NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Wentz was bad, Eagles’ defense was worse in 32-14 debacle at Cincinnati

Doug Pederson: ‘This thing can go one of two ways, and I only know of one way it’s going to go, and that’s up.”

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
danlevy_0328s

The Eagles were trounced by the Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals.

“Obviously very disappointed in the way we played,” head coach Doug Pederson obviously said. (He said obviously a lot.) “It’s collective effort, all three phases. We pride ourselves to play better and to not turn the ball over to get off the field on third downs, to rush the passer. All of the things we’re not doing now, those are the things we need to get back to doing.”

Everything went wrong for Philly in the first half, trailing Cincinnati 19-0 in a game that didn’t even feel that close. When the Eagles got the ball for the first time in the second half they were already down 26-0.

Carson Wentz was 8-for-18 for less than 70 yards in the first half. Wendell Smallwood, thrust into starting duty in the backfield, had less than 20 yards rushing.

Predictably, on that first drive of the second half, Wentz threw a pick. It was that kind of day in Cincinnati.

The Bengals were 3-7-1 when Sunday began. By the end of the day, the Eagles were worse, losing 32-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close.

“The penalties have got to stop,” Pederson said. “The turnovers. Things like that. It’s not characteristic of how we coach or how we play.”

Only, it is. The Eagles have 100 penalties this year, one of the most penalized teams in football. They had double-digit flags again this week, while the Bengals had just three. And the Eagles can’t seem to stop turning the ball over.

Wentz finished the game with 308 yards on 36-for-60 passing, one touchdown and three interceptions, with anything positive for the rookie signal caller coming after the game was long out of reach.

Paul Turner had six catches for 80 yards on the day, more in just his second game since being promoted from the practice squad than Nelson Agholor has ever had in his career.

Agholor, himself, actually had a decent game, catching four balls on as many targets, including two fourth-down conversions. Zach Ertz led the receivers with nine catches for 79 yards and a garbage-time score.

It’s almost understandable that the offense struggled, given the offensive line is playing third-stringers all over the place, Ryan Mathews is still out, Darren Sproles was hobbled despite suiting up, battling through a broken rib, while still rushing seven times (for just 14 yards) and a score, catching six balls for 35 yards and inexplicably returning punts late in the game.

For once, it may not have been Wentz’s lack of weapons that let him down, rather Wentz letting them down. He was high all day, missing open receivers and telegraphing his passes.

And still, his poor play and the lack of a game-breaker on offense seems inconsequential to how horrific the defense played.

Jim Schwartz’s defense was as bad as they’ve been all season. Cincinnati scored every time they had the ball through three quarters. The first play of the fourth quarter was a Bengals fumble, which was quite literally the only bad thing the Cincinnati offense did wrong to that point all day. And maybe the first thing the Eagles defense did right.

(Predictably, Carson Wentz followed that up by throwing another interception.)

Maybe that’s the problem with the Eagles right now: everything is predictable.

“It’s going to be a learning lesson for him,” Pederson said of Wentz’s play on Sunday. “Obviously and we gotta take a hard look at it, but by no means — I mean, the fact that he stood in there and still led the football team, he took some shots and still stood in there, you know, just shows you the kind of character and the toughness that he has.”

Here’s where we are right now: the quarterback is being lauded for standing in there and taking hits, because that’s all the head coach could really laud him for. He was there. He threw it a lot and got hit a lot, and he kept throwing it and kept getting hit. Kudos.

“There were opportunities, obviously,” Pederson admitted, when asked about Wentz not connecting on more plays down the field, “but again, a young quarterback, missed a lot of time in preseason, but again, now, we just we just need to keep cleaning these things up.”

The offense isn’t even one dimensional at this point, because with no running game, few standout receivers and a quarterback who is clearly regressing, no matter what the coach tries to spin it, there isn’t a particular dimension that’s any good.

Then the defense didn’t get any pressure on Andy Dalton, and the secondary was exposed against a bunch of back-up wide receivers for the Bengals.

Schwartz’s defense had one — ONE — quarterback hurry and no sacks on Sunday. They forced two turnovers, both fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter, long after the game was over.

More than anything, the game was just awful to watch. There was nothing inspiring at any point in the game, outside of a kick return by Kenjon Barner in which he was pushed out of bounds by the kicker. That, in a way, was a microcosm of the entire day.

The Eagles went to Cincinnati and got pushed out of bounds. By the kicker.

“We still have a month of football left and obviously three of the next four division opponents,” Pederson said, “We’ve got some challenges. I told the guys in the locker room at the end of the game, ‘this thing can go one of two ways, and I only know of one way it’s going to go, and that’s up.’”

Or up in smoke.