Eagles news and notes for 10/18
It could be said that the quarterback overcame the ineffectiveness of his offensive line, an obscene stretch without possession thanks in part to a woeful defense, and the inability of his receivers to get open downfield to have a workmanlike performance that kept the Eagles battling to the gun.
Or it could be said that Wentz played like a rookie, which, of course, he is after only five games. He allowed early pressure and sacks to rattle him, he threw high of open receivers and he held onto the ball far too long on the Eagles' last drive when situationally he should have known better.
"I've got to be better, especially late in the game," Wentz said Sunday. "Any time an offense has a chance to win at the end of the game and you come up short, it's frustrating. I put that on myself."
It was the second week in a row in which Wentz had the ball in a late-game situation and had the opportunity to either put the Eagles ahead or into a tie, and it was the second week in a row that he failed to rise to the occasion.
On Oct. 9 in Detroit, Wentz threw a deep pass to Nelson Agholor on the Eagles' first play of their final drive that was intercepted, when a more conservative throw considering the circumstances would have been prudent. It wasn't an egregious decision, and put into long-term perspective maybe not the wrong one, but it was costly.
And then on Sunday, Wentz advanced the offense into Redskins territory with two minutes to play. But he took consecutive sacks that forced the Eagles to punt on fourth and 24 and he never saw the ball again.
Jim Schwartz didn’t address the media after the Eagles’ 27-20 loss against Washington, but if he did he probably wouldn’t say missed tackles was the main fault of his defense. Instead, he may have pointed to bad angles or poor pursuit as he did three days before the game when he explained his philosophy on missed tackles.
“We’re going to miss some tackles, and it’s because we’re an aggressive defense. We like to fly and not slow down at the ball. In order to do that, you need other guys filling off of you,” Schwartz said. “If you over-coach guys not to miss tackles, you don’t fly to the ball. You don’t have big hits and things like that and it sort of softens you up.
“If you take an approach of guys run with their angle and aggressively take their angle, they’re going to miss sometimes. That’s why team pursuit is so important. That’s why team speed is important. You need other guys to fill off of them.”
But to play fast effectively the Eagles must remain disciplined, which they didn’t yesterday. While Brandon Graham said defenders were too “jacked up,” Nigel Bradham noted guys were “trying to do too much.”
Regardless of the specific cause, Washington rolled over the Eagles’ defense for 493 total yards and 27 points. The Eagles have now lost to Washington for the fourth consecutive time, their first four-game losing streak in the series since 1985-1987.
Since their return, this team has all the markings of Chip Kelly's final season. The players hold when they don't need to hold, negating big gains and thwarting their own drives. They hit the quarterback late, extending the other team's drives. They line up offside for no apparent reason. They turn too many incompletions into interference calls.
There were so many examples Sunday, but let's focus on two. Just before halftime, the score miraculously tied at 14, the Eagles defense had finally made a stop on third down. Or would have if Fletcher Cox didn't pile-drive Kirk Cousins to the ground after he released the ball, making contact with his helmet.
Rather than a short field goal, Washington scored a touchdown.
Early in the fourth quarter, down, 27-17, the Eagles faced a third-and-4 from the 5-yard line. Darren Sproles churned down to the 1, but Brandon Brooks' false start negated it.
A field goal resulted. Another four-point swing.
Add 'em up, and you have an unlikely overtime. Roll them in with some of the other scalp scratchers - again, the Eagles were flagged twice just for lining up offside - and they might even have pulled off another unlikely victory.
With the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings coming to town on Sunday, the Eagles need to be on top of their games, individually and collectively.
“It’s not acceptable, the way we’re playing up front and I take responsibility for my play and my mistakes,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said.
Cox recorded not a single tackle in the loss at Washington, and was penalized late in the first half for unnecessary roughness against Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to keep a red zone drive alive that resulted in a Washington touchdown, and then Cox came right back and jumped offsides on Washington’s first play from scrimmage in the second half.
“It’s something I’m going to work on. I know our entire defense feels the same way. That’s not our defense, the way we played in this game,” he added.
The front four, so dominating for three games (all wins) and then again in the second half in the comeback effort at Detroit, was silenced by Washington’s offensive line on Sunday. The Eagles gave up 230 rushing yards to a team that had averaged 84 yards per game on the ground through five games. Cousins was hardly touched as he threw two touchdown passes. The Eagles didn’t come close to getting home with a four-man pass rush against Washington’s five-man, and at times six-man, blocking scheme.
Who would have believed three weeks ago that the worst unit on the Eagles would be the defense, that the worst coach on the staff would be Jim Schwartz and that the two most disappointing players would be Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins?
And yet, that was the buzz on the streets of Philadelphia this morning after a 27-20 loss in Washington that defied logic. There’s no other way to describe a defense that yielded 493 yards to a middling offense, 230 yards to a 25th-ranked running attack and fielded a Pro Bowl tackle who made zero tackles in 67 snaps.
There were other reasons for the Eagles falling to 3-2, of course. Carson Wentz looked like a rookie at the end, taking sacks when a miracle was still possible. So did Halapoulivaati Vaitai, failing to negate the unforgivable suspension of Lane Johnson at right tackle. And so were the 13 penalties and 114 yards called by fair-minded refs this time.
But the prevailing theme of this unbearable loss was the stunning failure of a defense that held a much better Pittsburgh offense to three points exactly three weeks ago. Where did that defense go? Did they think it was a bye month instead of a bye week?