The Eagles entered week 3 with their season already on life support, but with the good fortune of facing the worst team in the entire NFL from last year. They were in a perfectly positioned bounce-back opportunity. They left the game with an even worse outlook than before (although not a loss, so at least there is that). I was fortunate enough to be traveling abroad to complete an adoption and so I neither wasted 4 hours of my life watching this live nor watching the replay. I tip my hat to those of you who did. Instead, I felt the same sadness and rage that you did all crammed into a 41 minute condensed version of the game via NFL Gamepass.
As is our style in these game reviews, I won’t be rehashing the play-by-play of the painful matchup. Instead, I want to zoom out and give some context on some individual performances from Sunday.
Jason Peters held the Eagles hostage after Andre Dillard went down, refusing to move to left tackle (the position he wanted to play anyways) unless the Eagles renegotiated the contract that he had signed a few weeks prior. Maybe those precious preseason reps that Peters cost himself could have been the difference. Or, maybe he is just washed at this point. Either way, Peters was responsible for 3 sacks on Sunday and should have been responsible for at least 2 more if Carson Wentz hadn’t bailed him out. I never thought I would write these words, but I would consider benching Jason Peters for Jack Driscoll.
The Eagles Clutch Factor
The Eagles have been a pretty clutch football team over the last few seasons. Sunday was the final nail in the coffin of that era, as the team took themselves out of game-winning field goal range on not one, but two consecutive drives to end overtime.
How in the hell do you false start on a field goal attempt?
Did JJAW even play on Sunday? This isn’t a rhetorical question, I honestly don’t know if he ever walked out on the field. JJAW didn’t even log a target despite Alshon Jeffrey and Jalen Reagor being inactive and Dallas Goedert and DeSean Jackson being injured mid-game.
I almost didn’t put Wentz in this section because his stock really couldn’t get much lower after week 2, but I have to mention it. Carson Wentz threw 2 interceptions and fumbled. Wentz hit a Bengals safety in the hands with what should have been the game-sealing pick on the Eagles’ first drive in overtime, but it was dropped.
But the real telling sign? At the end of overtime, the Eagles were content to try a 59-yard field goal instead of continuing to let Wentz try to push the ball downfield to get closer. My faith in Carson Wentz has never wavered once during his first 4 years in Philly. I staunchly defended him after week 1 this season. After last week I started to get a little nervous. Today? Today I’m honestly questioning his ability to play quarterback successfully for the first time.
In Super Bowl 52, Doug Pederson turned down a chip shot field goal that would have given the Eagles a 6 point lead headed into halftime. Instead, he opted to have his 3rd string TE throw a touchdown pass to his backup QB. As I watched the end of the game unfold on Sunday, I couldn’t help but wonder where that Doug Pederson went.
The decision to settle for a 59-yard field goal and then to punt the game away after the penalty was mind-boggling. There were 18 seconds left in the game. You don’t have a 12-yard play you can run to try and get the first down? Seriously? So what if you don’t get it. If you throw an incomplete pass the Bengals have around 12 seconds left with the ball on their own 46-yard line. In his 9 year career, the Bengals kicker has a career-long of 57 yards. To get to that range, the Bengals would have had to dial up a 14-yard completion and get out of bounds just to give him a chance to replicate the best kick he has ever made.
It was almost a no-risk proposition and instead, Doug chose to punt the game away. 2017 Doug would scoff at the cowardice of 2020 Doug. Doug should be forced to buy back every copy of his book, Fearless, and burn them all.
And that’s just the end of game management. There are plenty of other bones I would like to pick with Doug, but I’ll stick with just this one for the sake of brevity: Miles Sanders carried the ball 6 times for 41 yards on the Eagles first 2 drives. He carried the ball only 9 more times in the rest of regulation. You are playing one of the worst run defenses in the league with a QB who is literally playing the position worse than anyone else in the NFL right now, and that is the gameplan?
Listen, I’m not going to rehash every terrible draft pick Howie has made because it is redundant at this point. What I will say is this: the Eagles are an old, bad, and expensive roster. All three of those are Howie’s fault and he should be held accountable.
The NFL Viewing Experience
You expect there to be a winner when you sit down to watch a sporting event. On Sunday there was no winner. Thus, everyone who wasted 4 hours of their life watching a contest with no winner was a loser.
The NFL Playoff Viewing Experience
In an alternate universe where the NFC East was a college conference, the best team from the division might not even make the college football playoff. Yet, sadly, one of them will indeed make the NFL playoffs and the resulting game will likely be a slaughter.
The Eagles 2021 Draft Picks
If the season ended today the Eagles would pick 8th in the NFL Draft. The last time the Eagles had the 8th pick in the draft they traded up to select a player that made everyone think he was destined to be an elite, franchise QB for 4 years before the wheels completely fell off. What’s that you say? This is supposed to be the positive section? Sorry about that…
Greg Ward was the best WR on the field for Philly on Sunday. His 8 catches for 72 yards and 1 TD is the best outing of his career (and better than JJAW’s 2 best games put together). What is truly crazy is that not only has Ward become the most reliable receiver on the roster for the Eagles, but he was also cut by the organization six times. Notch another huge win for the personnel department.
Ertz snapped out of his funk on Sunday and turned in a very high-quality game. With Dallas Goedert potentially sidelined and the ghost of Richard Rodgers on the roster because the front office values old players with no upside over youth and potential, Ertz will have to continue to perform at a very high level for the Eagles to have a chance moving forward. This is a bit of a perfect storm for Ertz, who is seeking another pay day and was seeing his targets being eaten into by Dallas Goedert.
Nickell Roby-Coleman found himself behind LeBlanc on the depth chart after a horrendous performance against his former team. LeBlanc played fine on Sunday and showed that he deserves more reps moving forward. This is about the sixth time he has shown he deserves more reps over the last several seasons, so I guess we will see if it sticks this time.
The Eagles played the worst team in the NFL from last season and failed to emerge with a win. Yet, somehow, they gained ground on the rest of the division. Winless through the first three weeks, The Eagles still sit only a half of a game out of first place. There is a very real chance that winning the division and the playoff spot that goes along with it is simply a race to see who can get to 6 or 7 wins first.
That’s it. I have no clever, pick-me-up parting words. This is an Eagles team that is, simply put, a very bad football team. The Eagles have been mired in mediocrity ever since their 2017 Super Bowl run (which grows even more astonishing with the benefit of hindsight). As rough as it is to endure, an absolute bottoming out season may be what is required for the necessary changes to be made. Welcome to 2020 folks, it’s been a heck of a year.
*I fully reserve the right to be jubilant should the Eagles beat the 49ers next week and proclaim that the team is back on track and destined for a playoff run.