In order to win a championship, you have to be both lucky and good.
Last year, the Eagles were not the luckiest team in the world. They suffered a number of injuries which could have crushed their season, including year-ending blows to their MVP franchise quarterback, their best offensive lineman, their best linebacker and their do-it-all veteran running back. Yet, through talent and depth, they managed to win the Super Bowl.
Last year’s Eagles team also benefited from some good fortune. The NFC East was the weakest it had been in years. The NFC, as a whole, wasn’t terribly good. They were fortunate their schedule, as a whole, proved not to be especially challenging.
They got a 61-yard, game-winning field goal from Jake Elliot in Week 3 that, had it not gone through, could have changed the team’s fortunes. They got lucky that Nick Foles caught fire. They got lucky when Bill Belichick weirdly refused to play one of his best cornerbacks in the Super Bowl. They were fortunate that Corey Clement’s TD catch in that Super Bowl wasn’t overturned.
This year, the Eagles haven’t been able to catch many breaks, although it’s not as though they’ve had no luck. The Vikings kept the Eagles in the game with two missed field goals, and a lateral pass the Eagles recovered down two touchdowns gave them a chance to get back in the game. So it’s not as if the Eagles have been devoid of breaks. They just haven’t cashed in on enough of them.
The team should certainly fixate on shoring up the offensive line’s pass defense, the entire offense’s inability to put points on the board (especially early) and the defense’s inability to stop opposing passing games, it would certainly help if they got a little lucky here and there, too.
Here are just a few examples of how Lady Luck has not been smiling on the 2018 Birds season thus far.
Last year, the Eagles were able to overcome injuries to Carson Wentz, Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, and Chris Maragos. This year, things have been different, and they got significantly worse on Monday.
The Eagles struggled to replace Wentz early, had virtually no wide receivers with Alshon Jeffrey not returning until Week 4, Mike Wallace getting hurt in Week 2, and Mack Hollins out until midseason at the earliest. Corey Clement has been banged up and missed time, Sproles has been dealing with a balky hamstring for multiple weeks now, and now Ajayi is out for an extended period of time, too.
The Eagles also lost Rodney McLeod, who we are finding out was far more valuable than anyone realized. They have not been able to overcome many of these injuries and, as much as anything else, it’s helped lead to uneven and sloppy play.
ROUGHING THE PASSER
In their losses to the Titans and the Vikings, the Eagles have gotten hosed on two roughing the passer calls, one in which Carson Wentz almost got his face ripped off and one in which Michael Bennett was called for one of the most ridiculous personal fouls you will ever see.
First, the Bennett play on Sunday, which was simply a terrible, terrible call.
The Eagles had that sack taken away from them when referee Walt Coleman said Bennett went “low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force.” That is an obviously laughable call, but it also comes on the heels of this non-call in which Wentz was lucky to avoid major injury.
This wasn't roughing the passer last week: pic.twitter.com/kj0oqn4FJZ— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) October 7, 2018
A former NFL vice president of officiating even thought the Eagles got hosed. That’s two weeks in a row, kids.
Through five weeks, only two teams have a worse turnover margin than the Eagles’ -4, Jacksonville’s -7 and San Francisco’s -8. The Eagles have lost seven fumbles this year. SEVEN. Last year the Birds lost 11 fumbles for THE ENTIRE YEAR.
Some of that is just bad luck. Take, for instance, this play from Sunday.
Look, Lane Johnson got beat on an inside move that resulted in Wentz getting hit, which happens. But the ball popping up into the sky and right into the arms of Linval Joseph was terribly unlucky. It was unluckier that Joseph then rant it 64 yards to the house.
Last year, that ball probably falls to the turf harmlessly. This year, it falls right into the hands of a defender.
Then there was the onsides kick that bounced off the shoulder pads of wide receiver Adam Theilan and almost found its way into the hands of an Eagles special teams player.
Anytime a team puts the ball on the ground, there is a risk the other team will get it. But sometimes the ball bounces funny, and so far this year, the Eagles have been terribly unlucky when it comes to losing fumbles.
Drops are also a part of football, but they’re a bit unlucky in the sense that sometimes you can draw up exactly the right play, make the right throw, and execute in every facet except the easiest part, the actual catch itself.
Wendell Smallwood’s 3rd down drop inside the red zone yesterday was terrible. Nelson Agholor dropped three catchable balls in the Tennessee game. Zach Ertz had a few uncharacteristic drops in the opening-week win against the Falcons. Through five games, the Eagles have 10 dropped passes, tied with the Browns and Vikings for the most in football.
Dropped passes really, really hurt.
The Eagles unfortunately took on a Tampa team at the height of FitzMania, when Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing out of his mind. Hey, who knows, maybe he would have shredded the Eagles pass defense no matter what, but for the first two weeks of the season, the Bucs QB was playing out of his mind early on.
The Birds also took on a Titans team that saw Marcus Mariota play the game of his life, and on Sunday, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins made some throws under pressure I didn’t think he could make in a million years.
However, luck is not the reason the team is 2-3. Too many times this year, the Eagles have not executed. Offensively, defensively, coaches and special teams — all have had a hand in a frustrating first five weeks.
Getting some better luck would help a little, but some bad luck here and there isn’t even among the top five reasons why the Eagles have stumbled out of the gate in 2018.