Eagles news and notes for 11/29
Enough with the illusion that the Eagles were happy to try to sell: that they could have it both ways, that they could compete for the postseason and rebuild at the very same time, that they could rotate callow players into the lineup and love up the ones who couldn't quite cut it and it would all be A-OK.
Enough with all of that. After their 27-13 loss Monday night to the Packers, the Eagles are 5-6, alone in last place in the NFC East. They are winless against their three intradivisional opponents and have a better record than just five of the other 15 teams in the conference. With each successive week, with each injury or coach's decision that makes another starter unavailable, they're revealing how thin their roster was and how far they have yet to go to replenish their talent supply.
They have a rookie head coach in Doug Pederson and a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, and the primary purpose of this season always should have been their development in their respective roles. That mission became easy to abandon in the heady rush of that early success, those three dominant victories over the Browns, the Bears, and the Steelers, but it should be their focus from here until that New Year's Day game against the Dallas Cowboys. They need to learn more about what they have in Pederson and Wentz. They need to learn more about which players ought to have a chance to grow with the two of them, because make no mistake: Neither Pederson nor Wentz is near being a finished product yet, and the longer the season has gone on, the more flaws they've shown.
*As a whole, the Eagles’ offense put up a poor performance against a bad defense. The Packers allow 28 points per game this season, but the Birds scored just 13. The defense certainly didn’t help, but the Eagles’ lack of commitment to running the ball contributed to them holding the ball for more than 10 minutes less than the Packers did. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry, but they totaled just 81 yards on the ground. Running backs carried the ball just 13 times for Philadelphia.
*Carson Wentz looked good in the first half, completing 13 of his 17 passes for 147 yards, 8.6 yards per attempt and a 101.8 passer rating. He threw a beautiful ball to Jordan Matthews for a 20-yard gain to get out of the shadow of the Eagles’ end zone late in the first half, which also contributed to the field goal they converted with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter. He had good, consistent ball placement in the first half, and he finally got some help from his receivers as they didn’t drop a pass. Wentz was also a threat on the ground, as he ran one yard for his first NFL rushing touchdown. He had a 17-yard gain as well, compiling 26 yards on three rushes.
The bigger problem, as it was in Seattle, was the Eagles' supposedly dominant front seven, which didn't dominate a patchwork Packers offensive line. Rodgers easily escaped pressure early, as Russell Wilson had done in Seattle. As the game wore on, Rodgers didn't really have to escape, he just stood patiently in the pocket until a receiver came free. One almost always did. If Leodis McKelvin was on the field, Rodgers targeted him. Otherwise, it was Jaylen Watkins, who is starting to look a lot like the guy Chip Kelly cut last year. Rodgers was not sacked, which was the key stat of the game.
Fletcher Cox took his third crucial, drive-extending roughing-the-passer penalty of the season. Each time the opposition has gone on to score a touchdown.
The evening began on a jarring note, when the Eagles announced that starting right guard Brandon Brooks had been hospitalized with an illness Monday, giving rookie Isaac Seumalo his first NFL start. Allen Barbre was already moving from left guard to right tackle, with Halapoulivaasti Vaitai injured, and Stefen Wisniewski was replacing Barbre. You could tell the group hadn't played or practiced together.
For a while, it seemed the Eagles had a puncher's chance. Rodgers and Wentz dueled up and down the South Philadelphia turf in the first half, Rodgers and the Packers going to the locker room with a 14-10 lead. Both defenses went to the locker room desperately seeking answers. Green Bay found some, the Eagles did not.
The Packers converted 10 of their first 12 third downs, a stat that doesn't include two more converted via penalty.
7. Not much to say about the defense. They just didn’t show up. No sacks. No takeaways. Terrible on third down (10-for-14, 71 percent, highest vs. the Eagles since the Raiders converted 82 percent in Oakland in 1995 in Randall Cunningham’s final start as an Eagle). Allowed nearly 400 yards. Gave up a 50-yard play. Just a meek effort by a group that was allowing less than 10 points per game at the Linc before tonight. First time since the Steelers in 2012 and second time since 2008 the Eagles have failed to record a sack or takeaway in a game. First time since the Bills in 2007 it’s happened at the Linc.
8. We’re seeing a real trend this year of the Eagles just not being ready at the start of games. In Detroit, they were down 14-0 before the end of the first quarter. The Redskins were up 14-0 in the middle of the second quarter. The Giants were up 14-0 after just 5 ½ minutes. The Seahawks got a 72-yard TD run on their fifth play from scrimmage. And Monday night, the Packers drove 75 yards on each of their first two drives to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. It’s happening too much to be a coincidence. The Eagles generally calm down after their slow starts and play better, but when a team repeatedly is digging itself into a big hole in the first quarter, it’s an issue. And it’s something Doug Pederson has to stop very quickly.