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8 things we learned from the Eagles’ loss to the Vikings

Big takeaways from the game.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles were defeated by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, 23-21. Here’s a look at some things we learned from their second loss in a row.

1 - The Eagles can’t stop shooting themselves in the foot

One of the most frustrating things about these kind of losses is that there’s no one simple fix. The Eagles just aren’t executing properly, especially in big moments.

Some notable examples: Wendell Smallwood drops a wide open third down conversion that would’ve set up 1st-and-goal. Jay Ajayi fumbles in the red zone. The Eagles fail to score after recovering a fumble at Vikings’ 30-yard line. Carson Wentz is strip-sacked on a drive that finally starts to look promising and it lands into the arms of a defender.

As much as people don’t like to admit it, there’s a lot of luck involved in football. By that, mean not everything is always in your favorite’s teams control.

That’s not to let the Eagles off the hook. But I don’t think it’s like this team needs drastic, sweeping changes. They just need to execute better. That’s boring and simple to say but they really just need to get out of their own way. These self-inflicted wounds are killer. It’s frustrating to see the Eagles continue to beat themselves, especially when you can’t help but feel like this group is capable of being better.

2 - Doug Pederson continues to make some questionable decisions

Nitpicking play-calling is an easy thing to do. No head coach is always going to call the perfect game.

With that qualifier in place, Doug Pederson made an egregiously questionable decision on 3rd-and-inches early in the game. For some reason the Eagles ran a misdirection toss play to Josh Adams. The undrafted rookie free agent was predictably stopped for a loss. Why ask your least shifty back to try to make defenders miss in that situation? Why not go for a quarterback sneak when that play has been so money for the Eagles in the past? Maybe the Eagles are trying to protect Wentz in those situations.

Another big one that will be discussed coming out of this game is Pederson’s decision to take a five-yard penalty and punt with 9:17 remaining in the fourth quarter instead of trying for a 57-yard field goal. I don’t think it’s fair to assume Jake Elliott would’ve 100% made that kick. But maybe it was worth a try. There didn’t appear to be any find based on the idle flags at the top of the uprights.

I did like Pederson’s decision to go for the two-point conversion following Philadelphia’s first touchdown score. Even if the Eagles don’t get it, it’s still a one-possession game. It would’ve looked real smart if the Eagles could’ve scored a touchdown after that Bradham recovery. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

3 - It’s fair to wonder how much the Eagles miss Frank Reich and John DeFilippo

Prior to last year’s meaningless Week 17 game against Dallas, the Eagles were averaging 30.5 points per game. The Eagles scored at least 30 points in nine of their 16 regular season games.

This year has been a much different story. The Eagles have only scored 20.6 points per game. That ranks 27th in the league. Philadelphia is JUST above being a bottom-five offense. That’s bad.

I don’t think you can point to the absence of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo as the sole reason why the Eagles are struggling. Philadelphia has obviously had to deal with a number of offensive injuries. And the reality is the Eagles were always due to regress a little after being so good last year.

But I think it’s fair to say the losses of Reich and Flip do factor into the equation. I also think it’s fair to question if the Eagles did an adequate job of trying to replace them. Were Mike Groh and Press Taylor truly the best candidates out there?

Losing both Reich and Flip in the same year was tough.

4 - The offensive line is still a big issue

The numbers aren’t pretty.

The move to bench Stefen Wisniewski for Isaac Seumalo looked questionable from the jump as the latter immediately allowed a lot of pressure on Wentz. Seumalo seemed to settle in a bit after that but I don’t know that he’s really better than Wis.

Lane Johnson really appears to be on his 2009 Cole Hamels bullshit. For those unfamiliar with baseball, Hamels was the Phillies’ World Series MVP in 2008. Then he came back and really struggled in 2009. He admitted he got complacent and didn’t work as hard after winning a championship. You can’t handle but wonder if that same issue is impacting Johnson. Johnson was just SO good in 2017. He only allowed one sack the entire season. Contrast that to how Johnson has allowed two strip sacks in the past two weeks. Those turnovers have led to 10 points for the opposition.

To his credit, Johnson held himself accountable after the game. He’s not dodging responsibility. But talk is cheap. Moving forward he needs to be accountable with his actions and stop underperforming.

5 - The defense is not without blame

It’s hard to completely kill Jim Schwartz’s defense when you consider they only allowed 16 points (remember that seven of Minnesota’s point came on a defensive touchdown). That’s not a terrible outing.

But the Eagles easily could’ve surrendered 22 points if Dan Bailey didn’t miss two easy field goals.

Schwartz’s unit is just making it look too easy for opposing quarterbacks. In the past two games, Marcus Mariota and Kirk Cousins have combined for 60/80 (75% completion), 645 yards (8.1 average), 4 TD, 1 INT, and a 98.8 passer rating.

Jalen Mills got beat for another explosive play today. Sidney Jones allowed a completion every time he was targeted and also missed two tackles (per Pro Football Focus). The pass rush did hit Cousins 11 times but they only sacked him once.

There’s plenty of blame to go around with this team and the defense shouldn’t be totally absolved.

6 - Carson Wentz isn’t quite ALL the way back, but there continue to be encouraging signs

On one hand, Wentz’s numbers from his last two starts look pretty good: 57/85 (67.1% completion), 659 yards (7.8 average), 4 TD, 0 INT, 105.9 passer rating. He’s managed to do all this despite dealing with a lot of drops and breakdowns in pass protection.

On the other hand, there’s still room for Wentz to improve. He’s to blame for some of the hits and sacks he’s taking. It doesn’t seem like he has his full range of mobility due to how he’s been getting caught in the backfield after holding on to the ball too long at times. And given how the entire offense is struggling in general, it’s hard to say he’s completely blameless in everything.

With that said, there’s reason to be encouraged about how Wentz has performed. It’s hard to feel super great about the Eagles right now but things would be even worse if they didn’t have a legitimate answer at quarterback. There’s your silver lining.

7 - It’s easy to be frustrated with the refs

Let’s be clear: the Eagles didn’t lose this game because of poor officiating. The Eagles only have themselves to blame for this loss.

But it’s certainly frustrating to see a bullshit penalty like the one called on Michael Bennett have such a big impact on the game. Bennett didn’t dive into Cousins’ knee. The replay clearly shows Bennett first contacting Cousins’ butt (last I checked, the butt is above the knee) and then GENTLY bringing him down. Penalty!

That was killer. Instead of facing 3rd-and-14 at the Eagles’ 39-yard line, the Vikings received a first down at the 11-yard line. Maybe the Viking have to settle for a field goal instead of getting a touchdown. Maybe Dan Bailey misses the kick entirely like he did with two others. Or maybe the Vikings would’ve scored a touchdown anyway. Impossible to say for sure.

Anyway, the teaching point here for the Eagles is that they can’t let games be close enough where a bad call can have such a big impact. They need to give themselves more room for error.

8 - The Eagles need to quickly put this behind them

The Eagles’ next game is a Thursday Night Football matchup against the New York Giants, who dropped to 1-4 earlier today. The Eagles will begin preparing for this matchup as soon as tomorrow. No rest for the wicked.

The Eagles really need to win on Thursday. 3-3 is a lot better than 2-4.

It won’t be easy if they continue to be plagued by the issues currently bothering them.

I’m still not ready to give up on this team. But the season outlook obviously continues to get worse with each passing loss.

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