The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2019 season is still very much alive with just two weeks to go thanks to the Birds beating Washington on Sunday, 37 to 27. Here are some takeaways from the game!
1 - Carson Wentz clutch status: confirmed
There was (rightfully) a lot of talk about Wentz being #CLUTCH after he helped lead the Eagles to an overtime win against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. Wentz followed up that performance with another comeback effort where he stepped up when it mattered most.
Down three points with 4:52 left in the fourth quarter, Wentz led the Eagles on a game-winning touchdown drive that was capped off by a Greg Ward touchdown. Altogether, Wentz completed all eight of his attempts for 68 yards and the score.
One can argue the Eagles wouldn’t have needed these drives from Wentz if he had played better earlier in the past two games. And that’s not totally untrue, which is why giving so much weight to the “clutch” moniker can be silly. Wentz didn’t get credit for being clutch when the Eagles were flat out dominating opponents in 2017. If only he had played worse, maybe he would’ve earned that positive reputation!
I bring all this up not to discredit Wentz as much as to push back on the value of the clutch label. It was previously said that guys like Nick Foles and Dak Prescott were clutch and Wentz didn’t have the same ability in him. Well, if that was ever your argument, it’s clearly wrong.
Wentz has stepped up when the Eagles have needed him most over the past two weeks. He’s kept the Eagles’ playoff hopes alive:
Carson Wentz combined 4th quarter and OT numbers over the past two games:— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 15, 2019
28 completions on 34 attempts (82.4%) for 286 yards (8.4 y/a), 4 TD, 0 INT, 140.9 passer rating.
Stepping up big for the Eagles when it matters most. Two straight wins. https://t.co/NQb7wqEw5m
“But it was only against the Giants and Washington!”
Sure. But Wentz’s supporting cast has been far from ideal. He was without Lane Johnson in Landover and he was basically only playing with one wide receiver.
Carson Wentz’s wide receivers against Washington— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 15, 2019
Greg Ward (The GOAT) — 9 targets, 7 recs, 61 yards, 1 game-winning TD
JJ Arcega-Whiteside — 2 targets,0 recs, 1 dropped TD, 1 holding penalty
Rob Davis — 0 targets
Not to mention those games from earlier this year where Wentz had potential game-winning/game-tying touchdown passes dropped.
Getting back to some of Wentz’s struggles, he once again left some throws on the field due to a lack of accuracy. He also fumbled three times, bringing him up to 46 fumbles in 54 career games. That issue MUST improve. Wentz started out the year strong with zero fumbles in his first six games but he’s since had 14 in his last eight games.
The good thing about Wentz is he has the talent to redeem mistakes. I can’t get over this touchdown throw to Miles Sanders:
The Eagles’ last two wins have served to keep their playoff hopes alive and that’s fun. In reality, though, this team ain’t winning a Super Bowl this year. The most important takeaway from these games, then, has been Wentz’s encouraging performances. He’s providing hope that the Eagles chose the right guy to build around as their franchise quarterback. Now it’s just up to the organization to give him a better support system (improved coaches, improved skill players) moving forward.
Highest Touchdown/Giveaway* Ratio (@NFL QBs Since 2017 - Min. 30 Games)— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) December 16, 2019
4.0 - Drew Brees (NO)
3.6 - Aaron Rodgers (GB)
3.2 - Russell Wilson (Sea.)
2.6 - Tom Brady (NE)
2.1 - Carson Wentz (Phi.)
* INTs and fumbles lost#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/IKwLRSL93M
2 - THE GREG WARD GAME!
Hey, a receiver who isn’t actively terrible! Is that allowed?
Ward caught seven of his nine targets for 61 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Six of those seven receptions went for a first down or a score so he was pretty vital to moving the chains.
What a moment to have the first touchdown catch of your career:
Be honest. Is Nelson Agholor making that play?
Speaking of that comparison ...
Agholor’s numbers in 8 games since Week 4 — 42 targets, 21 recs, 195 yards, 0 TD, 1 fumble
Ward’s numbers in 4 games since Week 12 — 28 targets, 18 recs, 140 yards, 1 TD, 0 fumbles
One can only wonder why it took so long for Ward to finally get an opportunity.
With Agholor likely leaving in free agency, the Eagles will have a vacancy at slot receiver. Ward should hardly be an unquestioned replacement but he should have a legitimate chance to earn that spot in 2020.
3 - Miles Sanders keeps getting better
The rookie running back took 19 carries for 122 yards (6.4 average) and one rushing touchdown. He also pitched in with six receptions for 50 yards and one touchdown.
Those 172 yards from scrimmage rank as the fifth highest single-game total by an Eagles rookie in franchise history. Some more historical perspective:
For as much as I’ve criticized Howie Roseman this season, I have to give the man props for hitting on the Sanders pick.
Look at the respect the rookie is earning:
Jason Peters said Miles Sanders "is on that Shady [LeSean McCoy] level. He's smooth, he can catch out of the backfield, he can make guys miss. I definitely have to compare him to Shady." Sanders reminds Brandon Brooks of his former teammate Arian Foster.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) December 15, 2019
Sanders is only 22. He figures to be a nice weapon for years to come.
4 - Boston Scott isn’t just a one-week wonder
Scott followed up a breakout performance against the Giants with another good effort in Washington. The numbers aren’t otherworldly eye-popping but the backup running back logging 65 yards from scrimmage is a win. Five of Scott’s 13 total touches went for first downs. He’s a worthwhile contributor to this offense.
5 - The defense is concerning!
And now for some of the negative focus.
Entering Week 15, Jim Schwartz’s defense had allowed just 17 points or fewer in five out of the Eagles’ last six games. The exception was unacceptably allowing the Miami Dolphins to score 37.
There was reason to believe the Eagles’ defense would turn in at least a solid performance in Landover. Washington ranked dead last in the NFL in offensive points per game at 14.3. Dwayne Haskins had a 61.2 passer rating and just didn’t really pass the eye test. Washington was going to be without starting guard Brandon Scherff, arguably their best offensive lineman.
Despite this, the Eagles allowed Washington to move the ball with ease en route to scoring 27 points. Haskins’ previous highest single-game passer rating this season was 86.2. Against the Eagles? 121.3.
The pass rush really dried up in this one as the Eagles logged ZERO sacks and ZERO quarterback hits. That’s terrible.
Some issues that stick out with the pass rush include Fletcher Cox having just 3.5 sacks in 14 games this year. He hasn’t turned in a game with at least 1.0 sack since October. Cox’s impact can’t just be measure by traditional box score stats and he’s actually PFF’s third highest defensive tackle this year. But, like, Cox has the highest cap number on the team. The Eagles could use some more flat out dominance from him. Need more big plays.
Another issue that sticks out is the Eagles traded a 2021 fourth-round pick for Genard Avery ... for him to log exactly zero stats in his last five games played. Cool. Avery did have an offside penalty today! And he also let Haskins run right by him on an option play for a 23-yard run.
Speaking of run defense, not so great to see a 34-year-old Adrian Peterson take 16 carries for 66 yards and one touchdown on a unit that’s at least supposed to be good at stopping the run. There were a lot of missed tackles in this game, with the most notable coming on Avonte Maddox whiffing badly to allow Terry McLaurin to score on a 75-yard catch-and-run.
In fairness to the defense, there IS a little known rule that they’re not allowed to play well if the Eagles’ offense is already playing well. Or at least it really feels that way.
6 - JJ Arcega-Whiteside continues to struggle
JJAW showed good hustle to recover Scott’s fumble. That was his biggest highlight against Washington.
JJAW dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone and got called for holding at one point. Oh, and he seemingly ran the wrong route and interfered with Dallas Goedert on the play where the tight end made that spectacular one-handed catch?
Generally speaking, JJAW has looked lost out there this season. To some extent, that’s to be expected for a rookie. But JJAW’s inexperience doesn't simply explain away all his struggles. There are plenty of rookie wideouts thriving (McLaurin, DK Mecalf, Darius Slayton, etc.) this season.
It’s too early to be definitively “out” on JJAW but the early returns are concerning. I don’t know how the Eagles can go into 2020 viewing him as a sure-fire positive contributor. Thee Stanford alumnus has much to prove. Perhaps getting him a new wide receivers coach could help.
7 - Doug Pederson’s team continues to fight for him
The Eagles’ short-handed offense performed pretty well against a Washington defense that had only allowed an average of 19 points in their last three games. Washington was also 19th in defensive DVOA. Kudos to Pederson for getting the most out of the players he had to work with.
Pederson also deserves credit for the Eagles fighting back from the edge for the second season in a row. The Eagles looked left for dead before going on a playoff run last year. We’ll see if Pederson can pull that off against this year; it’s certainly possible.
It’s annoying that the Eagles have dug holes for themselves that they’ve needed to climb out. But, hey, you can’t call this group a bunch of quitters. There’s something to be said for that regarding the culture Pederson has fostered.
8 - Eagles fans are awesome
Let’s start with the takeover at FedEx Field:
In addition to this, I obviously have to shout out the awesome Eagles fans who came out to BGN’s road game watch party at Pistolas Del Sur in South Philly on Sunday.
It was awesome and truly humbling to meet a number of you people who actually take the time to support the site and the podcast. We already have a cool online BGN community but — with help from Shamus Clancy — I’m trying to do a better job of building a real life BGN community as well.
Thanks to everyone who showed up to the @BleedingGreen watch party and made it a blast. Awesome meeting/seeing you all.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 15, 2019
Special thanks to @shamus_clancy and @Rich_Bobbe for helping organize things.
And finally, thank you @PistolasDelSur for being great hosts.
We’ll definitely have to do more events in the future!
9 - Beat the Cowboys
It’s Dallas Week, folks. The Eagles must win in Week 16 or else they’ll be eliminated from the playoff picture.
At the very least, I’m thankful the Eagles made sure this week’s game means something. But why stop here? Stop getting beat by the team that your fans hate to lose to the most. Just win.
In order to emerge victorious against Dallas, the Eagles are probably going to have to play better than they did in their past two wins.