The Eagles are dead, done and buried, and it looked for much of Sunday like the players themselves believed so.
They marched into the state of Ohio and lost to the Bengals, 32-14, falling to 5-7 and putting any ill-conceived ideas of a possible playoff berth out of fans’ minds. The Eagles are 2-7 in their last nine games.
The seventh loss of the season was the ugliest.
For a quick refresher, the Bengals entered Sunday’s game with a 3-7-1 record, sitting at third in the AFC North, a division in which the best team has six wins. They were playing without both star wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovanni Bernard, which meant if the Eagles were going to snap their recent woeful skid, this weekend seemed like the time to do it.
Instead, early in the third quarter, the Eagles found themselves trailing, 26-0.
Very little went well for the Birds. Even Carson Wentz, a glimmer of hope in what has turned into a pretty murky season, looked shaky on Sunday, missing plenty of targets high and throwing a handful of near-interceptions. Wentz ended up throwing a trio of interceptions, one of which was his fault and two of which very much were.
The lack of an effective passing game meant the run game, which Doug Pederson made clear during the week he wanted to establish, was unsustainable as Cincinnati committed early resources to stopping the Eagles’ ground attack.
On defense, things weren’t much better.
Andy Dalton had whatever he wanted through the air, despite the absence of Green. He tossed more than 300 yards’ worth of passes, including a pair of touchdowns, and generally torched the Eagles’ secondary. While the Birds’ defensive line kept Jeremy Hill in check on the ground, it simply didn’t matter — the same defensive line couldn’t generate any semblance of pressure against Dalton.
Now, it’s time for the Eagles to face reality: they have four games left this season, and they don’t look great. Doug Pederson has to get a hold of his team and restore some semblance of pride as they wind this one down.
The playoffs, of course, are out of the question. Pederson instead is going to be coaching for his team’s respect, and for its future. This a team in building mode. An ugly end to the season would look bad, from an optics standpoint.
Here’s hoping he figures out some sort of fix.