The Eagles still have a lot to play for, but most of that suddenly has to do with concepts like ‘personal pride’ and ‘the future.’ After losing to the Packers 27-13 Monday night, playing for ‘the playoffs’ is done. The Eagles aren’t mathematically eliminated from the postseason yet, but they might as well be.
The offense is a disaster right now, with no weapons to speak of for Carson Wentz to utilize, other than an aged Darren Sproles, a couple of mediocre tight ends and receivers largely off the scrap heap. Jordan Matthews is the only NFL-caliber receiver on the entire roster and he missed half the game with an ankle injury. Dorial Green-Beckham showed up early, finishing the game with six catches for a team-best 82 yards. For most of the game, though, he wasn’t a factor. Wentz scored the team’s only touchdown on a one-yard run, the first rushing touchdown of his career, but his numbers were, again, mediocre. Sure, he completed 24-of-36 passes, but for just 254 yards and one interception.
The Packers defense is horrific, and the Eagles only mustered 13 points against that unit. That’s how bad the offense is. And somehow, that wasn’t their biggest problem.
The Eagles defense came into Monday night’s game giving up just 9.5 points per game at home this season. The Packers offense has been pedestrian at best, struggling through the season with nearly as many injuries as the Eagles. Sure, they have Aaron Rodgers, but it hasn’t mattered much this season, as the Packers offense is middle of the, uh, pack all year.
Rodgers mattered Monday, throwing for 313 yards and two scores, the first 300-yard passer the Eagles have allowed this season. The Packers were an inexplicable 10-for-14 on third down and, just for a kick in the pants, 1-for-1 on fourth down. The Eagles had seven penalties, including four on defense, and two that allowed the Packers to extend drives after failing to convert on third down.
“It was a tough day,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said after the game. “You’re not going to be in a position to win many games without the pass rush, and on the other side the pass protection. Obviously it starts with the offensive and defensive lines and, you know, it was just too much time for a guy like Aaron Rodgers to stand back there. He’s going to pick you apart. You just can’t hold up on the back end that long. It’s something we’ve got to look at hard and try to get it fixed.”
Rodgers wasn’t sacked the entire game, and was only hit twice. Wentz, by comparison, was sacked four times and hit eight. Again, the Packers defense is horrible. And, lest we forget, the Eagles offense is (read: was) worse.
“We’ve still got five weeks left and it comes down to just, you know, each guy as a pride factor the next five weeks,” Pederson admitted. “But it’s something we’ve got to seriously evaluate.”
This cannot be overstated: The Eagles went into Monday’s game with maybe five legitimate NFL-caliber offensive difference makers on the active roster, and after Matthews went down, the chances of the offense doing much of anything were gone. The offensive line is, in a word, offensive right now after suspensions and injuries have decimated them. The offense the Eagles had on the field in the second half may be one of the least talented units in the last 10 or 15 seasons. Surely, that’s Chip Kelly’s fault, as he left the Eagles with a dearth of skill position players, but he’s gone, and Pederson and Howie Roseman are going to have some tough questions to answer as to why the offense is so darn thin.
The offensive line is better this year than last, but you can’t do much of anything when three back-ups are starting, and one of those backups is the third option at the position. And yet, the fact Pederson only dressed four receivers for the Packers game and two of them were Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner says all you need to see about how woeful this offense is right now. Treggs and Turner, for what it’s worth, combined for one catch.
“It’s tough,” Pederson admitted. “In the National Football League, it’s tough. We don’t make excuses for it. It’s a physical game, we know injuries are going to take place. You know, it’s hard, especially with that many young players on offense. But at the same time I look at it as valuable for those guys that are playing.
“I still believe that we’re obviously heading in the right direction as a team,” Pederson said, “and it’s great for those guys to play, but at the same time, it’s hard. Each guy has to…sort of the ‘next man up’ mentality, but we’ve all got to look at ourselves in the mirror and make sure we’re doing the right things when we get those opportunities.”
Nelson Agholor has not gone in the right direction. Ryan Mathews, out injured again, has not gone in the right direction. Zach Ertz has been better, but it’s hard to say he’s lived up to what people expected of him this season. Trey Burton is a non-factor in most games and Brent Celek is in football’s version of witness protection. Wendell Smallwood might have good burst, but he barely gets to show it off, carrying just nine times for 37 yards.
It’s clear Pederson doesn’t think offense has enough weapons, and the ones he has he kind of seems to hate. But we knew the offense was going to be bad. It’s the defense that has to win games like this, and they failed.
Davante Adams torched the secondary with 5 catches for 113 yards and two scores. Jordy Nelson added eight catches for 91 yards, with Rodgers completing his 30 passes to eight different receivers.
The Packers had eight drives in the game, including a kneel down at the end of both halves. The other six actual drives ended in a touchdown, a touchdown, a punt (after a 12-play drive), a field goal, a touchdown and a field goal.
Pederson was pressed about constantly saying the team is headed in the right direction despite a sub .500 record after 11 games, losing six of the last eight contests.
“You look at the effort,” Pederson replied. “You might look at wins and losses, I gotta look at the potential of the football team and the guys that we have. Are we there yet? No. Are we heading in the right direction? Yes. Again, it may not show up now in wins and losses, but I see that potential.”
That potential won’t manifest this season. The Eagles are in dead last in the NFC East by two games in the loss column and sit 11th in the NFC after tiebreakers. There are eight teams with winning records in the NFC through 11 games, and only six of them will make the playoffs. Dallas is in at 10-1 and New York is almost certainly going to be a Wild Card at 8-3. The Eagles still have to play both of them, in addition to Washington, who is fighting for a playoff berth at 6-4-1.
For the Eagles to make the playoffs at this point they’ll need to win at least 4 of their last 5 games and hope that 9-7 is good enough. But with Washington half a game ahead of 6-5 Tampa and Minnesota, it’s hard to believe one of those teams won’t eke out 10 wins.
The Eagles aren’t running the table. With the three division games and road games at Cincinnati and Baltimore left, there’s a better chance of finishing 5-11 than 10-6 or 9-7.
Pederson knows that, and you can hear it in his voice, and read it in his quotes. The Eagles playoffs hopes are done, but the season isn’t over. Who steps up in the last five games will determine a lot, both this year and in the future.