That was a tough loss. I can't remember many losses that really frustrated me that much. The tape confirmed what I thought too, the Eagles absolutely dominated the Lions in the second half. They should have won the game, no question they were the better team. They were outplayed early on and they just couldn't do enough to overcome it.
Each week the layout of this will be slightly different. Today I'm going to focus mainly on the passing game as Wentz's performance has gone under the radar because of the interception and the fact the Eagles lost. There were some bad narratives going around about this game too that are totally false and hopefully I can show you that. Those of you that asked for some more negative plays to be shown, you are in luck today!
Let's get to the film.
Carson Wentz was awesome. When watching live, I thought he played an okay game. But he was far better than I thought, he made some really high level throws and kept the offense moving when there was no rhythm or momentum whatsoever. Just check out some of these throws, this next one is particularly interesting.
When watching live, I think everyone (myself included) thought this was an awful throw and that it should have been picked. Actually, his ball placement was perfect. The ball did go through the hands of the cornerback on its way to Agholor, but look at when Wentz releases the ball. He throws it right on time and right on the money. The problem is, Agholor doesn't create any separation at all. The cornerback basically runs this route just as well as Agholor does. Wentz trusts his receivers to win and this was actually a really nice throw, Agholor just didn't make the play.
This is one of my favorite throws from Wentz so far. He reads Cover 2 zone straight away and knows he has Matthews coming open on the deep dig on this dagger concept. Rather than telegraph his throw though, he looks to the left to keep the defense off Matthews. The timing is absolutely perfect, the second Matthews makes his cut, Wentz turns to him, resets his feet and releases the ball. This throw deserves another look from a different angle.
Look at how quickly he throws it when he sets his feet and turns to the right. He knows it's open because he knows the route and the coverage, so he can just deliver it. The ball placement is just superb too, he puts it in a place where only Matthews can get it. This is a high level play.
This third down throw wasn't half bad either. He shows excellent footwork as always. This isn't man coverage so his first read is the middle of the field not Matthews on the outside. He sees that Matthews has a step, though, and delivers a bullet with perfect placement to the outside. Not bad at all.
So Wentz was excellent, no doubt in my mind. A lot of people after the game were wondering, where the hell was Zach Ertz? Is he just not ever going to break out? The Lions give up yards and touchdowns to tight ends every game, so where was he? Well first off, this happened.
Ertz is clearly pulled down here at the top of the route. What a route this is too, Ertz is such a fluid mover for a big guy. Now, imagine Ertz had scored on this play (the ball from Wentz looks perfectly placed to me). The narrative would be a little different if he had 4 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown wouldn't it?
Ertz was also getting open, as this clip above shows. For some reason though, he often wasn't the first read on the play which seems odd to me. My only guess is, Ertz can't have practiced with Wentz as much as the other guys considering he's been hurt, so maybe Wentz isn't as comfortable throwing to him as he is someone like Sproles. I really don't know, but anyway, Ertz played well and he was getting open. The stats just don't reflect that.
On the offensive line, except for Jason Peters they were all pretty good in pass protection. Lane Johnson was absolutely fantastic again. The Eagles are going to miss him a lot. Jason Kelce got pushed back a few times but he held his own for the most part, he's been better the last couple of weeks.
As I said before, Peters had a rough game and this play doesn't exactly inspire confidence. His footwork isn't great and he just looks sluggish and old to be honest.
Although it's depressing, we have to look at the last play. So here we go...
This play still makes me sad. There's been a lot of debate about this play, so this is my take. The ball should go to Jordan Matthews as Doug Pederson says. However, Wentz can't throw that ball because he perceives pressure from his left that isn't there and starts to leave the pocket. This could have been due to nerves or just fear of being sacked as the Eagles had no timeouts and there wasn't long left. However, he resets perfectly and his footwork is excellent and he steps back up in the pocket after realizing his initial mistake.
The problem is by that point, nobody is open and he can't take a sack. I think Wentz is worried about taking the sack and the clock running so he tries to make a hell of a throw. Some have said he throws this to the wrong shoulder, I disagree. He has to avoid the safety. You can't throw this into double coverage and he doesn't. The problem is Agholor doesn't track it well enough and isn't physical enough to make a play on the ball. He needs to be leaning into Slay way more than he is and getting physical with him.
Wentz put his trust in Agholor and he let him down. This pass should never ever get picked. As a wide receiver, you simply cannot let that happen. It's poor play by Agholor and while it wasn't a great play from Wentz, it didn't deserve to get picked. It's hard to be too critical of Agholor because he just isn't good enough to make plays like this. He shouldn't let it get picked though and it's a great example of why he isn't a No. 1 receiver.
On that note, the wide receivers are a problem. They still struggle against press man coverage and no one is separating consistently. They are all limited players and none of them can stretch the field which is limiting the offense big time. Dorial Green Beckham did show some really nice yards after the catch this game, but he has to make that catch in the end zone.
There's very little I want to touch on here. Ryan Mathews didn't play particularly well and Sproles showed a lot more juice than Mathews. This makes it surprising to me that Smallwood and Barner weren't out there more. The Eagles interior run blocking was really good and Brandon Brooks had a hell of a game.
I love the way he moves in space for such a big guy, he's so fluid. At one point he's basically shoving the defender back with one hand which just shows unreal strength. Only other thing to mention with the running game, Zach Ertz has started to turn into a good run blocker. Also, it was good to see Wentz running the read option well.
Narrative: Schwartz got totally out coached the entire first half and only adjusted at half time. Wrong. Schwartz adjusted after the first two drives. He was out coached the first two drives however. The Eagles played man coverage pretty much exclusively the first two drives and it just didn't work. The cornerbacks were not good, Nolan Carroll in particular couldn't cover Marvin Jones and the Lions just marched down the field.
The defensive line did get pressure too, they weren't as bad as I thought. The problem was the receivers were just winning their one on one matchups very quickly. Sometimes as well, it's important to remember the offense can just make a hell of a play like this one.
I mean, that was on 3rd and 11 on the first drive. What a throw. Schwartz can't much about that. The Eagles should have signed Anquan Boldin too.
Anyway, the Lions realised early on the Eagles were playing man and they called a lot of short routes and pick plays to get easy yards on this defense. Then they won with misdirection, something the Eagles need to be careful about because they are such an aggressive defense.
This just isn't a great play by the Eagles defense. I have no idea why both Ron Brooks and Nigel Bradham go charging at the fake to Golden Tate. Considering they only have one receiver on the right hand side, I'd be a lot more worried about Theo Riddick, especially as he's a better player. Jordan Hicks tries to get across but he can't avoid the block. Rodney McLeod also took a step towards Tate which meant he couldn't get back across the field in time.
So anyway, Schwartz then adjusted after the second drive (not at half time). He began to play a lot more zone and his defense should have got off the field here.
This is 3rd and long, both Mychal Kendricks and Stephen Tulloch miss tackles and Riddick ends up almost getting the 1st down. The Lions convert 4th down the next play. Schwartz can't do anything here in terms of play calling, he has adjusted and his call has worked. The players failed to execute though. However, he does deserve blame for having Kendricks and Tulloch on the field for most of the 3rd drive. That's the main reason they scored the 3rd touchdown, not the play calling.
That's another narrative that's totally false too. Nigel Bradham played nearly the entire first two drives and the Eagles still gave up two touchdowns. He wasn't benched for the entire first half or anything, he just was't out there on the 3rd drive.
For the rest of the game, the Eagles defense was great. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox were good again. I thought Jalen Mills was good when he came in and Hicks and Bradham made a number of plays.
The Eagles run defense could not set the edge, my goodness. I have no idea why it was so bad but the Lions had so much success running outside the tackles. They couldn't run up the gut at all, Cox and Logan were really good inside against the run.
This is just one example of the team completely failing to set the edge. We don't know the exact defensive call, but Schwartz often has his cornerbacks set the edge and here it looks like this is a terrible play by Leodis McKelvin who tries to make a play inside because e's fooled by the counter and just totally leaves the edge free. Maybe this is Vinny Curry's fault, it's impossible to tell without knowing who is supposed to set the edge but my guess is it's McKelvin. Jalen Mills was much better at doing this in the second half.
There's somebody who knows how to set the edge, Brandon Graham! He's been excellent at setting the edge for years now. It was weird to see the Eagles defense just so undisciplined in their gaps and containment in the first few drives though. They got it together in the second half but the first half wasn't good.
This play on 4th down annoyed me too. The Eagles should have stopped Riddick here. Hicks misses him at first but then Kendricks has a chance to push him back and he just fails to do so. I still think Kendricks is a good player but he's not just playing well at the moment and I think he needs to go to another team and start again.
Let's end with a surprise player.
Marcus Smith! I doubt we'll end much with him, but he actually showed some juice this game. He made a great play here and he also showed some real juice getting up the field on a pass rush. I found this pretty cool, on this play the Eagles defensive line had all backups on. It was Vinny Curry, Destiny Vaeao, Beau Allen and Marcus Smith. Firstly, Marcus Smith got the tackle for the loss. The next play Vinny Curry got pressure. How many teams can play an entire backup defensive line and still look pretty good?
As always, feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or on Twitter. I appreciate any feedback you guys have too, good or bad.