No, a night of sleep did not help.
Everyone who stayed up late to watch the Eagles’ injury-marred 24-20 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta last night witnessed a bizarre game that featured physical mistakes, some critical mental errors, and a whole lot of people going under the blue medical tent.
In fact, like the Body Bag Game from 1990 in which the Eagles sent about a dozen Washington football players to the sideline (seemingly half of whom were carted off the field), the Birds had virtually every skill position player under the tent at one time or another last night.
It was a brutal loss, one that dropped the Eagles to 1-1 on the season. But is it time to panic? If so, what should we panic about and how much should we be freaking out?
Here are 10 things to consider as well as how stressed you should be about them, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most worrisome).
Injuries: Non-Carson Wentz Division - 8
The injuries started to mount before the teams even came out of the locker room for their formal introductions last night. Tight end Dallas Goedert suffered a calf injury that prevented him from logging a single snap, essentially throwing any part of the gameplan that called for 12 personnel out the window. That absence was exacerbated by early injuries to DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf), who played 11 and six snaps, respectively. That’s three of your top offensive options gone before Wentz had been able to work up a real sweat.
The team also lost Corey Clement on the second half kickoff when a hard hit forced a momentum-turning fumble and he appeared to injure his shoulder. Timmy Jernigan didn’t come out of the locker room for the second half with a foot injury and left Atlanta in a walking boot. His injury could potentially be devastating to the defensive tackle position, which last week suffered a really tough loss when Malik Jackson was placed on IR.
Not only that, it certainly looks like Fletcher Cox and Ronald Darby haven’t fully recovered from their off-season injuries. Last year, the Eagles lost more games to injury than any team in the NFL and somehow managed to survive enough to get a wild card. Asking for that to happen a second time, even with their depth, is a bit much.
Injuries: Carson Wentz Division - 5
When Carson Wentz was going 6-for-16 for 47 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs in the first half, all the while holding his rib cage after a crushing hit by linebacker Deion Jones on his first pick, it sure looked like the dude was feeling less than OK. Carson Wentz simply does not normally play a full half of professional football with a 6.2 passer rating.
In the second half, he came out and looked much better, going 18-for-26 for 177 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs, with a rating of 101.0. Whatever was affecting him in the first half seemed to go away in the second half, although Wentz told reporters he didn’t suffer any notable injury and didn’t get any treatment at halftime. He was checked out for a possible concussion at the end of the second quarter (much to his chagrin), but the test was clean.
Still, we saw on Sunday night a quarterback who continues to leave himself open to getting hit. Yes, he buys a lot of time in the pocket with his size and mobility, but he also continues to take chances with his body, something he’s going to have to be more careful about if he wants to play another full 16-game season.
(Not for nothin’, but if Wentz was “giving himself up” with his head-first dive into the end zone on his “failed” two-point conversion in the third quarter, shouldn’t the Falcons have been flagged with a personal foul call for hitting him? Not a sermon, just a thought.)
Slow Starts - 6
For the second straight game, the Eagles did not score a 1st quarter point. This ain’t new.
Last year, the Eagles averaged 3.2 points in the first quarter, second-fewest in the NFL. That was half of the 6.4 they averaged in their Super Bowl season, which was second-most. That team started fast, got out to big leads, let the defense pin their ears back and celebrated touchdowns and turnovers with choreographed numbers that made every game feel like a party.
But like 2018, this year’s Birds have had trouble scoring in the first quarter, failing to do so in either of their first two games. In fact, they are one of five teams in the NFL yet to score in the opening quarter.
The good news is the Eagles have seemingly become good at making halftime adjustments. They’ve averaged 19.5 points in their two second halves this season, fourth-most, and last year, they averaged 12.7, tied for 7th-most.
But while you can get away with slow starts against bad teams like Washington, you cannot do the same on the road against a potential playoff team like the Falcons. Certainly last night’s injuries could be blamed for their slow start, as an entire game plan likely had to be scrapped at the last minute, but it’s a continuation of a trend that has gone on for more than a year now, and needs to change quickly.
Pass Rush - 5
Through two games, the Eagles have recorded two sacks. Last night’s sack was thanks to a blitz by safety Andrew Sendejo. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett were stout against the run and, once defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz started dialing up the blitzes, the edge rushers started to hurry Matt Ryan into mistakes, such as his third quarter end zone interception to Nate Gerry. But the pass rush was non-existent for most of the game against Washington in Week 1, and for a unit that has some issues to work out in the secondary, they need to get home with four rushers with more frequency. Not having a 100% healthy Cox, no Jackson, and now possibly no Jernigan, makes that job even tougher.
On the plus side...
Derek Barnett has 6 QB hits through his first two games this year. Leads the team. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 16, 2019
Offensive Line - 2
Let’s just chalk this one up to a bad game, in particular, for one Isaac Seumalo.
#Eagles Isaac Seumalo tonight had one of the worst single game grades by any player at any position in PFF history. He allowed two sacks, six QB hurries, committed three penalties, and graded equally poor as a run blocker and pass blocker.— Cody Swartz (@cbswartz5) September 16, 2019
Center Jason Kelce left last night’s game to go into the concussion protocol after he seemed to be walking toward the wrong sideline, but he claims he was just confused as the team had switched directions between the 1st and 2nd quarters. However, Wentz dealt with people in his lap all night long and seemed to be running for his life too often. Had the O-line been able to create a solid pocket around Wentz on the 4th and 14 play (the ball the Nelson Agholor did catch), it probably would have been a touchdown.
Carson Wentz took a lot of hits last night and the offensive line must do more to keep defenders away from him. They also could open up some more running lanes, which leads to...
Running Backs - 4
... the running game, which simply wasn’t effective enough. With Jackson and Jeffery out, Atlanta could certainly focus more on the run. However, the Eagles running game needed to be more productive. Miles Sanders ran for just 28 yards on 10 carries and Jordan Howard toted the ball just eight times for 18 yards. Darren Sproles did not receive a carry, after receiving far too many last week.
Part of Pederson’s gameplan was to run the ball from 12 personnel, but that became moot when Goedert got hurt. Still, running from 11 personnel isn’t some strange strategy that no one has ever tried before, and coming into the game it was thought the Birds would be able to gash the Falcons’ D on the ground after Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook ran for 111 yards and two TDs against them in Week 1.
But the offensive line didn’t open up the kinds of holes against Atlanta that they did in the second half against Washington, and when there was a little daylight, the second-rounder seemed all too content to bounce everything to the outside. He’s clearly got talent, but the speed of the NFL is different than college, and Sanders may not be the between-the-tackles runner Pederson and Mike Groh were trying to make him be last night.
It was a tough night to judge the running game fully with no Jackson to keep safeties honest and open up the middle of the field, so whether this is a long-term concern is still unknown. But the Eagles cannot have another season like last year where the running game provides the team with virtually nothing.
Stadium Lights - 10
September 16, 2019
To Nelson’s credit, he did not volunteer that he lost the ball in the lights. He was asked by a reporter whether he lost this would-be 60-yard TD in the lights, to which he responded, “Yes,” but then quickly acknowledged that he should have caught it.
So the only solution is no more night games, because lights are the worst.
Gotta catch that ball, man. Dang.
Secondary - 6
First, the good — Darby and Sidney Jones both had interceptions last night. The defense usually doesn’t create turnovers like this. In fact, it was their first three-interception game since 2017 in Dallas when they picked off Dak Prescott three times. Turnovers are the reason the Eagles managed to keep the deficit manageable while the offense tried to find their legs early.
Still, Darby got beat for two touchdowns, safeties continued to let receivers get behind them deep (as Ben Solak noted presciently on the K&S Post-Game podcast that can be found right here), and on a 4th-and-3 play, with the Eagles up three and the game on the line, Schwartz dialed up a call that saw Rasul Douglas playing off Julio Jones with no safety help behind him and Sidney Jones tight to Sanu, with the Eagles on an all-out blitz, leading to an easy 51-yard touchdown that essentially sealed the win for Atlanta.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, we need you. Please come soon.
The Standings - 1
Yes, the Cowboys are 2-0 and have looked very impressive against lesser opponents. Give them credit, they’re beating the bad teams and beating them handily. But the Eagles are 1-1 which, if my math is accurate, leaves them one game behind Dallas with 14 to play.
The Eagles are 1-1.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 16, 2019
They have made the playoffs in seven out of their last nine 1-1 starts.https://t.co/nEjDccIHOy
And one of those seasons was 2017, when they lost Week 2 in Kansas City to the Chiefs to fall to 1-1.
They then won nine in a row and eventually won the Super Bowl.
Upcoming Schedule - 6
Things could get very hairy for the Eagles if they don’t get healthy and take care of business next week against the Lions at the Linc.
We’ll know more about the status of the injured Eagles later Monday, but it’s not crazy to think Pederson could be without Jackson, Jeffery and Goedert on offense, without two of their three best defensive tackles, and several starters playing at less than 100%. If they don’t beat the Lions and move to 2-1, they could easily be looking down the barrel of a 1-3 start, with Week 4’s contest in Green Bay against the talented Packers looming.
They then get a home game against the Jets in Week 5, but have to play three straight road games after that against the Vikings, Cowboys and Bills, then host the Bears, then play the Patriots and Seahawks at home after the bye.
So while this Sunday’s game against the Lions isn’t a “must-win,” it’s as close as one can get in Week 3.