gave up rushing 200 yards in this game to a Chiefs team that doesn’t even run the ball very well. I’m just not sure they have the linebackers to be a Cover 2 team, but then they don’t necessarily have the defensive backs to go single-high safety and play man on the outside. The personnel leaves them screwed if they do, screwed if they don’t, and the only answer would seem to be a more frequent mixing and matching of looks.
4) Shovel pass trolling
Patrick Mahomes scored Sunday with an overhand toss, an underhand toss, and a sideways toss. Seriously. Has that ever been done before? There’s no way.
My dad and uncles used to joke about the Andy Reid shovel pass when he coached the Eagles. It seemed like he called that fucking play once per game in the red zone, and it only came off maybe 10% of the time. At least that’s how it felt.
Andy trolled us Sunday when he called not one, but TWO red zone shovel passes and they both went for touchdowns:
Mahomes underhand tossed it for the TD 😎
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 3, 2021
Something just felt dirty about that. If you give up an underhand touchdown pass, you gotta wear a bag over your head, like the fans will soon be doing.
5) Zebra watch
New section here. I needed a place to put discussion about the officiating, and so it’s going to go here, at #5.
We had three big plays where penalties took Eagles touchdowns off the board. Three! That’s insane.
The first one was on Andre Dillard for illegally being downfield:
Dillard penalty. Threw a block on Nick Bolton just past the one-yard threshold: pic.twitter.com/gWoRPrzKwx
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) October 3, 2021
This looks incredibly stupid, but it’s the right call. Dillard loses his balance and kind of stumbles forward. In the process, he puts a block on linebacker Nick Bolton, and that results in a flag because Dillard is more than one yard past the line of scrimmage and over the accepted threshold.
The other big play was on JJ Arcega-Whiteside, with the illegal pick. The offensive pass interference call.
Here’s the replay again:
Penalty on JJ Arcega Whiteside? pic.twitter.com/5MQIbuTd91
— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) October 3, 2021
This one is harder to swallow, and there was A LOT of arguing about it on Twitter.
The refs blew the whistle because they ruled that JJAW was trying to pull off an illegal screen here. It’s iffy, because the cornerback is grabbing him and making contact, but JJAW also has his arm extended and is pretty obviously trying to run his guy into the other guy, to create that rub contact. That’s why the flag came out. If JJAW tries to detach there and make a good-faith effort at running a route, then he probably does not get flagged. He also doesn’t interrupt the second defender, which would defeat the purpose.
And the third penalty was illegal touching on DeVonta Smith, who went out of bounds before catching his TD. That’s the second illegal touching penalty to wipe out a Birds TD this season. Young receivers vs. the sidelines might be the biggest rivalry in Philadelphia this year, second only to Howard Eskin vs. technology.
6) Mistakes and breaks
Every week, this is the longest list we compile:
- First drive, deciding to go for it on 4th and goal and then having to burn a timeout, only to kick a field goal.
- Josh Sweat encroachment on a 3rd and short.
- Andre Dillard holding in the red zone.
- Sack wiped out by illegal touching penalty.
- Dillard ineligible man downfield on what should have been a Goedert touchdown.
- Greg Ward dropping what should have been a touchdown.
- Derek Barnett with his one backbreaking penalty per game
- Hurts coughing up that ball when they were moving down the field before halftime (defender had a free run at him, so can’t put 100% blame on the QB)
- Delay of game on first and goal.
- Sweat with another 3rd down penalty.
Watching the Barnett penalty again, you might give him a break. He kind of falls over here during the pass rush and barrels into Mahomes’ legs, but there isn’t anywhere else for him to go. This is one of those whistles where you think a player’s reputation might come back to bite him in the ass:
“It’s always him”? pic.twitter.com/P9A3dEkQuR
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) October 3, 2021
- Andy not challenging the Kenneth Gainwell fumble. The ball actually came out before his knee hit the ground.
- Chiefs illegal formation wiping out a converted 3rd down.
- KC delay of game on a 3rd and 7.
- Quez Watkins falling on the ball after muffing that kick.
- Nate Herbig somehow coming up with that ball that Hurts fumbled.
As usual, the mistakes end up outweighing the breaks by a significant margin.
7) Ancillary wins and losses
- lost time of possession 30:52 to 29:08
- +1 turnover margin
- 6-12 on third down (50%)
- 1-2 on fourth down
- allowed Chiefs to go 9-10 on third down (90%)
- lost 29 yards on 3 sacks
- 3-6 success rate in the red zone
- 9 penalties for 49 yards
- 30 first downs, 31 for KC
- ran 70 total plays, KC 63
They did a much better job driving down the field and moving the sticks and handling time of possession. Part of that can also be attributed to the Chiefs carving up the Birds’ defense and putting the O right back out there. But other than that brutal third down number, and the red zone failures, most of what you see above is reasonable. The Eagles only had three more penalty yards than the Chiefs, but it’s the ridiculous timing of those infractions that’s killing them more than anything. The penalties are wiping out touchdowns, or giving other teams first downs, or moving them into 3rd and short. It’s all about situational football, and the Birds are getting their clocks cleaned in that department.
8) Nick’s best call?
Great first series. Play action, couple of hand offs, targets for the tight ends and DeVonta Smith. Good variety and balance there. And on the second series we saw more play action, a play with orbit motion, and some lateral misdirection, too. More of an up-tempo, college-looking offense, and it was effective.
This what I mean when I talk about “orbit motion.” It’s when you motion a guy behind the QB and/or tailback:
— DIE-HARD 🦅 Fans (@Eaglesfans9) October 3, 2021
We also saw a 3rd and 1 QB sneak, a couple of those in this game. Good to see no-brainer calls on 3rd and short.
I also think he got it right when he decided to accept the penalty and take three points off the board to go for it on fourth and goal instead. They ate the penalty and had the TD wiped out, but right choice there.
9) Nick’s worst call?
They wasted that timeout on the first drive, only to kick the field goal anyway. In that case, you’d rather have the timeout and you just back up Jake Elliott five more yards for a kick that is still gonna be a gimme.
And then right before halftime, not good clock management. They should have gotten at least three points out of that, but they didn’t.
Here’s the explanation:
Q. Can you walk us through the decision right before the second half with the short pass to RB Kenneth Gainwell? You didn’t call a timeout there. (Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: We do a ton of studying of all those situations throughout each week. We felt like we could get a play off that was going to go out of bounds before that. So, we wanted to save that timeout.
All those times right there, when you can save a timeout right there, I’ll double down on that call. It didn’t work that time. He got a sack. It was a long thing. But I’ll stick with that call all day because I’ve put myself in that position a thousand times when I’ve watched it.
So, because of where we snapped that thing, if it got a little bit lower, then I would have clocked it or called a timeout. To have that timeout right there when an NFL defense — what an NFL defense will do, is if you don’t have a timeout, play a sideline defense, where now it’s making it almost impossible to get to the sideline.
I stick with that call, I stand by that call. It didn’t work. I have to sit with that.
Is that a satisfactory response?
10) Excellence in broadcasting
Ian Eagle and Charles Davis on the call.
I’ve written in the past that my problem with Davis is that he talks too much. He’s very enthusiastic and engaged, which is a positive thing, especially when some of these guys just come out and half ass it and go through the motions. But with Davis, I sometimes I feel like the game can’t breathe, and there are occasions where he’s still talking when the next snap is taking place. If somebody went back through the broadcast and logged all of the speaking time, I wouldn’t be surprised if they discovered a 75/25 split between him and his PBP guy.
Otherwise, a fine broadcast. No glaring issues. There was a span of 30 seconds where Kenneth Gainwell’s name was pronounced incorrectly, twice, but the guy is a rookie and that happens. They were also supposed to bring in Gene Steratore to explain the JJAW penalty, but for whatever reason they never went to him. Not sure what happened there.
The Eagles are 1-3. The sky is not falling. We should have all expected this.