I’ll try to keep it clean after one of the most gut punching losses this team has endured in recent memory. I thought Tennessee was the low point of the season; I was WRONG! At least that game was on the road. The Eagles outplayed the Panthers for three quarters. They dominated time of possession on offense and clamped down on defense… for three quarters. Then in the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead, the offensive minded Doug Pederson abandoned the run completely, again. This absolute inability to finish games is unacceptable. Pederson and his team are struggling to find consistency in all facets of the game. The offense looked predictable at times and Schwartz’s stubborn approach to adjustments is discouraging to say the least. Special teams has been anything but. Dave Fipp’s guys have been average thus far. The post game press conference was even more disappointing. The head coach making remarks like “the pressure is off” and “no one expects anything of us now” is something I find inexcusable! Last year has come and gone, and the underdog role is not something you can just make happen. This team is the defending Super Bowl champion; they will carry a target on their backs until another team is crowned in February. There won’t be an underdog fairy tale this year.
Lets get to some facts now. The birds gave up a 17-point lead for the second time this season. This was after a promising first half on both sides of the ball. The second half started with a Panthers three and out, leading to a beautiful 94-yard scoring drive for the boys in green. From that moment on, it was a horror film for Eagles fans. The Panthers outscored the Eagles 21-0 in the 4th quarter, leading to their largest comeback in franchise history.
Once again, Jim Schwartz has failed to make adjustments. He continues to let his corners play soft, off the ball coverage (specifically Mills) and not utilize blitz opportunities. Late in the game, the Eagles’ defense refused to rush more than four and let Cam Newton pick apart soft coverage. Ronald Darby made an unacceptable mistake early in the quarter when he bit on a Devon Funchess double move. With a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, you can not let a receiver get behind you. On the Panthers’ final scoring drive, the bend but don’t break mentality broke for the final time. Similar to the Tennessee game, the defense gave up another huge 4th and forever (this time 4th and 10). Jalen Mills lost Torry Smith in coverage and then missed the tackle that led to a thirty-five yard play putting the Panthers on the Eagles 34-yard line. A couple of touches from Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton set up the winning score to Greg Olsen from the three yard line. Spotty coverage, poor tackling, and a lack of blitzing left the Eagles in a 4-point hole with just over 1:40 left to play.
Doug Pederson called a strong three quarters of offense. The fourth quarter left a lot to be desired. After a 17 play (8 run, 8 pass, 1 penalty), 94 yard drive that ate up 9:22 off the clock in the third quarter, the pass happy Pederson fell into his old habits. In the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead, the coach called fourteen offensive plays, thirteen of which were airborne. On the Birds’ final drive of the game, a huge pass interference call gave the Eagles life just outside the twenty-yard line with plenty of time on the clock and two timeouts. As we all know, it didn’t work out. Two incompletions (one nearly picked), a nice eight-yard run, and a fumble would end up closing it out.
Carson Wentz continues to play well coming off knee surgery, completing 30 of 37 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns in this game. This still was not enough to secure the W, and they fell short on what should have been an end of the game statement drive. The running game was featured 24 times. Wendell Smallwood looked serviceable once again, averaging 3.6 YPC on nine carries. Corey Clement never found a rhythm, and I continue to wonder if he is fully healthy as he carried eight times for just six yards (0.8 YPC). Josh Adams looked good in limited action, running four times for 17 yards (4.2 YPC), grinding out dump truck yardage while carrying defenders with him. Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery were impressive throughout. Ertz continues to produce as he hauled in nine receptions for 138 yards, and Jeffery snagged seven receptions for 88 yards and a score. Dallas Goedert had a quality day with four grabs for 43 and the other score.
The not-so-special special teams did not impress yet again. Jake Elliot finally connected on his first 40-plus-yard field goal of the year after missing a 36-yard kick into the wind early in the first quarter. Cameron Johnston had just three punts for 135 yards, averaging 45 yards a punt and landing one inside the twenty. In the absence of Sproles and the Corey Clement as punt returner experiment not working, DeAndre Carter has been a nice addition to the return game.
The Moral of the Story
Ok, let’s throw some water on this dumpster fire of a game. I’m going to try and stay positive. This is a weak division, as the Giants and Cowboys are bad teams, there is time to right the ship. If some guys can get healthy and the coaching staff can make some small adjustments, there is still hope. Howie? Are you out there? A playmaker on either side of the ball would be a nice shot in the arm right now! Don’t stay under the covers too long, Philadelphia; today is a new day, and the wings will carry us to London to get back on track.