The Philadelphia Eagles are 5-4 after beating the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon, 22 to 14. Here are some takeaways from an ugly victory in both podcast form and blog form.
1 - The Eagles got an important win
The Eagles had the most to gain (or lose) of any NFC team this week, per ESPN’s playoff leverage graphic. Regardless of how ugly it was, this was a very important game to win.
The Eagles are 5-4 heading into their Week 10 bye. Here’s what the rest of their schedule — one of the easiest in the league — looks like after that:
vs. New England Patriots
vs. Seattle Seahawks
at Miami Dolphins
vs. New York Giants
vs. Dallas Cowboys
at New York Giants
10-6 or even 11-5 is reasonably within reach. Of course, the Eagles could just as easily disappoint and end up with a 9-7 record that includes a second loss to Dallas. 8-8 at worst.
2 - That didn’t feel very fun
Yeah, the Eagles won, and you’ll always take that over a loss.
But that didn’t feel very fun. Beating this bad Bears team felt more difficult than it had to be.
Most of the game was pretty boring. Then things got interesting in a bad way when Chicago cut the Eagles’ lead down to five points in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles deserve credit for holding on. They closed out the game for the second week in a row with a time-consuming effort. After three straight drives ending in punts, the Eagles got the ball up five points at their own 11-yard line with 8:14 remaining in the game. The Eagles nicely went 69 yards on 16 plays to kick a 38-yard field goal with 0:25 remaining in order to ice the game. The drive featured some great play calls by Doug Pederson (such as the Dallas Goedert screen), some clutch third down conversions by Carson Wentz, and some respectable rushing attempts from both Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders behind the Eagles’ offensive line. It took teamwork to get that done. That was good to see.
And yet, all I can think about after the game is how the Eagles will manage to fare against higher quality opponents. Look at the quarterbacks they’ve beaten this year: Case Keenum, Aaron Rodgers, Luke Falk, Josh Allen, and Mitchell Trubisky. Beating Rodgers in Green Bay was impressive, although it was by a thread. The other quarterbacks are extremely non-threatening.
To what extent is the way the Eagles are winning sustainable? Is there reason to feel good about their chances against teams who don’t employ bottom of the league passers? Especially after being just a few weeks removed from back-to-back blowout losses?
The Eagles are 5-4 and I think there’s a pretty decent chance they’ll end the season with a winning record. But how good are they, really?
And who’s actually having a lot of fun watching this team? I swear they don’t play a very enjoyable brand of football. They’re just so slow and plodding and boring. The Linc was hardly full of energy and excitement today.
It sucks to be so negative after a win but I can’t lie about how I feel.
3 - THE WIDE RECEIVER SITUATION IS ABYSMAL
This is the biggest concern I have with the Eagles right now. I can’t stop obsessing over it. It’s a passing league and the Eagles just don’t have a very threatening passing attack.
It’s not ALL bad. The Eagles do have Zach Ertz, who reminded us he’s still very good. He had his best game of the season with nine receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown. Ertz had some big receptions to keep the chains moving throughout the matchup. Dallas Goedert finished second on the team in receiving with four receptions for 39 yards. Miles Sanders continues to show promise as a pass catcher.
But the actual wide receivers on this team ... they’re abysmal! They flat out stink! Look at these numbers over the last six games!
Alshon Jeffery: 29 recs, 304 yards (10.5 avg), 2 TD
Nelson Agholor: 14 recs, 114 yards (8.1 avg), 0 TD, 1 fumble
Mack Hollins: 1 rec, 13 yards, 0 TD
JJ Arcega-Whiteside: 0 recs, 0 yards, 0 TD
Jeffery, who turns 30 after this season, doesn’t look anything like a No. 1 wide receiver. He had three drive-killing drops in this game. Jeffery did make a big third down catch on the Eagles’ final drive prior to leaving the game with an ankle injury. It’s nothing short of perplexing that the Eagles decided to guarantee Jeffery’s 2020 money prior to this season. Jeffery will always be a hero in Philly for his Super Bowl efforts but, man, it’s looking like the Eagles really need to move on from him after this season. And now that they’ve guaranteed his contract, well, they can’t so easily do that.
Agholor actually made two tough catches today, albeit on short completions. He was once again useless on throws down the field. Either he couldn’t track the ball in the air and/or he did not do a good job of fighting for it. But what’s new? Again, the Eagles made him the 26th highest paid receiver this year.
Hollins hasn’t caught a pass since SEPTEMBER. He only stood out today because of a penalty that went against him. And on that note, here’s an incredibly depressing stat!
In case anyone was keeping track of Mack Hollins this season:— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) November 3, 2019
Receiving yards: 125
Penalty yards: 126
Arcega-Whiteside got some more playing time against the Bears but didn’t see a target. Great.
Making matters worse for the Eagles is that DeSean Jackson wasn’t able to stay healthy. He had to leave the game after the first drive. Doug Pederson cited keeping Jackson out as a precautionary measure and hopefully that’s the case. Because if it’s not, and Jackson can’t help this team in 2019, it feels like they’re simply screwed at wide receiver.
And this is why it was frustrating the Eagles didn’t do anything to remedy this issue at the trade deadline. Or at least take a chance on Josh Gordon. The current guys just aren’t good enough.
Though he didn’t turn the ball over, which is pretty important, I don’t think Carson Wentz had his best game today. He left a number of plays on the field where he should’ve been more accurate. But it also reaches a point where I’m just not sure what more he’s supposed to do when receivers are dropping the good throws he does make.
The NFL is a passing league. The best teams win by passing the ball. Not being able to do that effectively is a big issue to work around. I don’t have much confidence in the Eagles’ passing offense, especially because their wide receivers are just so bad.
It feels like we’re back to 2016 all over again!
4 - At least the Eagles have a running game
Not having a viable passing game is a problem. Having a good running game doesn’t make up for that completely but it can help. The Eagles’ offensive line did a nice job of opening up holes for Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders today. Howard logged 19 carries for 82 yards (4.3 average) and one touchdown. Sanders had 10 for 42 (4.2) in part due to a nice job of breaking tackles. With the Eagles’ receiver situation as bad as it is, they’re going to have to run the ball more than they ideally should.
5 - The difference in coaching giving a team an edge
Doug Pederson gave the Eagles an edge in this game. He had some nice play calls, such as the aformentioned Goedert screen and some other third down throws to Ertz. Pederson also kept the offense on the field at 4th-and-2 from the Bears’ 40-yard line on the first drive of the game, which led to three points instead of a punt.
Contrast Pederson’s approach with the cowardice from Matt Nagy, who PUNTED at 4th-and-6 from the Eagles’ 44-yard line late in the third quarter. This was an all-time cowardly decision.
CHI decided to punt to PHI from the PHI 44 on 4th & 6 with 2:46 remaining in the 3rd while losing 7 to 19.— Surrender Index 90 (@surrender_idx90) November 3, 2019
With a Surrender Index of 19.45, this punt ranks at the 98th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2019 season, and the 97th percentile of all punts since 2009.
Pederson had a rough game in Dallas but he’s bounced back somewhat the past two weeks. He hasn’t been perfect — WTF was that series with three straight plays to Darren Sproles — but he is helping this team win.
By the way, Pederson’s 38-24 record since 2016 marks the highest winning percentage (.613) by a head coach in Eagles franchise history.
6 - The defensive mixed bag
The Eagles’ defense was pretty dominant in the first half. Granted, it’s Trubisky, but the Bears were almost going to enter the first half with NEGATIVE NINE YARDS before Chicago gained 34 yards on their final drive before the end of the second quarter.
It was looking like the Eagles might have a chance at pitching a shutout before they allowed their first big play, a Trubisky 53-yard completion to Taylor Gabriel. It was another instance of some defensive miscommunication in the secondary involving Malcolm Jenkins. This seems to happen more often than it should.
I do remain somewhat optimistic for the pass rush. Fletcher Cox only had two tackles but he was blowing up the Bears’ offensive line at times. Brandon Graham notched another sack, his sixth on the season. Trade acquisition Genard Avery notched a half sack on a player where virtually the entire Eagles defense got to Trubisky. Derek Barnett should’ve had a sack had not Trubisky broke out of it before then being brought down by Josh Sweat instead.
This defense isn’t anywhere near being a lock down unit. They won’t look as good against much more competent quarterbacks. But I do think this defense could be good enough to win games if the passing offense was where it ideally should be.
7 - Get Andrew Sendejo out of here
Sendejo had a dumb penalty where he hit a sliding Trubisky late on the Bears’ final drive of the first half. The flag allowed a struggling Bears offense to get out to their own 35-yard line. Ultimately the drive stalled out but there was no need to give Chicago any hope there.
I’m not suggesting the Eagles should cut Sendejo just because of that play, to be clear. It’s the recklessness that he plays with that has hurt this team — quite literally in the case of Avonte Maddox.
Would you have traded a fourth-round pick to add Sendejo to this roster at the NFL trade deadline? No, you wouldn’t have.
The Eagles have until Saturday, November 9 to cut Sendejo to prevent themselves from losing a 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick. It’d be a waste to lose that pick just to keep Sendejo around.
8 - Sidney Jones is a bust
Jones has fallen to being the sixth cornerback on the Eagles’ roster. The 2017 second-round pick was a healthy scratch against the Bears. Jones was kept inactive in favor of CRAIG JAMES, a 2018 undrafted free agent who only joined the Eagles’ practice squad in September prior to getting called up to the roster. Just not a good look for Jones.
The Eagles said they viewed Jones as a top 10 player in the 2017 NFL Draft prior to his Achilles injury. He’s clearly failed to live up to expectations in Philly. Jones figures to drop even further down the depth chart with Cre’Von LeBlanc poised to be activated from injured reserve at some point in the coming weeks. Brutal whiff on a second-round pick.
9 - Hopefully the bye week helps
The Eagles will have time to heal and get some self-scouting done during the bye. Hopefully they use the time off to get ready to make a run in the second half of the season. I don’t know how much the bye will really help unless Jackson actually comes back healthy.
I’m trying to be optimistic but it’s not easy. Such a weird thing to say after a win.