The Eagles are in trouble.
The wheels haven’t fallen off the wagon, yet, but they sure as heck are wobbling right now. Not only did the Eagles lose to Washington on Sunday, but they were manhandled on offense and defense the entire day, out-gained 493 to 239. If not for a special teams touchdown and an interception for a score, the Birds’ first division game would have been a total blowout.
On top of that, the hilariously dysfunctional New York Giants pulled victory from the clutches of defeat with a game-clinching score from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham, Jr. and on the day Brett Favre was placed in the Packers’ ring of honor, the Cowboys did the honor of trouncing Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay at Lambeau Field.
If there was ever a metaphor for how the NFL weekend went for Philly, it’s this:
The division is all but lost already for the Eagles, and the prospects of earning a wild card berth took a serious hit, even this early in the season. As much as we would all love to forget a Sunday like that, here are seven things people will still be talking about today.
‘Big V led to Big L’
Doug Pederson is a rookie coach, and like any rookie, he makes simple mistakes that can, and will, be corrected.
During a press conference this week, Pederson said that not only was rookie tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai the designated replacement for Lane Johnson as he started his 10-game suspension, but ‘Big V’ won’t have to look over his shoulder the next 10 weeks, which would allow the rookie to feel more comfortable in his first start.
It didn’t work.
Media and fans on social wouldn’t even give ‘Big V’ a quarter before calling him a bust and demanding Pederson bench him, move Allen Barbre from guard to tackle and put Stefen Wisniewski in at guard.
“Lane’s a big part of what we were doing and he was playing well,” Pederson admitted after the game. “It is disappointing from that standpoint. But at the same time, we’re handed these cards and we’re going to play them. We’re going to play the best five up front and it’s our job as coaches — this is what we get hired to do — to make our players better. We’re going to do that this week with Big V.”
Ryan Kerrigan just outclassed Vaitai, sacking Wentz twice and hurrying him another four times, with two additional tackles for loss in the game. The Eagles barely had the ball on offense in the first half — just 10:25 possession and less than two minutes in the second quarter — so there was no chance to develop a rhythm. Things were somewhat better for Vaitai in the second half, as the Eagles shifted more protection to help him with chips from the tight ends and running backs, but it was too little too late. Clearly Carson Wentz had much happier feet than he did in the first four games with Johnson in the lineup.
‘It’s a discipline thing.’
At the risk of ‘told-you-so’ revisionist history, before the season my biggest concern with Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was that, in the past, their units were not the most disciplined when it came to penalties. For the first three games that looked like something we may not have to worry about this year. In the past two weeks, the Eagles have 27 penalties for 225 yards.
In two losses by a combined eight points, the Eagles committed more than a dozen penalties in each game. And those were just the infractions that were accepted.
“We do have some things to clean up,” Pederson said. “We have the penalties we’ve got to get rid of and we have third down we’ve got to get better at. Those will be points of emphasis this week.”
Washington was 7-for-13 on third down on Sunday. And, yes, the referees made some horrible calls against the Eagles and missed a few easy ones against Washington, but that’s not why the team lost. Let’s not forget, the Eagles still had a chance to win the game, but bad penalties and two horrible sacks by Wentz led the Eagles to punt — punt — with less than two minutes to play and only two timeouts.
They never got the ball back.
“I’ve got to get the ball out,” Wentz said after the loss. “I’ve got to get the ball out. I can’t take those sacks. That’s definitely on me. The o-line gave me time on both of them. Those are things I just gotta learn.”
‘The celebration rule has become draconian…and utterly ridiculous’
After scoring a touchdown in the first half, Washington tight end Vernon Davis shot the ball over the goal post to celebrate.
That’s a personal foul.
The penalty pushed the kickoff back 15 yards, which enabled the Eagles to return the boot for a touchdown, as Wendell Smallwood scampered down the field for the much-needed score, getting Philly back into the game when all hope looked lost.
The rule is ridiculous. And yes, it is a rule and has been on the books since 2014 so Davis should have known better, but that doesn’t make it any less draconian. The ‘No Fun League’ has legislated all the personality out of the game, and nobody under Roger Goodell’s control seems to either notice…or care…how much it hurts the sport and angers the fans.
‘Malcolm Jenkins had a pick six and still may have had the worst game on defense’
Malcolm Jenkins made a huge play late in the second half to get the Eagles back in the game when things were looking rather bleak.
And yet, despite the pick-6, Jenkins had a really poor game by his standards. He has had a good year, so one game isn’t cause for alarm, but he got picked on the first Kirk Cousin’s first touchdown pass, which led to a wide-open score, then whatever the heck happened on this play led to another.
Jenkins was forced into more coverage than he’s probably used to given how thin the Eagles were at cornerback, and it didn’t work out great for the Birds at all.
‘But the Eagles are a second-half defense…’
True. It’s the first half that’s the problem.
Heading into Sunday’s game the Eagles had given up just 13 points in the second half the entire season. Seven of the 13 points surrendered after halftime this year came on a punt return for a score by the Bears in Week 2. Through four games, the Eagles faced 22 second-half drives and gave up just six points.
On Sunday, the Eagles did give up just six points in the second half — the streak of not surrendering a second-half touchdown on defense is intact — but Washington churned out 104 of their 230 yards rushing after halftime, while Cousins threw for another 104 yards in the air in the second half, as the Eagles only mustered 239 yards the entire game.
So, yes, the defense was better after halftime, but for the second-straight week they were so terrible in the first half it almost didn’t matter.
‘Eagles Twitter with some NFL shade’
The NFL told teams they aren’t allowed to use video and gif images on social media anymore, because the NFL needs to control everything and everyone. Several teams, including the Eagles, threw some shade back at the league.
Reminder: The NFL is the worst when it comes to just about everything.
‘The Playoff Picture is…blurry’
Admittedly, most people won’t be talking about the playoffs after back-to-back losses that, at times, seemed wildly uncompetitive. The Eagles are not a playoff team, despite the 3-0 start. It might get a lot worse, too.
At 5-1, Dallas is the class of the NFC East, and maybe the best team in the entire conference. Minnesota comes to Philly next week with its undefeated 5-0 record, while Seattle and Atlanta round out the NFC division leaders at 4-1 and 4-2, respectively, after the Seahawks’ last-minute win over the Falcons on Sunday.
Green Bay is still a wild card contender despite the loss at home to the Cowboys and Washington, now 4-2 with a victory in tow over Philly, holds the other slot. In addition to the Eagles, the Rams (3-3), Lions (3-3), Giants (3-3) and Cardinals (2-3 and playing Monday night) are in the mix for one of those two wild card spots.
Philly’s remaining 11 games are against Minnesota, Dallas twice, New York twice, Atlanta, at Seattle, Green Bay, at Cincinnati and at Baltimore. Right now, there may not be a game left on the schedule the Eagles are favored to win. The great start led to high expectations, but things have gotten wobbly the last two weeks. There’s work to be done so the wheels don’t completely fall off.